Heard about moonlighting in relationship? Here's what it entails

Heard about moonlighting in relationship? Here's what it entails

The neither-so-happy, nor-so-unhappy married folks are two timing in their most intimate relationship, enjoying the best of both worlds, mostly with aplomb, and no regrets

Shillpi A SinghUpdated: Sunday, July 09, 2023, 01:13 PM IST
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“If you are committed to somebody, you don’t allow yourself to find perfection in someone else,” famously said Nick Vaughan (Chris Evans) to a woman, Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve), in Evans’ directorial debut, Before You Go. True that, but that statement is no longer a static relationship state. The dalliances outside the sanctimonious alliance are on the rise, or moonlighting is in vogue, albeit on the sly at times, and openly at times.

The concept is popular in job parlance but refers to a partner engaging in an additional job (read forging a deep bond), often involving emotional or physical intimacy, outside the established social relationship. “The sanctity of marriage, which existed earlier, is rather questionable. The change is visible in both men and women. At times, people start looking for comfort outside the marriage, which could come in many forms, solace, companionship, cerebral stimulation, physical intimacy, etc.” says Jolly Priya, Mumbai-based corporate trainer and life coach.   

Reasons galore 

The phenomenon raises questions about the motivations behind such behaviour, whether it is limited to emotional infidelity or mental affinity or involves physically unfaithful behaviour. Exploring these aspects and delving into the current moonlighting trend in relationships, particularly in India, Aditie Bhatti, psychologist, says, “Moonlighting can occur for various reasons, rooted in both individual and relationship dynamics. Some common motivations for moonlighting include emotional disconnect, boredom and thrill-seeking, validation, and self-esteem.” 

Moonlighting can stem from various motivations, which differ from person to person. Sometimes, individuals may moonlight due to personal insecurities or a fear of commitment, using additional relationships to avoid vulnerability and emotional investment. Like Sakshi Tyagi* who fell out of love with her husband Vikas Verma* and sought solace or connection elsewhere. “My partner made me feel emotionally unfulfilled in our primary relationship. The emotional disconnection stemmed from a lack of communication, unresolved conflicts, or a gradual drift between us,” Sakshi says.

She got into a relationship to eliminate the monotony of her married status and has been into it since then. “It can drive some individuals to seek novelty and excitement outside the relationship. This desire for novelty may manifest as engaging in flirtations, online interactions, or activities that excite adrenaline, and can go any further too,” adds Bhatti. 

Basic instincts

Moonlighting in relationships is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that involves emotional and sometimes physical infidelity. Emotional infidelity involves forming intimate connections, sharing personal thoughts and feelings, and seeking emotional support from someone outside the primary relationship.

On the other hand, physical infidelity involves engaging in sexual or physical interactions outside the partnership. “While emotional infidelity can be just as damaging as physical infidelity, it is essential to recognise that not all moonlighters engage in physical unfaithfulness. Emotional infidelity can create significant distress and undermine trust in a relationship, even without physical involvement,” emphasises Bhatti.

Pooja Saxena* had been married to Prabhat Chandra* for a little over a decade. The couple didn’t have children, and slowly the spark that fuelled their attraction doused, and picking up the ashes of love that once was, she started feeling unappreciated or undervalued within the primary relationship. Saxena had a fling with another co-worker, but the reason was to seek validation and boost her self-esteem. She turned to him because he offered affection, attention, admiration and appreciation, and their complicated status quo continued for three years. “But it was love bombing. He started drifting when my divorce proceeding started. Once done with it, I turned to him to firm up our relationship, but he developed cold feet and vanished without a trace,” says Saxena.

The dilly-dallying on her paramour’s part took a serious toll on her, leaving her in the throes of depression. “I felt cheated and bleated. With time, the wound will heal, but it will take a long time,” she says with tears brimming her brown eyes.

Bond matters 

Identifying signs and symptoms of moonlighting can be challenging, as every relationship is unique, and behaviours can vary widely. Spotting a moonlighter requires attentiveness to signs such as emotional distance, secrecy, changes in behaviour, increased absences and changes in routine, unexplained financial discrepancies and physical indications of infidelity. Moonlighting encompasses both emotional and physical infidelity, and both can have detrimental effects on a relationship. 

It is important to acknowledge that modern lifestyles, increased work-related stress, changing gender roles, and the growing influence of technology can all contribute to relationship challenges. In the modern lifestyle, people stay at the workplace for 10-12 hours when they return in the evening, they are very tired, and therefore the conversations with the family are limited to transactions and formality. There is no connection. There is no attachment.

There is no sharing happening here, so what’s happening is that the sharing takes place at the workplace with colleagues, and sometimes these colleagues are of the opposite gender. “Hence, the connection starts becoming very strong at the workplace and weak in the families. I’m not saying that every connection leads to a relationship or every strong connection leads to an affair or a marriage. No, not really, But the support is now getting shifted to the outside world instead of the spouses and the family. There is a deluge of empty relationships which do not have a future or do not get converted and therefore the term moonlighting,” says Jolly.  

However, a relationship with no label might not sustain social scrutiny. There is an entire family structure as per the societal norms, it checks all the boxes… the house, domestic luxuries, children, holidays, relatives, everything else, and then there is a relationship outside, which is a connection, the escape, and this is becoming quite a norm. “In my coaching practice, I have seen that there are people with such secretive lives, and this factor does not meet the normal eye, but when they open up, you realise that it’s quite common, and they’re not apologetic about it,” adds Jolly.

However, it is crucial to approach this issue with empathy and understanding, recognising that relationship challenges are universal. “Open and honest communication, commitment to emotional connection, and willingness to address the underlying problems are essential for fostering healthy and fulfilling relationships in an evolving world,” adds Bhatti. 

Our society has been witnessing a gradual shift in attitudes towards relationships and marriage. Factors such as increased urbanisation, economic independence of women, exposure to the outside world, and access to technology have influenced the changing landscape of relationships. As a result, extramarital affairs and moonlighting have gained attention, and discussions around these topics have become more prevalent. It takes two to tango; likewise, fostering healthier and more fulfilling partnerships depends on both partners. “Onus lies on each of them,” Jolly said in the parting.

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