So, When is it Cheating?

cheating.jpg cheating image by martindwm

Dear Ms. Mix & Bitch,

I’ve been married for a few years, and we have certainly had our ups and downs. Even with our rollercoaster ride of a relationship, I’ve always felt I could trust my husband – until recently.  I know it’s wrong, but I poked around on his Blackberry and found tons of emails from this woman.  While I’ve never met her, I know who she is…she’s a former co-worker of my husband’s, and she was transferred to the east coast by the company several months ago (we live all the way on the west coast).  While I didn’t find anything explicit in the emails, they were certainly suggestive in nature. I can only imagine what their phone conversations are like. I haven’t talked to him about this, mostly because I don’t even know how to start that kind of conversation. I’m afraid he’s going to focus more on my snooping than on his behavior. Knowing him, he’ll probably just tell me she’s a friend, and while there’s some flirtateous talk, that’s all it is. My question to you is, do I just let it go or do I say something? If they’re not sleeping together, is it really cheating?

Signed, Clueless Wife

Dear Clueless,

O.k., I’m going to just jump right in here…

While I agree that it’s wrong to snoop around someone’s emails, I also believe that you wouldn’t have done this unless you felt there may be something to find.  We are instinctual animals to our core, and even if our logical intellect cannot pinpoint the signs of something fishy going on, our primal selves knows when something stinks.  Unfortunately, you were right.

Just how far it has gone and for how long you may never know. What he’s doing has been recently dubbed in the pop psychology press as an emotional affair – meaning two people have all the emotions and intimacies of a relationship, but don’t consummate.  I myself have a couple of opposing views on this one.  Sorry, I’m a Gemini and therefore are naturally prone to seeing both sides of every issue. If you want black-and-white scenarios, go to Dr. Phil.

View #1  You Don’t Have to Have Sex In Order to Be a Cheater

It is VERY puritanical American of us all to think that an affair is not an affair unless it’s physical. As if feelings in and of themselves don’t count. Quite a pedestrian view of love and relationships when you think about it.  In many ways, it’s even worse…because if something between two people was just a pheromonal wresting match, then the intensity dies almost immediately after the climax. When you exchange words and glances over fluids, that’s more meaningful – and therefore, more incriminating. So guess what all you tom cats out there hoping for a certified Ms. Mix & Bitch pass…it counts.

View #2 What’s Wrong with a Little Winky Wink?

This other view is decidely more French than Anglo, so bear with me…

If you’re in a long-term relationship – like marriages should try to be – then it’s unrealistic to think that someone else won’t catch your eye from time to time. And flirting with the opposite sex is a natural and healthy activity.  Of course, the French take this concept to a level where Ms. Mix & Bitch is not willing to go. Perhaps someday when I’m a wealthy neglected cougar and I need a pool man to treat my tepid waters, but until then…

I guess what it comes down to is when is this behavior crossing the line? Is it only when they become physical, or is it when flirtateous banter turns into something more romantic? Everyone has to judge that line for themselves.

In my view, it’s a problem when the flirty talk is the predominant form of exchange between two people…versus two friends that talk about a million other things, but let a little extra friendly banter color a phrase or two. It obviously bothers you regardless.

My advice? Come out and say you know it was wrong to look through his shit, but you’ve been feeling some distance between you two and wanted to know if you were sharing the problems with other friends. Say you know you should have just come to him, and in the future you will, but for now you found all this crap between you and the east coast c*nt (o.k., don’t use that phrase) and it bothers you. I am sure he will try to dismiss it, to downplay the whole thing. Keep focused and then ask the question that will be hardest to hear the answer to….what is he getting out of this relationship with this other woman…and how can you two find that between each other again?

The way he handles the rest of this will tell you how far it’s gone.

Let me add one more thing here…I myself have flirted with male friends and thought little of it. But then my husband saw one of the emails, and then I realized that it was a big deal…and I suddenly understood I was placing my need for an ego boost over his feelings. I still regret that to this day. And I stopped it immediately. Mine was far from a love connection – but it was definitely inappropriate and happened during a particularly low period in my marriage. But my husband was very smart…he didn’t rant and rave…he simply re-engaged in our relationship, more than ever, and we healed a lot of stuff between us much more serious than what opened us up to all of this explorations in the first place.

The choice is yours. Good luck there, not-so-clueless 😉

PS – Sorry I didn’t do a mix this time folks – no time! But the next one is coming soon…

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