If you ask someone what they think cheating is, they'll probably tell you it's when someone has a physical relationship with someone that is not their partner. This is how most people see it and their idea of cheating usually means that a physical and sexual act was done. Also, in our societies, men are usually reprimanded for this type of cheating, while women are held accountable for all forms of cheating, not just the physical. So, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the concept of emotional cheating. We talked to a group of women about their experience with being cheated on emotionally by their partner and how it affected them.

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Experience #1: The impact of emotional cheating is no different than physical cheating

"I used to think that cheating was only physical, that's how we were raised!"

We spoke to the first girl, Yomna, she's 25 and graduated from Fine Arts. She fell in love during college, got engaegd and things were going very well between her and her partner. She is by nature a calm person, who does not look for or want trouble. Her relationship with her partner remained stable until something happened, which changed all of that.

"I've always learned from my mother and the women in my family that man are not like us woman, even in reward and punishment. And when they talked about cheating, they always created excuses for men, like a man by nature tends to flirt with women even if he's married and that as long as there is no sexual relationship, it can be described as a crush or just attraction. And even if physical cheating happened, there must have been a reason behind why he did that. Although I did not fully believe in what they said, I admit that it did have a great impact on me. So when I fell in love and got engaged, I focused all my energy on trying to be the ideal partner, so that I wouldn't leave him any reason to cheat. But despite all this effort, which was often beyond what I could bear, I found out that he has a relationship with another girl."

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She says, "I looked into it and learned that it did not go beyond flirtation and talking on social media, but this did not make it any easier. In fact, the impact of his cheating was extremely different for me. I felt like everything was collapsing around me and that my confidence in him and myself was gone. All my effort went to waste and there were hundreds of unanswered questions, even as he defended himself and called what I was doing an overreaction, because they were just 'talking'. I felt like his words only made things worse. When I spoke with my mother and told her, she laughed and said, "All men are like this, do not give the issue more attention that it deserves. Be reasonable and mature, and do not ruin your engagement because of these trivial things. Tomorrow when you'll be living in one house, he will not find the time for this."

Yomna continues, "I tried to convinced myself of what my mother was saying and tried to get over what happened, and consider it a simple attraction, like everyone said. But after three months I could not continue, the differences between us increased and my doubts about him kept rising. I no longer felt that I had a desire to do anything for him. It was a very bad time. It is here that I learnt that the impact of emotional cheating is no different than a physical one! And that what we were raised to believe was incorrect. Cheating, in any of its forms, is still cheating and still causes a lot of pain. Perhaps there are some that can tolerate it, but this does not mean that they did not still suffer from it."

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Experience #1: Emotional cheating can be more painful than physical cheating!

"Forgiving cheating does not erase its impact on you."

Our second story is about a girl who didn't wish to share her name, but still bravely talked openly about her experience and how it affected her...

"I really trust my intuition, so when I feel anxious about someone, I can be certain that something's up and that it is not just me being anxious or paranoid. So when I fell in love with my partner I told him never to lie to me or hide anything from me no matter how much it could upset me, because I I usually get a feeling when somethings wrong and will want to talk to him. However, it seems like he really didn't take seriously. Our relationship was fine, until we we had some disagreements like  any couple in beginning, and after resolving these differences I had a strange feeling that something not right was happening, until my feelings started taking direction towards a friend of his. The feeling was difficult for me to bear, so I had to confront him because I believe confrontation is the best thing to do. I asked him, if there's something between then and he laughed saying, “Are you kidding? Of course not.” I tried to believe him. However, my doubts continued, but there was no evidence. And with me constantly asking him and him constantly denying it, things stayed as it."

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She continues, "After a full year went by, he told me that I was right, and that there were feelings with girl, until he realized the mistake he was making and decided to stop. He also felt that it was necessary to tell me now as a kind of atonement for the mistake he committed. Here I stood confused between my feelings of how cruel this all was, from the emotional cheating, lying and denial, and between his confession and the fact that I still loved him. I was conflicted in what I should do, but I decided to forgive him and continue our lives together".

Despite my decision to forgive the cheating, what it did to me still stayed with me. It remains painful and whenever I remember it's hard. To whoever says that emotional cheating is simple or easier, it is actually harder than physical cheating in my opinion. How can it be easy when you find out that the man you love has feelings for another woman!

Experience #3 : Cheating is cheating, regardless of its forms

Emotional cheating is 'cheating', not just an 'attraction'.

Lama was the third woman we spoke to. She's in her early thirties, graduated with an Arts degree  and works in the field of literary translation. She talks about how cheating ended the only love story in her life, as she described it.

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"I always knew that I could forgive anything in a relationship except cheating, and yes by cheating  I mean in any of its forms, not just physical cheating. So when I had this love story with someone in my mid-twenties that lasted for about 3 years, I was hoping with all my heart that I would not have to face being cheated on, as it had happened to most of my friends, because I know that I was not capable of forgiving something like that. However, after hearing all of these stories about cheating, I ended up being in the middle of one myself. My partner fell for another girl and began to change gradually with me, because he was spending most of his time with this girl. He wanted to be with both of us at same time, so that he could see which one us he actually wants or is more suitable for him!

"When I found out and confronted it, he acted like most people do in these situations, constant denial, then justifications, then simplifying the matter and talking about how they were just talking and meeting up. And then came the final stage, which is asking for forgiveness and asking me to see it as just a simple crush or attraction. However, I was very adamant, I know myself and I am aware of what I can handle and what I cannot bear. So I insisted on ending the relationship despite the amount of emotional blackmail I was subjected to. "You'll end our relationship after 3 years?" "You want to sacrifice all of that because of  a crush?!"

"But if you ask me today, I will tell you that I have never regretted that decision, and although I did not fall in love again, it is enough for me to look at myself in the mirror and feel satisfied. For, I will not let myself live my life without trust and having to endure something I cannot stand. Emotional cheating was and will continue to be 'cheating' for me, not just an attraction."

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Now, although the three stories are different, some chose to forgive and continue the relationship, some took a step back and felt that their relationship had collapsed and others took a tough stand from the beginning, but all of them agreed that the pain caused by emotional cheating is horrible  and the matter should not be seen as 'just a crush' even if final decision is to move forward with the relationship.

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So for all the men, woman, and friends and mothers who we turn to for support and help, please stop making excuses for men's emotional cheating. Just as you would have harsh judgments on women who emotionally cheat, no exception should be made for a man when he does the same thing. And with any case of cheating, a woman is absolutely entitled to forgive or not forgive.

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