When you’re romantically involved with someone, it might be considered taboo to maintain a friendship with a member of the opposite sex. It may be frowned upon to share yourself, emotionally, with said friend — to have conversations that are genuine and deep and filled with substance.
I personally don’t view these opposite-sex friendships in a negative light. Friendships create space in your heart for additional connections; they allow you to bond with others. And that’s not to say you won’t naturally feel more connected to your significant other.
But why give your sole attention to one person? Why limit yourself, where you feel it’s wrong to connect and be vulnerable and divulge your story to another human being, even if they are of the opposite sex?
I deem “emotional cheating” as completely disregarding your partner. It’s a yearning to be with someone else instead of the person you’re currently seeing.
A 2008 article in Psychology Today carefully describes the author’s definition of emotional cheating.
“Emotional infidelity is an expression of either the need or the desire to absent oneself from one’s primary relationship,” he said. “Therein lies the core of the issue, and it is what defines emotional infidelity as, if not exactly the same, at least the social equivalent of sexual infidelity.”
Emotional unavailability is the key factor; a sense of absence within the relationship diminishes the trust that was once solidified.
Authentic friendships, however, aren’t necessarily equated with such dynamics.
I’ve been on both ends of the narrative, so I do understand the other side. I’ve been an insecure girlfriend, but I’ve also been the girl who was friends with a guy, who then got a girlfriend.
What happens to the rapport that was already established? What happens to the easygoing banter, to the laughter? Where does it all go?
They disappear into the jealous thoughts of the new girlfriend, or they dissolve into the unspoken rules and regulations that occur once he enters into the realm of late-night phone calls, romantic dinners in outdoor cafes with bottles of wine and hand-holding.
And of course I understand that love has manifested and that an opposite-sex friendship may indeed shift in some capacity. But to sever ties completely? That is a bit harder to swallow.
Because, you see, he’s now no longer communicating; he’s not there for advice when the going gets rough and you feel sad. You were part of a “before” series, and the girlfriend comprises the “after.” The “after” consists of the present and the future.
Societal notions may label opposite-sex friendships as playing with fire, especially when one party is romantically involved with someone else. And sure, emotional infidelity exists when one legitimately and intentionally distances him — or herself from the romantic relationship at hand.
But when these opposite-sex friendships purely serve the purpose of enhancing your experiences, of adding to your life, it’s difficult for me to comprehend what exactly is so out of bounds about it.