‘Cheating’ For Other Reasons Besides Sex
Here’s the situation, you’re in a committed relationship or marriage. After a few years you start to feel dissatisfied and unhappy. You start to feel like there is ‘something missing’ in your love-life.
Sex is OK, if not predictable. You still ‘love’ your partner/spouse but something’s wrong. You start to realize that you and your partner/spouse are living with a bit of emotional distance between the two of you.
You don’t really talk anymore, except about the practical stuff, the kids, the bills, the family. In fact, you’ve been ‘talking’ to someone else you’ve met. He or she is a really good listener, and the two of you have a lot of interests in common.
You don’t think your partner/spouse knows him or her, maybe, maybe not. In fact, lately, you’ve been speaking a lot to this person, just about every day. At this point your partner/spouse doesn’t know about it and you say to yourself, why should he or she anyway. You’re not doing anything wrong.
It’s just talk, right? You’ve never had sex with him or her. Whether or not the thought has occurred to either of you, you tell yourself it’s not that kind of relationship. Even though you do miss him or her, if you can’t have that frequent phone call. You’re not sure exactly why.
So you’ve decided to try to let him or her go. You discovered it wasn’t so easy. This other person is now part of your emotional life. You wish your partner/spouse could talk with you the way he or she does. But that’s a fleeting thought.
Your partner/spouse is so busy and preoccupied. You don’t feel comfortable bringing it up to him or her. He or she has so much to deal with already. You’re so glad your partner/spouse does what he or she does to keep things going. You don’t want to disturb that.
So you try to live with this ‘division’ in your love-life. You’ve gotten to the point where you now ‘need’ two people, your partner/spouse and this other person. A close friend over coffee said you were ’emotionally cheating’ on your partner/spouse because you kept mentioning this other person so often. You reacted defensively.
You reassured yourself and your friend that you weren’t cheating. That there was no ‘sex’ involved. Now you have this bothersome unanswered question that keeps coming up in your mind. “Am I cheating?” Let’s analyze the problem.
There is something missing in your committed love relationship, right? And you’ve found the missing item in a relationship with someone else, right? An alternative solution would be to find out if what is missing is possible in your committed relationship. People can change, if they want to, if they’re motivated to change. Problem is you’ll have to upset the apple cart to find out.
Would your partner/spouse change to have a better relationship with you? The answer to this question will tell you what you need to know. Sometimes we prefer not to know because we anticipate the answer will be painful. We might even assume an answer to the question before finding out what the other person is prepared to do about the problem. Either way is a limited solution.
It’s emotionally harder to confront your unhappiness by finding out if your partner/spouse is also unhappy and interested in a mutual change of some kind. Something the two of you agree on and change together for the good of your relationship. For example, you don’t stop trying to talk and listen to your partner/spouse, and he or she works on listening to you and talking about his or her own thoughts and feelings.
If the answer is no, it will hurt temporarily, but you’ll then have an opportunity to make a ‘real’ choice. One option is, stay in the relationship the way it is without guilt or fear, with your ‘need’ being met by someone else. Or leave the relationship, get over it, and find someone else who can meet your needs for emotional intimacy in a committed relationship.
Either way, you get a chance to live honestly and freely without feeling like you’re ‘cheating.’
Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan