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Fear I emotionally cheated/had an emotional affair [long, please help]


ROCDanxiety
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This all happened over a year ago but only came to my mind recently. For a year I lived in a shared house, we were two couples, and all four of us were best friends with each other of many years. One morning before work, my friend (girl) came in to the living room where I was sitting having breakfast, she was slightly behind the door frame and hadn’t seen me yet and I said “morning”, which startled her and I then realised she was motioning to take her clothes off and change in to the ones on the clothes-horse, her thinking nobody was downstairs. She said “thank god you said something because I was literally about to take my bra off here” and we kind of nervously laughed it off.

That incident played on my mind a bit, and either that day or maybe a day or two later, the idea to send some kind of funny meme about walking in on room-mates changing flashed in to my head. My problem is that I think I remember feeling in the moment like it wasn’t of completely innocent intention, it wasn’t to diffuse any tension or awkwardness, I googled for a meme and I remember while searching feeling in myself that it wasn’t right to be looking for a way to bring it up, at first I decided against sending one and stopped looking, but when it came to my head again later I got frustrated with myself overthinking it and I ended up going back and quickly deciding to send [this meme]. I remember immediately after sending it I felt like I’d done something wrong, my stomach sank. She laughed at the meme and said that’s really funny, and I obviously left it there and moved on but I had a feeling in myself that the whole thing wasn’t right and I wasn’t happy with how I’d got to that point.

This has all diluted down in my brain to the idea that I sent an inappropriate or “flirty” message because I wanted an excuse to bring that situation up again, maybe I didn’t exactly hate the idea of seeing her naked? I’m finding it hard to rationalise this now because the idea of seeing her undress in front of me genuinely does nothing for me, I’m not really attracted to her, and I honestly did not have feelings for my friend whatsoever, I didn’t want to be with her or have any ideas of anything like that at all, and really there was no conceivable way she could have replied to that with anything inappropriate, I think I just got worked up in the moment over it.

I’ve confessed all this to my girlfriend and she was mostly un-phased by it, she doesn’t think sending that meme could be seen as cheating even or even close to it even if I had the most inappropriate ideas in my head behind it, “it’s a ***ing meme” in her words, and if I was having inappropriate thoughts around sending it then that would be concerning and inappropriate and would need to be addressed, but it would not be cheating, just bad. If she’d known at the time maybe we’d have addressed it but it’s over a year ago (and we aren’t friends with this girl anymore) so she doesn’t care, but she thinks it sounds more like I was overthinking about whether to send it rather than having an explicit desire to “get” something from bringing it up.

I didn’t have the direct thought like “I am going to send this and hopefully she replies something sexual/flirty back”, that absolutely never happened, but I think it was in the side of my mind that I knew I could send it because it was something that nearly happened, I just cannot shake this feeling and I don’t know what to do, I feel like in that singular moment I betrayed my girlfriend of 4+ years who I love and appreciate with everything, it’s on my mind every day and in every good moment we spend together. In truth though, if she’d done the exact same thing, I wouldn’t be happy but I wouldn’t say she’s cheated on me, that just seems extreme, I’d say it was an inappropriate line of thought and yeah you shouldn’t have sent it if you felt it wasn’t right but it’s not like you said “I wish I’d seen you naked”, that would be obviously cheating.

She was my close friend of many years, girlfriend of my male best friend, and close friend of my girlfriend, and the reason all this has come to light in my head recently is because about a week or two after this I made a really deliberate effort to speak more to her during the day after we had a bit of a falling out and she'd kind of said to me we weren't as close friends anymore as we used to be because we don't talk anymore or do anything together, so we later talked a lot during the day while we were at work, 99% of our conversations were completely platonic, normal friend talk about what we were working on in work, projects etc, honestly boring conversations, but I was admittedly too emotionally invested in wanting us to talk and keeping the conversations going, which lead to some friction with my girlfriend wondering why we were talking so much and after that it kind of stopped, like the whole thing happened over a week. I am now going back over all of this and worrying that the whole thing was somehow an emotional affair. There was one other inappropriate exchange after she nearly walked in on me in the bathroom and when messaging about it later I said "How bad would that have been lol" (basically meaning like imagine if that had happened), she said "I'd literally die/scream/run away" and I laughed and left it there, but looking back my worry is that I was fishing again for a positive response but I have a vivid memory of being relieved that the conversation didn't go anywhere.

During this week, this girl never became a replacement for my girlfriend, we never shared any intimate conversations or anything even close, I never imagined being with her, I never substituted her for my girlfriend or held anything back to share with her instead, I never sought any intimate advice or opinions, I never fantasised about her, we never talked about our relationships or honestly anything inappropriate, but I did become too invested in speaking with her to the point where my girlfriend one morning accidentally opened a Snapchat from her on my phone and I just remember feeling really alarmed like why did she do that, and later we talked about it and why we'd been speaking so much and it stopped shortly after. Most people on the internet say that any amount of emotional investment in someone who isn't your partner is cheating. I have discussed this with my partner and we both feel like that's nonsense but I just cannot shake the idea that I betrayed her during this week by being so invested in speaking to our friend, it's been 2 months of worrying about this now and I'm on the verge of a breakdown even after telling my partner everything and she's never been concerned. How do I work through this?

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3 minutes ago, ROCDanxiety said:

 I lived in a shared house, we were two couples, and all four of us were best friends with each other of many years. it's been 2 months of worrying about this now and I'm on the verge of a breakdown.

Do you all still live together? Are you and your GF still friends with this couple? It seems like you are fantasizing/obsessing a bit.

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2 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Do you all still live together? Are you and your GF still friends with this couple? It seems like you are fantasizing/obsessing a bit.

No, we all moved out 6 months ago and neither of us are friends with the female anymore, we've sort of fully cut contact but for unrelated reasons/drifting apart, and I have 0 desire to reconnect

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Why would you burden your girlfriend with your anxiety over whether you had an "emotional affair" - what was she supposed to do about it -sounds like you wanted to unburden some guilt or awkwardness about it onto her -that's the real issue not whether you had an "emotional affair".  

Did you cross a line? I mean maybe.  Big deal.  Humans make mistakes.  And it's too easy to click on a meme and send it then regret it.  

If you promised not to date or pursue dates with other people or have sex with other people that's the deal.  You can ruminate and obsess over whether you more than harmlessly flirted, whether someone took what you said to be flirtatious, etc.  There's something else going on here whether it's  your own mental health issues or a desire to make your girlfriend jealous or wonder about you - do you like drama? Are you bored because things are "fine" and you were trying to stir the pot?

Listen to the Carly Simon song "We have no secrets" or at least read the lyrics.  I think it applies to this situation.  

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9 hours ago, ROCDanxiety said:

but the internet tells me that any amount of emotional investment in someone who isn't your partner is cheating.

What?

Internet also thinks that any characters who share a screen for 5 minutes in a movie or the show, no matter the gender or sexual orientation, are a couple material, but that doesnt make it true lol

You sent a funny meme and talked to her a bit. Its hardly worth of mentioning. Let alone thinking you did emotional affair with her. Its not what emotional affair is. 

Do you always blow things out of proportion like this? If you do, you need to get that under control.

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10 hours ago, ROCDanxiety said:

This all happened over a year ago but only came to my mind recently. For a year I lived in a shared house, we were two couples, and all four of us were best friends with each other of many years. One morning before work, my friend (girl) came in to the living room where I was sitting having breakfast, she was slightly behind the door frame and hadn’t seen me yet and I said “morning”, which startled her and I then realised she was motioning to take her clothes off and change in to the ones on the clothes-horse, her thinking nobody was downstairs. She said “thank god you said something because I was literally about to take my bra off here” and we kind of nervously laughed it off.

That incident played on my mind a bit, and either that day or maybe a day or two later, the idea to send some kind of funny meme about walking in on room-mates changing flashed in to my head. My problem is that I think I remember feeling in the moment like it wasn’t of completely innocent intention, it wasn’t to diffuse any tension or awkwardness, I googled for a meme and I remember while searching feeling in myself that it wasn’t right to be looking for a way to bring it up, at first I decided against sending one and stopped looking, but when it came to my head again later I got frustrated with myself overthinking it and I ended up going back and quickly deciding to send [this meme]. I remember immediately after sending it I felt like I’d done something wrong, my stomach sank. She laughed at the meme and said that’s really funny, and I obviously left it there and moved on but I had a feeling in myself that the whole thing wasn’t right and I wasn’t happy with how I’d got to that point.

This has all diluted down in my brain to the idea that I sent an inappropriate or “flirty” message because I wanted an excuse to bring that situation up again, maybe I didn’t exactly hate the idea of seeing her naked? I’m finding it hard to rationalise this now because the idea of seeing her undress in front of me genuinely does nothing for me, I’m not really attracted to her, and I honestly did not have feelings for my friend whatsoever, I didn’t want to be with her or have any ideas of anything like that at all, and really there was no conceivable way she could have replied to that with anything inappropriate, I think I just got worked up in the moment over it.

I’ve confessed all this to my girlfriend and she was mostly un-phased by it, she doesn’t think sending that meme could be seen as cheating even or even close to it even if I had the most inappropriate ideas in my head behind it, “it’s a ***ing meme” in her words, and if I was having inappropriate thoughts around sending it then that would be concerning and inappropriate and would need to be addressed, but it would not be cheating, just bad. If she’d known at the time maybe we’d have addressed it but it’s over a year ago (and we aren’t friends with this girl anymore) so she doesn’t care, but she thinks it sounds more like I was overthinking about whether to send it rather than having an explicit desire to “get” something from bringing it up.

I didn’t have the direct thought like “I am going to send this and hopefully she replies something sexual/flirty back”, that absolutely never happened, but I think it was in the side of my mind that I knew I could send it because it was something that nearly happened, I just cannot shake this feeling and I don’t know what to do, I feel like in that singular moment I betrayed my girlfriend of 4+ years who I love and appreciate with everything, it’s on my mind every day and in every good moment we spend together. In truth though, if she’d done the exact same thing, I wouldn’t be happy but I wouldn’t say she’s cheated on me, that just seems extreme, I’d say it was an inappropriate line of thought and yeah you shouldn’t have sent it if you felt it wasn’t right but it’s not like you said “I wish I’d seen you naked”, that would be obviously cheating.

She was my close friend of many years, girlfriend of my male best friend, and close friend of my girlfriend, and the reason all this has come to light in my head recently is because about a week or two after this I made a really deliberate effort to speak more to her during the day after we had a bit of a falling out and she'd kind of said to me we weren't as close friends anymore as we used to be because we don't talk anymore or do anything together, so we later talked a lot during the day while we were at work, 99% of our conversations were completely platonic, normal friend talk about what we were working on in work, projects etc, honestly boring conversations, but I was admittedly too emotionally invested in wanting us to talk and keeping the conversations going, which lead to some friction with my girlfriend wondering why we were talking so much and after that it kind of stopped, like the whole thing happened over a week. I am now going back over all of this and worrying that the whole thing was somehow an emotional affair. There was one other inappropriate exchange after she nearly walked in on me in the bathroom and when messaging about it later I said "How bad would that have been lol" (basically meaning like imagine if that had happened), she said "I'd literally die/scream/run away" and I laughed and left it there, but looking back my worry is that I was fishing again for a positive response but I have a vivid memory of being relieved that the conversation didn't go anywhere.

During this week, this girl never became a replacement for my girlfriend, we never shared any intimate conversations or anything even close, I never imagined being with her, I never substituted her for my girlfriend or held anything back to share with her instead, I never sought any intimate advice or opinions, I never fantasised about her, we never talked about our relationships or honestly anything inappropriate, but I did become too invested in speaking with her to the point where my girlfriend one morning accidentally opened a Snapchat from her on my phone and I just remember feeling really alarmed like why did she do that, and later we talked about it and why we'd been speaking so much and it stopped shortly after. Most people on the internet say that any amount of emotional investment in someone who isn't your partner is cheating. I have discussed this with my partner and we both feel like that's nonsense but I just cannot shake the idea that I betrayed her during this week by being so invested in speaking to our friend, it's been 2 months of worrying about this now and I'm on the verge of a breakdown even after telling my partner everything and she's never been concerned. How do I work through this?

How’s your relationship with your girlfriend? You seem to communicate fine together but is the relationship missing anything? 

Maybe this has nothing to do with your friend. And more to do with what’s lacking in your relationship. Intuitively something doesn’t feel right to you or you’re feeling guilty but it may not be about her. It’s feeling guilty because you’re not 100% invested in your rl.

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It sounds like you had a little crush on this woman, and that perhaps you were indeed putting the feelers out there a bit when you sent that meme and joked about her nearly walking in on you in the bathroom. 

I would not call this an emotional affair or cheating. But I do see this as you testing the waters a tiny bit. Let's say she had responded differently to this exchange:

15 hours ago, ROCDanxiety said:

she nearly walked in on me in the bathroom and when messaging about it later I said "How bad would that have been lol" (basically meaning like imagine if that had happened), she said "I'd literally die/scream/run away"

What if she had indicated she might have enjoyed walking in on you in a state of undress? Would you have been able to laugh it off and leave it there? 

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15 hours ago, ROCDanxiety said:

No, we all moved out 6 months ago and neither of us are friends with the female anymore, we've sort of fully cut contact but for unrelated reasons/drifting apart, and I have 0 desire to reconnect

Ok, if you are still with your GF, you need to put this flirtation/fantasy behind you and move forward.

Your user name indicates that you have issues with OCD, if that's the case see a physician for an evaluation of your physical and mental health, discuss the ruminating, guilt, etc. and ask for a referral to a qualified therapist for ongoing support.

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6 hours ago, Kwothe28 said:

What?

Internet also thinks that any characters who share a screen for 5 minutes in a movie or the show, no matter the gender or sexual orientation, are a couple material, but that doesnt make it true lol

You sent a funny meme and talked to her a bit. Its hardly worth of mentioning. Let alone thinking you did emotional affair with her. Its not what emotional affair is. 

Do you always blow things out of proportion like this? If you do, you need to get that under control.

I agree.  That's not true at all.  Emotional cheating to me is often too broadly defined although yes it can exist and yes certain people play with fire.  I have a lot of emotional investment in many people who are not my partner.  So does my partner.  We are married and we are faithful and loyal. 

If my ex boyfriend -a certain one -called me today and needed my help I would help him even though we haven't been in personal touch since 2008 (we are on Linkedin as connected and have never communicated there) - I would help him, I would tell my husband I was and depending on what it was I'd probably be emotionally invested. 

We were very close, I was close with his family and friends and if he was in a situation where he needed emotional support and I could help him I would.  Yes, within boundaries.

No I would not go on a date with him, no I would not see him alone at night in a romantic setting - no I would not joke about sexual stuff - that would be playing with fire.  But if something happened where talking to me would help him because I knew the situation better than others I would.  And my husband would likely understand and assume I would get emotionally invested because I'm a human.  I would want him to do the same as long as his ex girlfriend was genuinely in need of his help and not trying to get him back, etc.  

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I think whether you actually had an emotional affair really depends on what your actual intentions were towards that person and how you felt about them. For example, if you sent the meme to that female friend/housemate because you hoped it would lead to having sex with her because you found her really attractive. Or if you were talking to her a lot because you had feelings for her. I assume you're being honest with yourself and us when you say that you weren't actually into this female friend?

I don't think you had an emotional affair but I think maybe your behaviour was a bit inappropriate. And I say a bit, not severely. Considering it was your housemate and your close male friend's girlfriend, I think it was important to have good boundaries. Because living together does create a sense of closeness and you also sometimes end up spending more time together maybe unintentionally. Considering that friend is female and she wasn't single and neither were you, I think maybe sending the meme was crossing the line a bit.

In terms of talking to her a lot on your own, well that's a bit of a grey area. I've never had male housemates (I'm female) but I have female friends who lived with guys. They did talk to their male housemates or even hang out, like watching TV together or getting some takeaway together. I mean, if you run into your housemate in the kitchen or lounge room, you're not really going to just ignore them just because they're of the opposite gender, right? Especially if they're actually your friend or your friend's girlfriend. I'm a really friendly and social person so I think maybe I would have done the same thing myself and I wouldn't have any agenda behind it.

I also think that because we're human, sometimes we can't help being attracted to people other than our partner. But as long as you actually don't act on it and don't cheat then that's fine.

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You made some choices that caused you to second guess yourself.  You talked about them and learned from them.  From where I sit it kinda fell into a grey area but could have gone either if continued.  But it didn't.   I don't think you cheated, but liked the attention.  Who doesn't.  You're human.

This is in the past.  I doubt you'd do it again. Not sure why you are still going on about it.  Unless there is something more to it.

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We've all done things we regret in life. But normal people feel guilty, learn from the experience, and then vow to never repeat what made them feel guilty.

It's over. You now have to mentally move on. Stop beating yourself up over the past. There are times I've rehashed the past in my mind, beating myself up, but I had to stop and tell myself, "You're the only one who remembers that. You're human and made a mistake. Now think of something happy, like plans for an upcoming vacation."

You have power over your brain. It takes practice to move your thoughts in a more positive way. Keep practicing and you'll get the hang of it.

Same as arguments with your SO. When you have an issue and have an argument or discussion, and then come to a consensus, it's over. Best not to bring the problem up over and over again when you argue about a new problem, as though you're compiling a list that will never go away and/or continually punishing them for for the past.

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You're in the clear.  Your fretting over it is more problematic than the actual event, if you can call it that.

Seriously, say you were a bit titillated by the thought of almost seeing your roommate topless.  You did not do anything bad.

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It might be helpful to ask yourself the purpose of your rumination and what you'd like the outcome to be.

Have you considered speaking with a professional? Many do tele-appointments to make a mental health assessment even easier during this stressful time.

It's been a pandemic--you're allowed to feel stressed and anxious, and you don't need to diagnose 'why'. There are trained people who can help to walk you through this.

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Dreaming of my ex-boyfriend hugging...
Dreaming of my ex-boyfriend hugging me

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