Emotionally (Not) Yours: How People Trip On The Slippery Slope Of Relationship

The road from a platonic friendship to emotional cheating is not the most obvious one.

Every time we think of the word ‘cheating’ we imagine someone engaged physical relationship. But cheating is a wider term and also includes emotional intimacy. “Emotional cheating is a modern term used to describe an infidelity condition where one or both partners maintain emotional and psychologically (non-sexual) intimate romantic relationship outside their marriage and hide it partially or completely from his/her partner,” says Delhi-based Shivani Misri Sadhoo, relationship and marriage counsellor and founder of Saarthi Counselling Services. It applies to unmarried couples too.

There seems to be a rise in this phenomena and of the several reasons attributed to it, counsellors say that lack of emotional fulfillment in a relationship is the most common. Our busy livestyles serve only to add to the lack of communication, making couples feel drawn apart.

“To be emotionally cheated upon is definitely heartbreaking, but it’s also a result of how responsive (or unresponsive) your partner is. Imagine sharing your deepest fears and trauma with your spouse, only to be shunned by their cavalier attitude,” says the recently single Qatar-based content writer Cassey Oliveira.

Other reasons include meeting someone new with whom you feel a strong connect with after having gotten into relationship with the current partner. But biggest problem is that most people who are emotionally cheating don’t even realise that they are cheating to begin with. As there’s no physical involvement, they feel they tend to rationalise it as it’s ‘just talking’. “It is difficult to pinpoint as this is extremely ambiguous. Most often, there’s no awareness that when you are drawn towards someone a lot that it’s cheating,” explains Bangaluru-based Ajanta De, Counsellor & Co- Founder at InnerSight Counselling & Training Centre.

To check whether you’re veering that way De suggests you ask yourself the right questions – Has this other person become a big focus point in your life? Are you secretive about your communications with this him/her? Do you wait for your partner to go to the washroom so that you can message him/her? Has my primary relationship with my partner been affected since this new person is in your life?

That said, what constitutes ‘crossing the line’ is very subjective. While for some couples messaging frequently or even light flirting can be offensive, for others unless the so-called emotional affair enters the physical realm, it’s all right. Mumbai-based clinical psychologist Nipa Sanghavi, founder of Evolve-The Mind Clinic, says, “Compartmentalised boundaries can’t be set because relationships cannot be measured. But a tangible line to draw is ensuring that conversation remain platonic and don’t turn romantic.” At a deeper level, the need to assess whether you’re having an emotional affair could be a good indicator that something is amiss in your relationship with your partner. Media professional Shraddha Shirodkar, who has been married for six years, says, “Over the years, my husband and I have grown comfortable speaking out about what bothers us. It’s not an easy thing to do, but if you have an open mind, you can see the situation for what it really is”.

Establishing emotional intimacy is a two-way process and Oliveira expects “my partner to be my closest confidante, and vice versa. If he feels the need to seek emotional comfort from a third person, I would want him to be honest about it. And hopefully we could work things out. If not, it would leave a void in our relationship. Trust and transparency are the key to my relationships”.

De too has noticed that several patients expect their partners to provide everything — humour, sexual needs, gossip, banter, emotional talks, intellectual conversations, and so on, she says, “No relationship or a partner can withstand so much. When these are not fulfilled, a person tends to create a deep connection elsewhere. Most of the times it is not intentional.” But what should you do when you and your beloved are not on the same page emotionally? De suggests “acknowledging that you’re not feeling heard in your relationship and then being transparent with your partner about it. Else, a certain level of distance will get created”. With emotional affairs are as catastrophic as physical ones and tougher to deal with given the blurry boundaries that make it more entangled, Sadhoo also suggests, “allowing expectations to exit from your ‘friendship’ and being honest with yourself and your friend”. If need be, seek professional help.



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