In the era where if someone doesn’t answer their phone, we have the option to text them, e-mail them, Facebook them or even Tweet at them, communication has definitely become a little complicated. While most of us can recite countless benefits of all these various channels, we often pay little attention to the detriment that technology and online communication can have on our romantic relationships.
While the obvious pitfall of technological communication is misunderstandings and misinterpretations, an even bigger pitfall is emotional infidelity. According to Dr. Dale Atkins, emotional infidelity or emotional cheating is “about forming meaningful attachments with people other than your partner in ways that prevent your partner from having that deep emotional intimacy with you.”
How Does this Happen?
Relationships often become vulnerable to this type of infidelity when one partner feels misunderstood or unappreciated. Often, when one partner’s needs are not being met in the relationship, he/she will go outside of it. As we spend more time at work and online, these become our primary outlets. Facebook, blogs, Twitter and other social media serve to connect people and often do so on the basis of common interests. However, the lack of face-to-face and physical contact may serve as a factor in blurring boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate.
For example: Sharing my relationship dissatisfactions with another male creates a bond with that person. This makes it less likely that I will share my concerns with my partner, as I am getting the desired connection outside of my relationship.
**Tip: sharing with someone who could be a potential alternative partner makes it easier to cross the threshold
Online relationships can take on a life of their own, different from physical affairs. We have account and security settings, passwords and personal privacy etiquette that aids in creating private relationships and exchanges.
Is it Really Infidelity if it’s Not Physical?
Some of you may be struggling with the word infidelity, as cheating is typically characterized by a physical relationship. While a physical relationship is a much clearer indication of blurred or absent boundaries than inappropriate online exchanges, there still remains a level of deceptiveness. According to Shirley P. Glass, author of NOT “Just Friends,” secrets and withholding information creates barriers or “walls” in the relationship where one partner is sharing outside the relationship, resulting in them being emotionally unavailable to their partner.
How to Safeguard Against Emotional Infidelity
- Create Windows
Glass says, one way to safeguard against this is to think of having a window between you and your partner where you are open with each other, allowing you to share and know each other in intimate ways. Having that window allows you and your partner to talk about expectations, privacy and trust, as every person views these topics differently.
- No Leftovers
Try not to give your partner your “leftovers,” or the exhausted and drained version of yourself. While we are all spent by the end of their day, make an effort to invigorate your relationships through sharing, conversations and intimacy.
- Stay Aware!
If you find you are hiding or deleting messages and exchanges, this is a sign that you are probably doing something inappropriate. On the flip side, if you find you have the urge to check your partner’s phone, e-mail etc then it may be a good idea to address where the feelings of uneasiness or distrust stem from.
Tools for Couples:
- Includes two quizzes: a) has your relationship become an emotional affair, b) Is your online friendship too friendly?
- Includes “red lights” to detect whether you are an emotional cheater