No one likes talking about this sensitive subject. We all know about how physical cheating can impact loved ones, but what about emotional cheating? You can do it to your spouse or partner – heck, you can even feel more emotionally tied to your child’s friend (in a protective, parental way) than your own child. Emotional cheating is very common and is rooted in many different types of emotions, including anxiety.
So, how do you tell if you are an emotional cheater? Criticism. Yes, criticism. We use this as a way to cope from what the root of the problem is, and also to avoid addressing our own behavior. For example, let’s say you have a thirteen year old daughter. She is her own person but not really the person you envisioned when raising her. And she has a friend… Nancy. Now, Nancy reflects everything you wish your own daughter could or would be. So, when Nancy is over, you treat her to extra cookies. You compliment her hair. You secretly wish Nancy was your child. And then you feel guilty. So, you pick apart your own daughter. Maybe she think that she is too fat or too thin. Perhaps you make negative comments about her taste in music or how she doesn’t style her hair like Nancy’s. These criticisms are your way of justifying your own feelings to rid yourself of the guilt that comes with any form of cheating.
Emotional cheating isn’t uncommon and many therapists can help you understand why you feel closer to people around you than you may towards your family or a partner. If you feel like you’ve been picking apart a loved one and that you wish someone else could take their place, you are not alone. Please contact me – or seek outside help- to address the feelings and develop a plan for dealing with them!