The first time the term “emotional cheating” became viral on the Internet, it seemed silly. The simple explanation according to many people is when someone does nice things to someone who’s not their significant other. Oftentimes, it’s only thought as something innocent, something that friends would do, and it’s only being blown way out of proportion. Many would even say that such instances are a reach.
I thought that too. But when it happened to me, my relationship drastically changed.
Last year, my boyfriend became close to an acquaintance of mine. I call her an “acquaintance” because I only ever spoke to her online even though we had common friends. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. We were together long enough for me not to have trust issues and he was pretty transparent with the things they would talk about sometimes. Plus, he’s always been a social butterfly and can befriend everyone he meets.
However, instincts told me otherwise. After only a few months of speaking to her, he would let me in on the stories—they weren’t sexually explicit but she would over-share—she would tell him. That was the first red flag but I ignored it because I thought to myself, “You’re overreacting!” So I just laughed and moved on.
Even so, it bothered me how much time he invested on talking to her. He refused to open up about a lot of things with me but he would turn to her. It wasn’t like him.
The second red flag came when my boyfriend came home to the Philippines for a bit and she visited him every week until he left. They didn’t do anything, yet it felt like she was overstepping her welcome into his temporary home. Even as his “best friend.”
It didn’t take a third red flag for me to figure out what was happening. I talked to him once about how weird he was being but he assured me that it was nothing. I took his word but the doubt was still gnawing at me.
Months after he left Manila, he finally said the words that I was waiting for. “I’m sorry. I was in love with my best friend.” I actually laughed to myself because my gut feeling was right. I hated it.
I wanted to scream at him over the Internet and break up with him. I wanted to throw a plate across the room or something. It was obviously wrong but I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t as angry as I should be. Maybe because I was waiting for this moment and it never really shocked me anymore. I also thought, “So this is what emotional cheating feels like.”
My boyfriend apologized profusely that day, the next day, and the week after that. I accepted every “sorry” as calm as I could. I didn’t tell him what he should and shouldn’t do next time because he knew that he messed everything up. He made the “I won’t do this and that” promises on his own. Don’t worry, I gave him an ear-full of calm (but angry) reprimands too.
It’s been a while since that revelation. It’s safe to say that I’ve healed. But what’s changed is that I’m still extra doubtful when a woman—be it someone he knows personally or a random person—interacts with him. Nonetheless, he appreciates my input and doesn’t get angry. Even he’s more mindful because he’s afraid of how deathly accurate my instincts were in the past.
As for the best friend, she’s still around. I didn’t want their friendship to go to waste. But I made it clear that she’s not allowed to overstep anymore. [Mentally rolls up sleeves]
So, yes, emotional cheating and affairs are real. If you feel like you’re in this position, don’t hesitate to talk to your significant other. If you think a breakup is the right thing, it’s totally okay. If you decide to stay, expect that not all things would be the same. Emotional cheating may not be sexual but it hurts just as much. Watch out for that.
Art by Yayie Motos
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