By Jennifer Oikle, PhD. This article first appeared on GalTime.com
So, you're really hitting it off with that new guy in your office. You look forward to seeing him, and chatting with him and you've even confided a couple things to him over lunch. He's just a friend, right? No harm in that...
Hold on. Think it through. Sure, it's good to have friends, but you could be inching down the slippery slope to emotional infidelity without even knowing it. The trouble? Emotional connections often slide into sexual cheating, even if you are happy in your current relationship. So you want to be on the lookout to protect your bond before it's too late!
But what exactly is emotional infidelity? Emotional infidelity happens when you allow someone of the opposite sex to fulfill emotional needs that should be met by your partner, creating an intimacy that leads to an emotional attachment that then frequently culminates in sex. It can start innocently enough, that's why you need to be aware of the behaviors that open the door to an inappropriate connection.
Signs You're Heading into Emotional Infidelity
1. You look forward to seeing him with more excitement than a typical friend, and spend more time with him than you should.
2. You find yourself dressing up and paying more attention to your appearance in a hope that he'll notice you.
3. You confide in him about your relationship troubles at home.
4. You flirt with him, touching him while talking or making playful comments.
5. You turn to him first, before your partner, when something is troubling you.
6. You fantasize about what it would be like to be together in a relationship or sexually.
7. You either talk way too much about him to your partner & friends, or you never mention him at all, keeping him a secret.
8. You wouldn't feel completely comfortable telling your partner everything about your relationship with this person because you know some of it is inappropriate.
Basically, when you're nurturing an emotional bond with an attractive member of the opposite sex that includes a spark of chemistry and secrecy, you know you're in trouble!
Stopping the Slide into Emotional Infidelity
If you find yourself slipping into the danger zone, it's time to take precautions to protect your relationship by moving away from the magnetic pull of cheating -- even if it's not so much fun. Now is your opportunity to set some new boundaries to ensure your relationship stays strong. Try these:
1. Step away from the attraction by setting limits on the amount of contact you have.
2. No longer share your troubles, turn to your partner first for support.
3. Only spend time together in groups.
4. Refocus your attention on your partner by stopping all thoughts and fantasies about the new guy.
5. Plan some fun with your partner so you can reconnect and get the spark going again.
It's important to recognize that everyone is at risk for emotional infidelity, even if you have a solid relationship, because attention and affection from someone new always feels good. So don't beat yourself up when you notice the pull toward another cutie, just use that as a sign to move closer to the one you already love and spice it up, instead of straying outside the boundaries to get your needs met. As long as you keep the boundaries around your primary relationship strong, you'll stay safely in love!
What are the lines that you draw? What is appropriate/inappropriate in male-female friendships if in a relationship? We want to hear from you!
Jennifer Oikle, Ph.D., is a relationship psychologist and dating coach. Her passion is coaching singles in Authentic Attraction so they can step into their best self and attract the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. She's also an expert in helping singles dissolve the deepest obstacles that keep them from creating fulfilling relationships. Her work has been frequently featured in Cosmo as well as Redbook, Women's Day, the John Tesh Show, and others. More: mysoulmatesolution.com and meetyourmateonline.com.