What Is Emotional Cheating? I Can Tell You, Because My Ex-Boyfriend Did It

The Huffington Post recently conducted a survey about emotional cheating that caught my eye. They asked 1,000 U.S. adults if they considered emotional cheating to be actual cheating. What did they find? 60 percent of those surveyed said that if their partner “developed a deep emotional connection with someone else, it would be considered cheating,” while 18 percent said they wouldn’t consider it cheating.

I’d like to talk to those 18 percent who don’t consider emotional cheating “real” cheating because, um, I think they’re wrong. Really, really wrong. Emotional cheating is totally “real” cheating and I know this because unfortunately, it happened to me.

What is emotional cheating? We’ve already given you guys the signs of it, but emotional cheating is when your significant other develops a serious connection with someone else. It’s basically cheating without doing any of the physical stuff, like sex or making out.

For some people, emotional cheating is considered even worse than all of that physical stuff. Sex is sex and for a lot of people, it can be purely physical – it’s just about giving into temptation and feeling good. But emotional cheating goes beyond just sex. Emotional cheating is about creating a real connection with someone else. Your partner is no longer turning to you to talk about their day, get an opinion on something, reveal their secret dreams. They’re going to someone else for that. That kind of connection is much more deep than just wanting to bone someone and it really, really hurts.

Does it hurt worse than physical cheating? I don’t know, because as far as I know, I’ve never been cheated on in the physical sense. But I do know that emotional cheating was bad enough to make me end an almost five-year relationship. So, here’s a little story for all of you who aren’t convinced that emotional cheating stinks.

couple fighting

We were always fighting and he was always saying he was doing nothing wrong. | Source: ShutterStock

When I first started dating my ex, D, we quickly became best friends – he was my world. I told D everything, things I had never told anyone else and he did the same with me. We could easily talk on the phone for hours because we never ran out of anything to say. I was never bored when I was with him and I had never felt closer to anyone else in my life.

But, like I said, that was the beginning. After about a year, D became good friends with a girl he worked with named Jackie. I was jealous at first, but then I got over it. D had always been very friendly and outgoing – he was just one of those guys everyone enjoyed being friends with. I figured it couldn’t hurt if he had a friend who was a chick. But after a while, their friendship got more than a little annoying. D brought up Jackie’s name constantly. He told me that he talked to her about personal things and one day he said something about how he was glad he had another best friend.

We started arguing about Jackie all the time and I was always worried that he was (physically) cheating on me with her, but he promised me he wasn’t. Eventually, Jackie moved away and the problem disappeared on it’s own. But that definitely wasn’t the last time it happened.

A few months later, D became super, super close with a girl named Jenn. I became BFF with her and we all started hanging out. After a little while, though, Jenn got even closer to D. They hung out on their own and had all of these little inside jokes. Whenever I was alone with Jenn, she brought D up constantly.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Jenn had a little crush on D. D laughed it off, so I stayed friendly with her… until Jenn started actively trying to break us up and even started flirting with D and saying incredibly inappropriate things to him. I finally ended my friendship with Jenn and basically forced D to end his. But for a while, I truly thought that she would be the one to break us up.

sad girl

I’m so glad I finally ended things. | Source: ShutterStock

This happened a few more times with different, random girls who would enter my boyfriend’s life, become his best friend, develop a crush on him and then suddenly disappear. I spent most of my time feeling jealous and scared that he was physically cheating. I thought it was wrong of him to develop these friendships, but he said he wasn’t doing anything wrong and I guess I wanted to believe it.

Our relationship didn’t end until D met a girl named Tina when we were in college. Just like the situation with Jenn, Tina became my BFF too. We hung out with her almost every day and she was a central part of our lives. Things started getting shady when I would call D, only to have him tell me he’d call me back because he was on the phone with Tina. They posted pictures of each other online like they were dating, talked about how they were best friends and practically soulmates and basically made me look like a complete idiot. Tina obviously had a huge crush on D. One day, I finally had enough and I broke up with D. It was the best decision I made throughout that entire relationship.

To this day, D insists he never physically cheated on me. That doesn’t matter to me though, because he emotionally cheated, multiple times. He never seemed to think he was doing anything wrong (according to the HuffPo survey, people are less likely to consider emotional cheating cheating if they’re the ones doing it) and so he never apologized. A few months after we broke up, a friend asked me if he had ever cheated. I considered the question, then responded yes. Because he did cheat – he ignored me for these other girls who he made fall in love with him, all while keeping me around and making me feel like I was the one who was acting the wrong way.

The point is, emotional cheating sucks. Of course I support the idea that your partner can have other friends besides you during a relationship, but I don’t think your partner should be developing that sort of close connection with another girl while he’s dating you. It’s obviously okay to have best friends, but when you start treating them as your girlfriend, that’s not okay. Keep an eye out for this behavior – you shouldn’t have to put up with it like I did.

Have you ever emotionally cheated? Have you ever been emotionally cheated on? Do you think it’s real cheating? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments.


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  • Carrie

    My recent boyfriend was messaging my old friend from high school. So one morning she messaged me and he was with me cause we spent every night together the past month pretty much she showed me messages frpm him talking sexual to her while we were dating. This happened October 3rd and I just found out abut 2 days ago. So like you said, emotional cheating does suck and it really hurts.

  • StartinOva

    I also consider emotional cheating to be worst them physical cheating. And it’s what caused me to end my near 2 year relationship with my now ex boyfriend. I discovered he was emotionally cheating on me with another mans wife, referred to her as his “slim Venus” was begging her to come see him, sexting her, saying he loves her, misses her etc. He was also sexting other women, some were strippers telling them he misses them and wants to see them, calling them beautiful, sexy etc. I wasted No time telling him how much of an Fing liar he was and told him that I asked him numerous times if he was cheating and he kept saying no that he was so convincing he had me dumb enough to believe I was being paranoid and apologizing for even thinking he was cheating. I wanted him to apologize and show some kind of remorse but like a lot of people he doesn’t consider what he did cheating and said I was being petty. All he keeps pointing out is that he didn’t F any other woman while he was with me. And no matter how many times I tell him that’s what makes it worst especially with the married woman(because most of his messages to her were more romantic and loving, he told her things like “do what u gotta do to make us happen”, “your husband’s a fool” I love you” “good morning beautiful etc”) it means you have strong feelings for her and that hurts me more then you physically cheating on me. The rest of the females it was sexting more then anything. I told him “the time you invested in another man’s wife you could’ve invested in your own relationship” and that he was dumb enough to lose a sure thing with a loyal, honest, faithful, respectful woman for a woman that has shown she’s disloyal, unfaithful and playing him since 2011 that she’s trying to hold her marriage together while having him on the side incase it doesn’t work and he’s dumb enough to be the guy on the side. I also told him you not only played me you were playing the others before me that you had believing you was a good faithful man but you weren’t. He has yet to apologize, in fact the last thing he said to me a week after our breakup was “he moved the F on. That I wanted to find out things and I found them out so get over it, good bye and good riddance” to which I replied of course you already moved on you had side chicks, I was only with you so it’s going to take me longer to move on because unlike you my feelings for you was real, I honestly did love you and wanted to be with you, but you obviously don’t know the true meaning of love, loyalty, and respect. So F.U and your good riddance because if you didn’t want to be with me you should’ve just been a man and said that not string me along for your own selfish purpose while secretly wishing a married woman would leave her husband. Then he said “I keep telling you I never F her or anyone else”. I told him he was to selfish and coldhearted to see the wrong he’s done and that I’m tired of trying to get him to see it, told him I’m hurt at the moment but it’ll get better for me, then I reminded him that he was the one that told mentioned a future with me first, even told me to get the size of my ring finger and that he said he knows I’m his soulmate or the right one for him because when he had nothing I still wanted to be with him that other females want him because they heard about his sex from friends of theirs or because he finally landed a real good job that pays well. And then told him karmas a bitch and when it comes back around don’t start thinking about the one woman that wanted him for him, not his money, the sex, his looks or any of that superficial stuff, that I just wanted him for the man I thought he was. And told him take care bye. Sometimes I have a rush of emotions and I’m tempted to call him and want to talk to him try to “fix” this, but then I realize it can’t be fixed from the beginning of our relationship he’s been lying and my trust for him is completely broken, then I blame myself what did I or didn’t I do but I realize it has nothing to do with me, I even asked him that and he couldn’t answer. The fact that he throws I love you around like it’s nothing makes me believe he wasn’t sincere with me although he claims he was and never wanted to break up with me but couldn’t explain why he did what he did. Also I think about the kind of woman I’d become and don’t want to be that type of woman, the kind that starts to wonder if everytime his phone ring is it another woman, if he’s away from me is he with another woman, is he texting/sexting another woman etc. I don’t want to become insecure or paranoid and the fact that he lied to me will make me think he’s always lying to me. So I’m working on me and moving on, something tells me that over time he’s going to comeback, but I’m smart enough to know I’m a good woman and I deserve so much better than a lying, cheating man that not only disrespected and disregarded me and what I thought was our relationship but disrespected a marriage as well.
    We got together in Jan 2013 and broke up in Sept 2014. We also had a 9 month fwb in 2009 from Jan-Oct, that ended because I wanted more but he said he wasn’t ready to be official because he was barely making ends meets and couldn’t take care of himself and his daughter so he so he didn’t want a relationship yet. And in Jan of 2013 we reconnected, and became official in May of the same year, he asked me to be official with him.

    • StartinOva

      I forgot to mention the day I found out he was emotionally cheating on me aside from telling him he was an Fing liar, I dumped him as well told him to go F himself, slammed his door really hard and drove off. I was waaayyy beyond mad, which turned into hurt and feelings of betrayal, and I cried for a week straight. But I’m starting to do better, I know that it’s not my fault he did what he did, he made the conscious decision to do what he did, even when I was begging him to open up to me, spend time with me, leaving him alone when he was with his friends, trusting him. He chose to risk losing me and it’s a risk he lost.

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  • Emerald

    Many wont admit to it, but im willing to. I have emotionally cheated on my boyfriend.
    The story begins kind of complicated. When Leon* and I started seeong each other, he has just broken up with his former girlfriend and i could tell he was still messed up from the relationship prior to that. We couldnt be together because of an inevitable issue.
    The boy i emotionally cheated on Leon with had told him he was interested in me before leon and i started seeing each other, so in a way, leon stole the girl.
    While leon and i werent officially together, he was still seeing other girls even thpugh he loved me. Im the time the other guy, started emotionally supporting me through it. (minor detail: he started seeing my friend after leon and i became involved
    The other guy was leons best friend who was dating my best friend.)
    Anyway, leon and i eventually overcame the “inevitable issue” and started officially dating.
    But i still got these feelings with the other guy, we’ll call him Spin*.
    Even though leon was the guy i wanted to spend my future and life with. Spin was the guy i felt like i could tell him everything going on, and he just got it. He wasnt even necessarily charming, he was just a little bit more open and fun than leon. He made me laugh, leon made me feel passion. He could be mischievous with me, but leon was always honest and true.
    All though nothing physical ever came of it, which i never wanted or needed, it was heart breaking to my true love. It can be dangerous because some people will be easily prevoked when alone. Its dangerous because people who cheat think of it as “a forbidden love” i was never daring enough or heartless to want those things though.