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The short, emphatic answer is absolutely yes. Is emotional infidelity cheating? There’s a lot more than needs to be said on this increasingly common issue. To begin with, infidelity does not automatically require a physical connection. Unless you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, sharing emotional intimacy with someone else is a violation of agreed-upon boundaries. Friendships can be extremely close but they are platonic — both physically and emotionally.Is Emotional Infidelity Possible? Is that cheating? Therapy for Men - San Francisco, Online, Marin.  Dr Rick Pomfret

To boil things down to their essence: you don’t have to have sex to cheat. In fact, emotional infidelity can be more intense. It’s a betrayal of trust that, by definition, takes away from your bond with your partner.

What Does Emotional Cheating Look Like?

You may not, at first, even realize how your behavior is changing. Meanwhile, your spouse might be brushing off your changes as minor. That said, any of the following trends is a potential red flag. We’ll present these signs from the perspective of the partner committing emotional infidelity but, obviously, they are just as useful for the betrayed partner to know:

  • You’re online far more than usual. In particular, you’re in contact with the other person more than you interact with your spouse.
  • When asked about your behavior or about the person (if your partner is aware of them as a “friend”), you get very defensive.
  • You lock and hide your devices.
  • If the other person is a co-worker, someone at the gym, or anyone you encounter in person, you find yourself spending more time on your personal appearance before seeing them.
  • You are less attentive and affectionate toward your partner. This may result in a diminished sex life or you feel detached during sex.
  • You’re fighting with your spouse more.
  • When something big happens, you immediately want to tell the other person first.
  • Sexual attraction is not required with emotional cheating but if you’re having sexual fantasies about this person with whom you spend so much time, it’s a red flag.
  • You share information — often very personal and private — with the other person that you haven’t told your spouse
  • You complain about your spouse to the other person and often compare them unfavorably.
  • Most of all, you feel compelled to hide most of your interactions with the other person because you dread what your partner would say.

None of the above is carved in stone. Each partnership is unique and without sexual intimacy involved, the lines can feel fuzzy and unclear.

How and Why Does Emotional Infidelity Happen?

Quite often, the initial impetus is that communication has broken down. When you and your partner lose emotional intimacy, it creates a void. The healthy way to deal with this is to reconnect and talk openly about the situation. A counterproductive approach to filling the void is to “replace” your spouse in a way that gives the appearance of innocence.

Other factors that contribute to emotional infidelity:
  • Spending less time together
  • Not having new goals together
  • Lacking mutuals interests and hobbies
  • One or both of you feel neglected or unappreciated
  • Other responsibilities (kids, finance, etc.) have eaten into your personal time together

No matter how dysfunctional things have become in your relationship, there is never an excuse for betrayal.

Is Emotional Infidelity Possible?

Again, absolutely yes. In this digital age, it can be happening while you and your partner sit on the couch together. Left unchecked, this type of cheating is poison to any relationship. Emotional infidelity is a terrible way to behave when your needs are not being met. Fortunately, a plethora of positive options exist. Couples therapy can be incredibly helpful. If you’re not ready for that and need help wrapping your head around the situation individual therapy can help. As with any infidelity, there is hard work that needs to be done. The sooner you start, the great chance of success you have.

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret, offers solution focused counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California. I work with clients on both sides of emotional infidelity and cheating in relationships.  Here is some additional info on emotional infidelity.