So here’s the deal. You talk to him. It feels great. You finally have found someone who ‘gets’ you. It’s surreal. A feeling that’s only found in books or maybe a classic Disney film. It’s like telepathy. It’s like something you’ve been wanting forever. But, there’s a glitch, like every mainstream drama. He ain’t your lover. Not even close. It’s platonic.
If you just went ‘hell, that’s me!’ after reading the above, you are not the only one who’s been in this situation. Emotional cheating is now starting to be a common trend that creeps up in relationships.
How do you deal with it? Is it normal? Should you feel like a piece of shit if you’ve been a victim of it? We got a psychologist to tell us what’s the science behind emotional cheating and why humans get ever so needy.
Does emotional intimacy equate to emotional cheating?
Before casually throwing around the term ‘emotional cheating’, we dug a little deeper to learn if being emotionally intimate with someone you aren’t in a relationship with, means you are ‘emotionally cheating’ on your partner. Ayesha Khan, a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and NLP practitioner says this depends on the parameters set by the two parties who are involved in the relationship. “Emotional intimacy is of different types. While you may share a close bond with one of your colleagues- lying to your spouse about it veers into the cheating category. Nowadays there are many different types of relations and bonds- the concept of open marriages and relations is certainly not a new one.”
“From a psychological standpoint, any behaviour that makes the other person feel uncomfortable or insecure is reason enough to question that behaviour. Emotional cheating may be harmless in the beginning but often time is the pathway to a full-blown physical affair.”
You may have often wondered the reason for your partner emotionally cheating on you. Being human, it does often strike us if we ourselves are to blame.
Putting too much pressure: the cause of emotional cheating?
Ayesha suggests that the concept of having your partner fulfil every emotional need of yours is a flawed one. “I believe it is very important to be able to fulfil your own needs of love and acceptance before getting into a relationship with another person. If you are unable to soothe yourself and keep looking for validation externally - even from your own partner- this leads to a never-ending quest.”
She goes on to stress on self-acceptance and love, which according to her are two important skills an individual should possess before getting into a relationship. “Many people get into relationships thinking it will fix their life and they will get the validation and love they are so desperate for - many times leading to disappointment and rise of extra-marital affairs. Fix yourself first, as cliched as it sounds. Love yourself before seeking it from outside. That extra-martial dalliance may give you a rush the initial few times, but will only lead you to feel more disappointed and bitter in the end.”
Is emotional cheating becoming a trend today?
Infidelity has been around since ancient times.
Indians as a culture are taught to brush uncomfortable topics under the carpet. However, it is now that the newer generation is more open to talk and face such issues. Ayesha speaks of clients who are aware that their partner is unfaithful but still choose to stay in a marriage due to societal norms. However, she says that this is changing, as people are beginning to refuse to tolerate disloyalty.
She highlights instances where a person who has emotionally cheated on their partner, does not see anything wrong with it. “That person may or may not be wrong, we can’t judge. It all depends on honest and clear communication. I advise all couples to sit down and list their expectations before entering a relationship. I make couples make a list of ‘Deal Breakers’. It’s up to the couple to mutually define what emotional cheating is for them and what the boundaries of their relationship are.”
When we’re young, the stereotypical dramas playing on the television remind us of cliches. ‘Relationships should never change’, they say. But let’s hear what psychology has to tell us about this fantasy.
Relationships need to be dynamic in order to survive
“Anything that is stagnant often times sinks. Having said that there are certain pillars that need to be present always - like respect, honesty and communication. While your relationship can have its up and downs if any of these pillars crumble it’s hard to recover.”
With a vast experience in the field of psychology, involving both hospitals and corporate life, Ayesha resonates the advice we’ve been coming to hear so often that we’ve well begun taking it for granted: Communication is key. “It’s flawed and wrong to make your partner your unpaid shrink. The important aspect is to see if your partner is making an effort. Good two-way communication is key. If you are able to communicate your needs and your partner can understand, that’s all you need. And when I say clear communication, this means being specific about what your expectations are.”
Why talk about fixing what was broken, when psychology offers us a way of avoiding the damage in the first place. “Taking ownership is one way to avoid the emotional cheating conflict in relationships.” Ayesha further illustrates this with an example “Your partner and you were out for a party with his/her friends and you felt as though your partner wasn’t giving you enough attention. This resulted in you feeling left out. Instead of going at him saying ‘You ignored me, you didn’t care to dance with me, you were giving XYZ more attention’ you can change the whole dynamic by taking ownership and saying ‘I FELT ignored by you today, your actions made me feel ignored and left out.’
It’s all about owning your feelings and presenting them like that. When you take ownership of your feelings, the other person is compelled to do the same.”
Ayesha Khan is currently working at a company called House of Cheer, studying happiness in corporate offices. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org