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Is “Emotional Cheating” a Real Thing?

Emily Flake answers your questions about uncoupling, sending nudes and how to initiate sex

Man and woman with coffee cups conversing at the office
Alamy Stock Photo

I’m getting divorced, and my soon-to-be ex keeps insisting that we call it our “uncoupling.” I don’t want to do that. If I got fired, I wouldn’t say I’m “unjobbing.” I’d say I got canned. Why can’t I be as honest about our marriage?
—Loren, Troy, MI

Ah, the irreconcilable differences that arise between those who traffic in euphemism and those who prefer earthy language. If your soon-to-be-ex wife is the type to use “uncoupling” without at least a whisper of irony, this divorce is probably for the best. Neither one of you is the other’s boss; you can each use whatever words you like, though in the interest of civility you should probably keep your eyerolls internal when she uses her preferred term.

What are the ground rules for sending nudes when you’re in a 20-year married relationship and your body isn’t as camera-ready as it was when you were young, dumb and full of … ambition?
—Tommy, Boise, ID

Tommy, are you sending these nudes to your spouse? I mean, that’s cool, but after 20 years, I can assure you they know all your worst angles, in which case the ground rules are: Have fun and don’t worry about it (as a woman in a 20-year relationship of my own, I can honestly say that if my husband sent me a nude, I would be … mystified, unless he put a costume on his little fella, which is in fact my love language). If, however, you’re sending these pics to an uninitiated side piece, I think we have bigger problems than how best to downplay your beer gut.

Is “emotional cheating” a real thing? My friends think my wife is emotionally cheating on me with a work colleague. But from what I’ve seen, it’s just flirting. Should I be more concerned?
—Big Joe, Tempe, AZ

Big Joe, I admire your chill. A little workplace flirtation (within the bounds of company policy, I guess) is fine; it helps the day go by quicker and reassures us that our sexual mojo has not been entirely drained away by time, worry and harsh overhead lighting. It takes a confident man to realize that that kind of thing isn’t a threat! Furthermore, we can’t expect one person to take care of all our emotional needs (press one if you learned this lesson hard during the pandemic). That said, chill can shade into neglect just like flirtation can shade into adultery. It’s important to keep an eye on the levels — maybe a little more attention to your wife wouldn’t hurt. You don’t want this coworker to take over your whole job.

My wife always expects me to initiate sex, but sometimes I want her to make the first move, and now it’s been two months and we’re in a sexual funk. Help!
—Lucas, St. Louis, MO

OK, does she know you’re playing sex-chicken, or are you just silently waiting to see if she’ll get the hint? Have you told her you’d like her to take the lead every now and again? If not, she may be wondering why you seem uninterested and could be feeling lousy (or, in a much worse scenario, relieved) because she thinks her husband doesn’t want her anymore. Communication is the sexiest kind of foreplay, a phrase I almost certainly read on some earnest dope’s T-shirt.

I’m the only single person in my social circle. I’m fine with that, but my friends aren’t. They keep trying to set me up. Is there a nice way of discouraging them, or at least making it apparent that I like being single?
—William, Midland, TX

Use your words, William! Unless your friends are just too fragile for this world, they should be able to handle you, a grown-ass man, looking them in the eye and saying, politely but firmly, “I’m happy being single. I appreciate your thinking of me, but I am not looking for a relationship at this time.” If they insist, repeat yourself, but louder and in a robot voice. They’ll get it eventually.

Follow Article Topics: Sex-&-Relationships