Recently, I appeared as a guest on the CBS New York talk show, “The Couch”, during which we discussed the red flags of infidelity with the three co-hosts. We had a great time playing a little game that I call “Chatting or Cheating?”
Here’s how it went:
I presented a scenario, then the three co-hosts held up a sign to vote whether they thought the person discussed in the scenario was guilty of cheating or were just innocently chatting. They were right about half the time! It just goes to show you that there’s a fine line between a platonic friendship and a secretive affair. To a casual observer, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on.
Watch the video to see if you could tell.
Would YOU be able to tell if your partner was cheating? What would tip you off? What are the signs?
Want to give it a try for yourself?
Here are several other scenarios for you to consider. Read each one and ask yourself, is this cheating, or is it just chatting? Why or why not? Then scroll down to compare your answer with mine.
Ready? Here we go…
Scenario 1: Parent “Play Dates”
You strike up a conversation with another parent at your child’s baseball practice. You make plans to carpool to the games together. You begin to dress differently (more attractively) when you know you’re going to see this parent and think about ways to stretch the time you spend together. You often suggest taking the kids out after the games, or hanging out together during the kids’ extended play dates. You think about this parent often and wonder what life would be like if you were together.
Are you just chatting or crossing the line into cheating?
Scenario 1: Parent Play Dates
This is definitely a slippery slope for emotional sex and more!
You are finding yourself thinking more and more about this other parent, and you are going out of your way to figure out how to see more of them. You are trying to look more attractive, dressing better, perhaps wearing make-up at times you normally would not (if you’re a woman). It’s important to ask yourself why do you want to look so attractive to this person?
Plus, the more time you spend alone together, the better chance there is that you will cross the line from emotional sex to actual physical sex. When you begin to make excuses to yourself as to WHY you should spend more time with this person, while keeping your interactions secret from your primary partner, that’s when you know you’re headed down a slippery slope. (In Chapter 7 of my book, “Chatting or Cheating?” I discuss ways to stop obsessing and end the infatuation so that you don’t end up doing something you’ll regret later.)
Scenario 2: Flirting at Work
You started to work back at your old job and there is a co-worker there that you were seeing for a while before you met and (married or started dating) your partner. Although you feel like you are a faithful person and committed to your current partner and relationship, you are enjoying the sparks and chemistry you still feel between you. You go out to lunches together, laugh and mildly flirt but nothing MORE. You know in your heart that you’d never cheat but the feelings you have makes going to work a lot more fun.
When does the fun cross the line into cheating?
Scenario 2: Flirting at Work
It sounds like it’s just innocent mild flirting and probably nothing to worry about. Sometimes we can’t avoid being near people with whom we’ve had a former relationship, or whom we’ve dated in the past, especially if it’s someone we work with.
The red flag would be if you or your partner wasn’t being honest about the extent of the flirtation, or went on extended lunch dates so you could spend more time together, or you developing crush-like feelings and were being secretive about it.
Secrecy is a sign there’s something to hide and that you or your partner don’t want to stop doing what they’re doing with this other person because it feels good. That’s all part of the brain chemistry of cheating (the dopamine hit) and plays into why secrecy can actually INCREASE the likelihood that you or your partner will cheat. Keeping secrets can feel exciting! See Chapter 1 of my book, “Chatting or Cheating” for the full scoop on the brain chemicals that lead to the slippery slope of emotional sex (get it free here).
Scenario 3: Sparking the Old Flame
You discover over 300+ private messages between your partner and their old flame from college (who is single) on Facebook. In addition, you now know that they also regularly call and text each other. You’ve hacked into your significant other’s e-mail account and read everything. Your partner tells this other person all about their problems (including your relationship problems) and goes on and on about how they wish they could be together. Your partner even proclaims that this other person is someone they’ve always dreamt of, but that they would never leave you.
Is this cheating, even though they haven’t had sex or even been physically together for years?
Scenario 3: Sparking the Old Flame
There are some big red flags that indicate the person is engaged in emotional sex. This scenario hits the 3 Big S’s of emotional sex:
S#2- Shared Intimacy and
S#3 -Sexual Chemistry
Let’s start with 300+ private messages that you didn’t know about. There is certainly a lot of S#1 going on. The husband or wife has been sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with the other person, not you. Worse, they are discussing their problems about you and your relationship with this outside person and not you.
Definitely S#2! This creates more emotional separation between you and more intimacy between them. They are looking to the other person to get their emotional needs met and there’s a lot of S#3 romantic fantasy and affection being exchanged. Even though there hasn’t been physical contact, there is an emotional bond and more being formed. It’s just a matter of time before the cyber relationship becomes a full-blown affair.
A huge breeding ground for infidelity is when we stop giving each other the 3 A’s: Affection, Attention and Appreciation at home and turn outside to get those needs met.
To learn more about the RED FLAGS and tell-tale signs that your partner is crossing the line into cheating, take a look at my book, “Chatting or Cheating” which can be found on Amazon & Barnes & Noble.
There are ways to protect your primary relationship from cheating that are fully in your control. You can stay alert for temptations and choose your friends wisely (in other words, if you know you’re vulnerable, stay away from attractive friends of the opposite sex, especially if they’re flirtatious!). You can keep your personal life personal when you’re chatting with a friend, and you can refrain from any kind of flirting.
Flirting is how affairs start. It’s like a drug – once you get a hit, you keep wanting to come back for more and more. And if you find yourself attracted to someone, be honest about it to yourself and your primary partner. Getting these feelings out in the open can keep you from being tempted.
Put your energy and attention into making your primary relationship stronger by growing your emotional intimacy and friendship with your partner, not a stranger.
Wising you love and light,
This article was written by Dr. Sheri Meyers, America’s leading love and intimacy expert.