So, you’re in a great relationship. Your mate treats you very well, you get along great and share everything with each other, have passed that 3 year mark and are even talking about moving in with one another/getting married/having kids/__________(insert taking it to the next level example here), and then BAM!, without warning you find that your mate is spending more and more time online chatting, spending more time with a friend or co-worker, or arranging to see that play they really were dying to see with someone special-with someone else. You, being the fully secure, rational human being that you are, chalk it up to a healthy expansion of your mate’s social life – but you’re still feeling uneasy about what’s going on.
How can you tell if it’s simply your green-eyed monster rearing it’s ugly head for no good reason or if it’s really a sign that something is amiss? Again, it’s all in the little details when it comes to emotional cheating. Many people begin to look for signs of sexual infidelity, and become frustrated once they cannot find any signs. However, if your mate is having an emotional affair, the tell-tale signs we are all used to looking for won’t be present, so trying to go into Ama-D mode is useless (how could they? A conversation where you share your innermost secrets with someone doesn’t involve condoms, shared fluids, or even shady late night disappearances).
Much like the diddlers, these cheaters will tend to hide conversations or internet correspondences they have with their emotional lover from you. And they will also be more evasive or general when it comes to telling you the details of what they talk about. If you walk into his office and your man quickly closes the window he was chatting in and stands up from the computer to walk towards you, that could be a sign of guile. His actions tell you that he wants you nowhere near the computer, and doesn’t want you to catch a glimpse of the conversation he was having or to see whom he was having it with, as though he wants to avoid you coming near the scene of the crime.
Another thing you may want to observe is their general moods and or attitudes to you versus the suspected affairee. If you find that your mate is always laughing, jovial, excited to hear from, and , god forbid blushing, while talking to the suspect this could be a good sign that an emotional affair is afoot. Especially if this behaviour is out of character for your mate, the suspect is the only person they respond to in any of those ways, or they are never like that while speaking with you anymore. The reason this is a sign? It could be that your mate is freaked out about the seriousness of your relationship and is looking to connect with someone where there is less pressure to be serious about life with, and a person whom they aren’t actually having any type of “real” relationship with (or sexual contact with) allows them to feel carefree. It could be also that you and your mate over time have grown apart, and although they still love you they don’t feel as though you are jibing in the same way, but they want to make it work with you so they turn to another to give them the aspects of the relationship or intimacy that they are lacking. Or they could be of the Puppy-Dog Philanderer variety (which can be thought of as sort of a combination of the two, but with a whole new aspect thrown in).
Puppy-Dog Philanderers: There is a type of cheating that does not involve sexual infidelity. We are referring to emotional cheating: Which can be defined as a full fledged emotional relationship with someone in which the emotional cheater grows deep, complex emotions for another person (which can be anything from falling in love, to lusting after, to crushing on). The emotional cheater then engages in behaviours that involve pursuing further, and increased, contact and a deeper connection with the individual of interest. For more details click here.
Now, a Puppy-Dog Philanderer is a special kind of emotional cheater. They engage in such emotional affairs because they require consistent praise, love, and attention from an outside source. The Puppy-Dog Philanderer (or PDP) thrives on the honeymoon phase of relationships, as this is when their mate is looking at them through rose coloured glasses and is too riding on infatuation, and therefore lavishes the PDP with love, praise, attention, and unconditional happiness and love. Once the honeymoon phase has ended however, mates tend to be more realistic with one another, and have also grown accustomed to each other. They can also be more personally demanding and critical as the relationship becomes more serious.
The PDP. at this point, can end the relationship in search of a new one, being in a never-ending cycle of committed shorter term relationships to ride the infatuation high forever. However, the majority of PDP’s understand that relationships cannot always be rosy, and often judge whether they will remain in the relationship based on other normal factors. However, the PDP is addicted to the aforementioned feelings , and this is where the emotional cheating comes in to play: they get to remain “faithful” as far as they are concerned, get to be in the serious adult relationship that they desire with the person that they love, while still being able to experience all of those warm and fuzzy feelings that they so desire.
PDP’s can take the emotional affair to a physical level with relative ease, and end it equally as easily, as soon as the gratification from the affair is no longer as fulfilling. They will also end the affair if their mate suddenly begins to lavish them with the love and attention, or if they go through a bonding experience which heightens the sense of love and fulfillment in the relationship. There is a reason for the Puppy-Dog reference: The PDP needs to be patted on the head, or scratched behind the ears, while hearing someone chuff and coo at the “That’s a good boy! Who’s my good boy?? That’s a good doggie!” . They want to be just as worshipped and praised, regardless of what wrongs they have done, they want to be just as deeply admired and obviously loved and cuddled as they were in month three of their relationship with their mate.
PDPing is hard to cure, as it is also hard to diagnose in advance, except for in extreme cases. The majority of PDP’s are only diagnosed after a pathology of this behaviour has been observed by an outside party over an extended period of time (or through self report stories combined with first hand experience). Normally treatment involves personal counselling for the PDPer so that they may recognize why they look to outside sources to feel validated and secure. Often, well masked insecurity issues are to blame. Another very effective treatment is self-directed praise (rather than saying “I’m so proud of you!” say “aren’t you so proud of yourself?”), which teaches the PDP the important skill of positive self talk, although this technique works best in conjunction with dealing with insecurity issues as well as learning to communicate feelings more effectively with their mate, and their mate effectively learning how to communicate without negative references to the PDP.
Ok, Ruby, you think exasperatedly to yourself, I know that my mate is having an emotional affair…but who cares, it’s just a little crush, it will fade with time- our relationship is true blue and will stand the test of time. Right? Ummm…not exactly. Just because an affair begins as an emotional one doesn’t mean that it won’t progress to something more. Sexuality for men is based on physical attraction, but like women they also can feel sexual chemistry inspired by an emotional connection too. And, just as in the beginning stages of any romance, things seem all bright, rosy, and perfect in their emotional affair, which can lead to ideations of how perfect a full out relationship can be. And, of course, there’s ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ syndrome, so if you look all dull and gray and boring and the affair looks all exciting and great, regardless of the reasons why, it could lead your mate to try and take things a bit further – of course, keeping you around as a safety net in case their new little romance doesn’t work out.
So what can you do? Your best bet, as always, is to be open and honest about your concerns. However, in this case, just talking about the suspected affair, or requesting them to spend less time together or whatever just isn’t enough in this case. Often times, emotional affairs signal major underlying issues, either personal ones or ones within the relationship. Telling your mate that you’ve noticed their increased closeness with this other person and your uneasiness about it, and then letting them know of any concerns you have within the relationship is a good way of broaching the subject. You can also let them know that you really want them to be happy and want to know if there’s anything you both can do together so you both can feel 100% fulfilled in your relationship.
Keep in mind, that like most situations, nothing is foolproof. However, your mates reactions to you bringing up the subject should be a good indicator of whether or not you should remain in the relationship, or whether or not they are interested in staying. Relationships are hard work, and if you are both willing to be open about your feelings and voice your desires with one another, and still are in love with one another, then you’ll be able to pull through. Just remember that BOTH people have to be willing to work on it, otherwise you’ll never have a healthy relationship.
And, honestly, do you want to be in a relationship that’s sufficient (or even great) knowing that your mates mind or heart is on, or with, someone else? Didn’t think so.
This ends my 3 part special on Cheating in Relationships. But, based on the email responses I’ve gotten asking questions not only about the topics I have covered, but about other aspects of cheating and relationships, I’ll be continuing this series as a weekly column. Please, continue sending in your questions and concerns, and stay tuned for next Friday’s continuation of Cheating & Relationships.
Have an awesome weekend, y’all!