7 Ways Emotional Cheating Can Make Your Relationship Stronger

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There are more than a few ways that someone can cheat on their partner. While physical cheating is often assumed to be the worst type of cheating, when a partner emotionally cheats, it can be equally upsetting for some. But it doesn't have to be: it's relatively harmless, for one, but emotional cheating can actually make your relationship stronger.

"Emotional cheating can allow your primary relationship to stay intact," relationship expert April Masini tells Bustle. "Relationships are not perfect, and over the long-term, you may find that your partner does not satisfy all your needs."

By its very definition, an emotional affair is an affair of the heart. It doesn’t involve physical cheating, but another type of intimacy, one that involves long talks, flirting, and even possibly fantasizing about the person. For some people, this can feel worse than physical cheating, because an emotional affair isn’t just simply one night or even a brief thing. But for others, who aren’t as deeply concerned with their partner being emotionally intimate with someone else, it’s not a big deal.

Although it would be great if our partner fulfilled everything we need, that simply is not the case. Just as different friends and friendships fill different needs, it can't be totally surprising that the same can be said for romantic relationships too. Love doesn't automatically make everything complete and fill in all the spaces we have in our lives, and there's nothing wrong with that.

If you find yourself emotionally cheating or discover your partner is, don't despair. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, emotional cheating, for some relationships, is absolutely a good thing. Here are seven ways emotional cheating can make your relationship stronger.

1. It Can Help You Figure Out If You Want To Stay In Your Relationship

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When people emotionally cheat, they don't get physical with someone else, but still stray from the relationship they're in to see if there's a better fit out there.

"Emotional cheating can be a way to test the waters without crossing a line from which there is no graceful return," Masini says. "If you’re thinking of leaving a relationship, and you cheat emotionally, you can get an idea of what life outside the relationship might be like, without leaving it, in a more meaningful way."

In this way, you may find that, yes, you're ready to leave the relationship for something else or that you have everything you need in your current relationship so you decide you're actually quite happy and want to stay in it.

"If the latter is true, luckily, you didn’t cross a line that would change things forever," Masini says.

2. It Can Help You Feel Better About Yourself

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Even if you're in a really happy relationship, the attention of someone else is always flattering and sometimes necessary, depending on how someone feels about themselves.

"Sometimes people need to feel that they’re attractive — but they don’t necessarily want to leave the relationship they’re in," Masini says. "Getting that validation from outside the relationship is actually good for the person getting the validation — and for the long-term relationship they’re in."

If someone feels really great about themselves and brings that energy home with them every day, it can have a positive impact on your relationship.

3. It Can Help Easy The Pain Of Being Physically Cheated On

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No one is perfect and some people cheat. That's just a fact. But the problem with cheating is what it does to the relationship, and whether or not it can survive the betrayal.

"If your partner cheated on you, recovery is tricky," Masini says. "If you have an 'emotional relationship' that is outside your relationship with your partner, to get over the betrayal in your primary relationship, this type of cheating may actually help you get back together with your partner."

While this shouldn't be seen as a way to get revenge, it's more of the mentality that getting close and confiding in someone else can help you work through how you feel about your own relationship and the cheating that took place. It might even trigger a thought that you want to work on your relationship with your partner and get past their cheating.

4. It Can Satisfy A Need Your Relationship Might Be Missing

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Although, ideally, we want our relationship to have it all, that's sometimes not possible. People speak different love languages, love differently, and even have a different idea of intimacy.

"If what’s missing is an emotional connection, and all else in the relationship is good, then an emotional relationship with someone else may allow you to stay with your partner because then your needs are satisfied in the primary relationship and outside of it," Masini says.

According to Masini in some cases, these "emotional cheating relationships" aren't a secret. Some partners are willing to accept them if it means keeping the relationship together.

"Everyone knows about them, and is okay with them — because the primary relationship — the one with the person you’re living with and have sex with — is intact, for the most part," Masini says.

5. It Can Help Nourish Other Relationships

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Although we often think of emotional cheating as something that's romantic in nature, it doesn't always have to be that way. Instead, it can be done with someone who isn't seen as a "threat" to the primary relationship.

"You can cheat emotionally with a friend, a family member, or even a parent," Masini says. "This type of emotional cheating is not seen by everyone as an offense to the primary relationship. But if you’re sharing emotions that betray your partner — with your parent, your sibling, or your best friend — this is cheating."

It's one thing to confide, but it's another thing to betray your partner's confidence and reveal something about them that's no one else's business. There needs to be a line that isn't crossed; if it's something you think might embarrass your partner, then you know to keep it to yourself.

6. It Can Be An Emotional Release

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Being able to talk to someone who isn't your partner about things that might pertain to your partner can feel like an emotional release.

"It’s a cry for help, and an opportunity to examine what’s going on in the primary relationship," Masini says. "Without the emotional affair, problems in the primary relationship may continue."

Having an outlet for an emotional release with someone who isn't invested in your relationship can help you gain perspective on what's happening with you and your partner.

7. It Can Ultimately Save Your Relationship

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"If your primary relationship is in trouble, an emotional affair is often a symptom of the problems you’re having with your partner," Masini says.

As much as people may not want their partner confiding in someone else, it's sometimes necessary so it can give the emotional cheater perspective. It can make them see their own relationship in a different light.

"The emotional affair may be the problem that causes the people in the primary relationship to focus on the real relationship problem and save that relationship," Masini says.

While cheating constantly gets a bad rap, it doesn't have to be a bad thing. If you or your partner need to seek emotional support from other people in order to keep your relationship intact, then so be it. Because there's no one way to have a relationship, there's no wrong way to have one either. You and your partner need to do what's right for you.