Confessing Your Relationship Woes to an Online Confidant: When Is It Cheating?

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Let’s not play dumb: we sometimes confide in exes and even attractive single friends when our relationships are sailing through some fairly turbulent waters. And really, who can blame us? Naturally, we seek out those to whom we’re attracted — whether physically or mentally — when times are tough in our love lives.

Since text messaging and online chats have drastically cut the distance between friends and former flames — there are no miles in cyberspace — we can now spill our guts to confidants around the world. However, this new digital convenience can open the doorway to some pretty serious and complex relationship issues as well. Jealousy for starters, and let’s not even bring up the paranoia you’d feel as your dating partner describes your shortcomings (however blown out of proportion) to an online buddy you know next to nothing about. Talk about frustrating and inconsiderate!

Of course, we do often need someone to confide in. Just talking to someone about what ails you is far from cheating, even if you’re chatting with an ex or an acquaintance with whom you used to burn up the sheets. A conversation can just be a harmless conversation after all, even if you are venting about some argument you and your lover just had. What causes problems is when you actively engage your confidant on an intimate level and deliberately hide it from your significant other.

As new handheld technology and online communities makes communication easier, dating etiquette has adapted, too. New questions arise. Is confiding in a person online a form of “emotional cheating” or not? Are you in safe waters if you’re retreating to the digital embrace of someone you could possibly date (or perhaps have dated in the past)? Basically, where’s the line between confidant and love interest nowadays? How easy has it become to keep your options open online even while you’re dating someone offline? Is jealousy over a digital powwow ever warranted?

Classic Suspicious Activity May Include:

  • Hiding the whole truth from your lover. He’s only a friend. She’s not that attractive. Talking in circles around the issue at hand will only make your current lover that much more insecure and frustrated with you. Just like dating offline, you need to be straight with your partner. You can admit to an attraction — it’s natural to be hot for other people — but hiding certain details about your exchanges only breeds suspicion. Revealing details, though, can be helpful.
  • Only calling when your relationship is rocky. What kind of signal do you send to your partner if you talk to one particular guy or woman whenever you’re suffering a relationship crisis? However inadvertently, you’re saying that you trust this random stranger – or worse yet, an old flame – with your personal feelings more than you trust the person you’re currently dating. Not such a pleasant thought!
  • Being vague about your connection. Inevitably (and rightfully so), your lover will confront you about the relationship you carry on with your confidant — perhaps in a heated moment or the throes of an argument — especially if they’re a person to whom you could be attracted. When that moment comes, all the explanations and backpedalling in the world won’t save you from the evidence presented. Better to reassure your partner (and your confidant, too) long before this confrontation, so nobody gets hurt or has a misunderstanding.
  • Keeping flirty, private messages secret. Are you keeping a secret folder with emails stashed from prying eyes? Are you deleting flirtatious texts or comments posted by your confidant? If so, you’re trying to get away with something. By keeping your developing connection with another person in the shadows, you’re really not helping, and it’s not as though you’re fooling anyone — maybe only yourself. It might be time to reevaluate your situation.
  • Neglecting your partner in favor of conversation with your confidant.Has your boyfriend ever checked another woman out while you were on a date together? Has your girlfriend ever started flirting with a bartender or casual acquaintance, later claiming that she was simply being friendly? Neglecting the needs and desires of your significant other in order to log a few Facebook chatting hours with your confidant works according to the same principle, and it’s only a matter of time before your better half catches on and perhaps confronts you.

In short, always think about the tacit messages you’re sending your significant other as well as your confidant. If you’re going to converse about your current relationship with anyone, you need to reassure your love interest that everything is copasetic. You also need to let your confidant know that you’re not going to leave your current relationship for them either, and that no amount of online play is going to change that fact.

The last thing you want is to arouse suspicion in an unstable romantic situation, however temporary the argument or disagreement is. And if you’re trying to disrupt the relationship anyway by spending way more time with your confidant than you should, that’s probably a good indication that the time has come to either call the whole thing off or at least have a serious discussion about what you want for the future.

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Alex Wise served over 5 years as relationship expert helping women from around the world figure out the men in their love lives from an honest, male perspective. Alex is one of the contributors and editors for Loveawake.com dating website. He is passionate about thought leadership writing, and regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and online dating communities.
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