The Line Between Close Friendships And Emotional Cheating, According To A Relationship Expert

Infidelity can be catastrophic to a romantic partnership and lead to a complete breakdown in trust. Coming back from infidelity is a major hurdle for any relationship, and it doesn't always work out. We often associate cheating with physical behaviors that violate relationship boundaries, but infidelity can also arise when emotional boundaries are disrupted. While physical cheating is usually obvious to identify, emotional cheating lives in more of a gray area. You want your partner to have fulfilling friendships, but when does a close friendship cross the line into emotional infidelity?

Emotional cheating is when your partner develops an inappropriate level of emotional intimacy with someone outside of your relationship. Deciding whether you're comfortable with your partner's friendships requires a lot of discernment and self-reflection. To find out more, we spoke exclusively to relationship expert Tina Fey, the author of "Breaking the Attachment" and founder of the dating website Love Connection. According to Fey, if you're trying to identify emotional cheating, you'll need to look at the impact it's had on your relationship.

What counts as emotional cheating?

Emotional cheating has a somewhat abstract definition. This form of infidelity starts when a partner forms a bond with someone outside of the relationship, and, as Tina Fey exclusively told Glam, "this bond begins to replace or threaten their existing romantic partnership."

Before you hyper-analyze all of your partner's friendships, remember that close friendships are normal and healthy. It's valuable for your partner to have an emotional support system with multiple meaningful relationships. However, Fey reminded us that these friendships "remain respectful of all involved parties' existing romantic relationships." For instance, a partner's friend should respect you and your partner's privacy, as well as any important commitments you may have with each other.

A close friendship can become an emotional affair when it gets in the way of intimacy with your partner. From Fey's expert perspective, when a partner has become inappropriately intimate with a friend, it can cause an emotional distance within your relationship, as well as secret-keeping. When a friend is becoming a constant diversion from your and your partner's relationship communication and growth, it may be time to raise the friendship as an issue.

Preventing emotional cheating

Emotional infidelity doesn't always happen intentionally. The problem can develop out of issues within your romantic relationship related to communication and boundaries. Since there's no singular definition of emotional cheating, you and your partner need to have shared expectations about the emotional bond you have with each other versus with your friends. This can be an understanding of how you communicate feelings or boundaries around special bonding time. During our exclusive conversation, Tina Fey added, "Ultimately, each relationship has its own boundaries, so open, honest, and ongoing communication between partners is essential to maintain the integrity and respect of the relationship while balancing external friendships."

In a healthy relationship, you should be able to trust that your partner's friendships won't cross any inappropriate lines. If you begin to feel bothered by one of your partner's friendships, you need to share those feelings with your partner. Hopefully, by continually discussing emotional boundaries, you and your partner can get to a place where your intimacy feels strong and authentic.