Infidelity is one of the most challenging and distressing issues that couples can face. It brings about feelings of betrayal, hurt, anger, and confusion. However, not all cheating is created equal. Emotional cheating refers to a betrayal of trust that does not involve physical intimacy but focuses on emotional connection with someone else outside of one’s relationship.
In contrast, physical infidelity involves sex or sexual acts between two individuals who are not in a committed relationship. Both forms of unfaithfulness are wrong and cause considerable pain to the faithful partner. However, some argue that emotional cheating may have more serious consequences than physical cheating, mainly because it involves a deeper level of deception and emotional intimacy.
“Emotional infidelity is often premeditated; it includes lies, secrets, inappropriate communication, and withholding information. It is a form of infidelity that should never be dismissed or minimized,” says marriage counselor Marni Feuerman.
The debate over whether emotional infidelity surpasses physical infidelity continues to rage on. Each type of infidelity poses unique challenges to any relationship, and none is easier to forgive or forget. In this blog post, we will explore what emotional infidelity entails, looking at why it could be considered worse than physical infidelity. By the end, readers can make their conclusions on which one is worse based on reliable information and expert opinion.
The Definition of Emotional Cheating
Emotional cheating is a form of infidelity that occurs when one partner develops a strong emotional attachment to someone other than their significant other. Emotional affairs may include conversations, texting, and flirting with a person who is not your partner or participating in activities you would otherwise do with your partner with someone else.
Unlike physical infidelity, which usually involves sexual contact outside the relationship, emotional infidelity doesn’t necessarily involve sex. Instead, this type of betrayal often refers to a deep connection that’s based on sharing intimate secrets, thoughts, and emotions with another person.
What Constitutes Emotional Cheating?
Understanding whether certain behaviors can constitute emotional cheating can be difficult because everyone has different boundaries. However, there are some clear signs that suggest an emotional affair is taking place.
- Frequent communication outside the relationship;
- Sharing intimate details about personal life and feelings;
- Talking or texting frequently throughout the day and night;
- Making special plans or meeting up secretly without informing your significant other;
- Attempting to hide or cover tracks while talking to someone else.
If any of these behaviors were done behind your partner’s back intentionally, then that could potentially be seen as emotional cheating.
Examples of Emotional Cheating
There are various ways emotional cheating can manifest itself in a relationship. Below are few examples,
“I started text messaging someone I met at work, it was all just friendly until we got comfortable enough to start flirting with each other. Soon my whole afternoon break period used to revolve around communicating with him.”
This action by someone constitutes emotional cheating and indicates that a person is trying to cultivate an emotional bond with someone who isn’t their significant other.
“My wife and I are usually busy during the weekdays, so when she started clicking late-night photos of herself and captioning them flirty captions, all while texting someone else, it was emotionally damaging for me.”
When one partner starts sharing intimate pictures of themselves or trading flirtatious messages while in a committed relationship behind their significant others back, then this signifies emotional cheating. These actions corrode trust which end up leading to emotional wounds on the partner’s mind.
The Effects of Emotional Cheating on Relationships
Emotional cheating can have disastrous effects on relationships. Once the damage has been done, there may be no turning back.
- Lack of trust: If one partner finds out about the dishonest behavior of their significant other, trust goes out the window almost immediately. It takes time to rebuild trust, but sometimes even years and efforts fail because trust once broken is hard to regain.
- Painful feelings: The betrayed spouse often experiences severe pain, confusion, guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, and depression as a result of discovering their partner’s infidelity.
- Deteriorated communication: This form of betrayal complicates the lines of communication between two partners by making it difficult for partners to communicate anything – even small talks start feeling awkward and distant.
- Soured intimacy: Partners’ ability to connect physically is equally affected when every trust associated with your partner’s touch feels like it could be a lie or act.
Hence, emotional cheating can lead to long-term damages, and at times become worse than physical forms of infidelity.
Trusting one’s partner is the heart of any relationship. It is important to communicate and be honest with each other about needs, desires, and boundaries. If both partners can’t agree on what constitutes emotional cheating, it can lead to a lot of complications which might interfere in the entire chemistry.
The Definition of Physical Cheating
Physical cheating is defined as engaging in sexual acts with someone who is not your partner. It involves physical interaction that goes outside the boundaries of a committed relationship. This type of infidelity can happen even without any emotional attachment.
It’s important to note that what constitutes physical cheating may vary from one person to another. Some individuals may consider kissing or even flirtatious touching as physical cheating, while others may only see actual sexual penetration as crossing the line.
What Constitutes Physical Cheating?
There are many actions and behaviors that can constitute physical cheating. Here are some examples:
- Hugging/kissing someone other than your partner
- Engaging in oral sex with someone else
- Having intercourse with someone who isn’t your significant other
- Masturbating/performing sexual activities on yourself while chatting online with anyone other than your partner
- Taking part in group sex/orgies/swapping partners
Other similar intimate contacts that involve sexual gratification may also be seen as physical cheating by some people.
Examples of Physical Cheating
“I found out my partner had been physically cheating on me when I saw explicit pictures of them together on social media.”
This quote is just one example of how social media has made it easier to discover physical cheating due to posting or tagging photos online.
“I caught him red-handed with his coworker inside our bedroom after work hours.”
Another common scenario is catching somebody physically unfaithful in an act such as this. They may try covering up their tracks but sometimes they get caught.
The Effects of Physical Cheating on Relationships
It’s very clear that physical cheating can have a significant impact on relationships, including:
- Betrayal of trust between partners
- Destruction of intimacy and emotional connection in the relationship
- Increase chances of sexually transmitted disease or unwanted pregnancies
- Mistrust leading to insecurity, jealousy, anxiety, sadness, depression, and anger for both parties involved in the relationship
These negative effects often lead to a complete breakdown of the relationship. The aggrieved party may decide to break away from the partner or terminate the relationship altogether in extreme cases. In other circumstances, depending on how remorseful the perpetrator is and in what capacity they admit guilt, the injured spouse may try seeking therapy or counseling so as to resolve their own feelings with this infidelity.
However, one big question remains: Is emotional cheating worse than physical?
Emotional cheating is more subtle and not easily noticeable. It involves nurturing an intimate and romantic connection with somebody else apart from your partner without any sexual contact taking place. Some people believe that it can be far dangerous than its physical counterpart due to the following reasons:
- It breaks down the foundation upon which healthy relationships are built – honesty, trust, and communication
- It nurtures an emotional bond that should exclusively exist within a couple, causing issues with truly being emotionally vulnerable with only each other
- Its subtlety makes it hard to detect therefore eroding trust further even when confronted.
“In my opinion, emotional cheating is worst because if you’re physically cheating (as terrible as it is), at least you have physical gratification while emotional cheating kind of attacks the essence and intimacy of a relationship, which might even be worse than simply having sex with someone else.”
As exemplified by this quote, some people prefer to feel aware they are being cheated so that a solution can be reached whereas when the partner’s infidelity seems to lack any no obvious telltale signs like photographs, in-text messages or other frequent communications between both parties regarding any matters either personal or professional that do not involve the other person in the couple; then the “innocent” party risks feeling insecure and paranoid about how much information their significant other shares with somebody else emotionally.
Whether physical or emotional – one thing is for sure. Infidelity is never acceptable in a committed relationship. Each individual should value fidelity and aim towards a respectful journey within relationships through honest communication when creating strong bonds with another person outside the relationship becomes necessary. Both types of infidelity can hurt rather destructive currents of mistrust, dishonestly affecting your relationship’s foundation. While they may evoke different feelings and reactions among partners, each situation must be tackled head-on so that trust and good communication are established and retained turning an almost security blanket around each intimate bond.
The Emotional Impact of Emotional Cheating
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. When one partner emotionally cheats on the other, it destroys that trust and makes it difficult to regain. Unlike physical cheating, emotional cheating involves developing a deep connection with someone else by sharing intimate details about your life, feelings, and thoughts. The victim of emotional cheating feels betrayed, hurt, and may develop severe trust issues both in their romantic relationships and in general.
A broken foundation can have a significant impact on everything from everyday interactions to long-term goals. For example, if secrets are held due to a lack of trust, this could limit opportunities for growth as a couple. Similarly, when there is a lack of faith between partners, small disagreements can turn into big blowouts much quicker than they otherwise would.
“Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” – Unknown
The effort required to rebuild trust depends on several factors, including how long the infidelity lasted, level of deception, willingness to make amends and forgive. Couples counseling may be necessary to work through these trust issues. While healing may seem impossible after such wrenching pain, couples who decide to stay together often come out stronger on the other side.
Loss of Intimacy
Intimacy involves more than just physicality: it’s also an essential aspect of emotional connection in every relationship. Victims of emotional cheating are likely to feel a loss, not only in terms of their romantic desires but also emotional bonding and open communication. The perpetrators’ affair-sharing frequently leaves partners feeling unimportant, undervalued, or even invisible. As a result, an increase in arguments over trivial matters, decreasing comfort levels while being around each other, increased anxiety and depression is common.
Couples in such relationships may become like strangers, no longer able to share each other’s concerns or thoughts and relying on shallow conversations. When the emotional connection is lost or severely damaged, it becomes challenging even to attempt a physical relationship. The absence of intimate bonding can leave partners feeling lonely and disconnected from one another, which eventually deteriorates what little trust was left in the relationship.
“A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself — to laugh with me but never at me; to cry with me but never because of me; to love life, to love himself, to love being loved.” – Anonymous
Emotional cheating can have severe effects on both partners’ mental health. The victim may experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. Additionally, they might doubt their judgment, avoid social situations, feel ashamed and embarrassed, lose self-esteem, and worry about the future of the relationship. Meanwhile, the perpetrator may develop frustrated feelings towards themselves and others around them over how everything turned out. In severe cases, couples seek therapy as a last resort to reverse the damages caused by perceived thoughtlessness regarding their actions.
- Affair Recovery Center (2021). Emotional Affairs: What Are They and How Can You Heal? Retrieved from https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/infidelity-emotional-affairs-what-are-they-and-how-can-you-heal
- Barash, K. A., Ph.D. (2018, December 26). Emotional Infidelity: Why It Hurts So Much. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/buddhas-brain/201812/emotional-infidelity-why-it-hurts-so-much
- Bonior, A. (2020, November 02). How to tell if emotional infidelity is worse than physical cheating – and what to do about it. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/emotional-infidelity-bad-physical-cheating-what-do-about-it-2019-5
The Physical Impact of Physical Cheating
Physical cheating is often seen as the ultimate form of betrayal in a relationship. It can cause severe negative impacts on both parties involved, sometimes leading to long-lasting physical and emotional scars.
Cheating phenomena may expose victims to social stigmatization and rejection from their communities. According to Farley Erickson, a professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, “Social stigma around infidelity has been around for centuries, with historical records showing that it was even punishable by death in some cultures.” This societal negativity towards cheaters may lead guilty partners to feel remorseful or wish to make up for their actions, but also leads to lack of trust within relationships in general, whether justified or not.
Besides being an emotionally traumatic experience for all parties involved, physical cheating carries inherent health risks. Engaging in sexual activity outside one’s relationship puts individuals at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These diseases range from relatively mild symptoms like genital warts and chlamydia to unbearable conditions such as HIV/AIDS.
Another problem that arises due to physical cheating is unwanted pregnancy. Contraceptives are not 100% effective at preventing conception or transmitting STIs, so unprotected sex can seriously disrupt lives and put future reproductive plans in jeopardy.
In most cases, adultery isn’t considered against the law, however there are areas throughout the world where cheating could result in legal action. For instance, in eight states across America, including Idaho and Michigan, adultery remains illegal and technically punishable by imprisonment. Moreover, from time-to-time a scorned partner seeks revenge by suing for damages related to his/her ex-spouse’s affair.
“It’s such antiquated language that basically goes back centuries and is so deeply steeped in the notion of female sexuality as property.” – Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School
To make matters worse for those who cheat, there are also likely consequences to getting caught. Adulterous behavior can be regarded unfavorably during divorce settlements or child custody cases.
The Importance of Communication in Relationships
Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. It allows two people to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns to each other. While communication can be difficult at times, it is essential for building trust and resolving conflicts.
Trust is vital in any relationship since it establishes a bond between partners. Emotional cheating occurs when an individual looks to someone outside the relationship to fulfill emotional needs that they are not getting from their partner. This type of cheating can breakdown the trust between partners, leading to resentment and a lack of intimacy. To prevent emotional cheating from occurring in your relationship, you need to communicate honestly with your significant other about your feelings and emotional needs.
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” – Mother Teresa
If you feel like there is something missing from the relationship, have an open conversation with your partner rather than trying to find emotional fulfillment elsewhere. By being honest about your feelings, you build trust in the relationship. Remember, trust takes time to develop, but it can easily be broken if lines of communication shut down.
No matter how strong a relationship is, conflict will still occur. The key is learning how to handle these disagreements effectively by communicating openly and non-judgmentally. When negative emotions arise, it’s essential to remember that everyone handles situations differently. Try to approach the issue calmly and listen to one another instead of just reacting defensively.
“When we’re dealing with people’s relationships and hearts, it doesn’t hurt to be nice.” – John Grogan
Avoid blaming or criticizing your partner as it can quickly escalate into an argument that may damage the relationship. Instead, try to express your feelings constructively without attacking the other person. You’ll find that by adopting a more understanding and respectful approach, it’s easier to work through disagreements together.
Emotional cheating can be just as devastating as physical cheating in a relationship if not dealt with appropriately. It leads to a breakdown of trust which is essential for any partnership to flourish. The key to preventing emotional infidelity from occurring in your relationship is open communication, honesty, and transparency. By communicating clearly and honestly with your partner, you build up trust and create a safe space where both parties feel comfortable sharing their emotions and concerns. Remember, conflict is natural, but how you deal with it determines whether it strengthens or weakens your relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Emotional Cheating More Harmful Than Physical?
Both emotional and physical cheating can cause significant damage to a relationship. However, emotional cheating can be more harmful as it involves a deep emotional connection with someone outside the relationship. This can lead to a loss of trust and intimacy between partners, which can be difficult to repair.
Can Emotional Infidelity Lead to More Damage in a Relationship Than Physical Cheating?
Emotional infidelity can cause more damage in a relationship than physical cheating as it involves a breach of emotional trust and can lead to feelings of betrayal and abandonment. Emotional infidelity is often more difficult to detect, and the damage it causes can be long-lasting, affecting the relationship even after the affair has ended.
Is It Easier to Forgive Physical Cheating Than Emotional Cheating?
Forgiving physical cheating may be easier than emotional cheating as physical infidelity is often viewed as a one-time mistake, whereas emotional cheating can be seen as a betrayal of the deeper emotional connection between partners. However, forgiveness is a personal choice and depends on the individuals involved and the circumstances of the affair.
Can Emotional Cheating Be Considered Cheating at All?
Yes, emotional cheating can be considered cheating as it involves forming a deep emotional connection with someone outside the relationship, which can lead to a breach of trust and intimacy between partners. Emotional cheating can be just as damaging as physical cheating and should not be dismissed or trivialized.
Do Relationships Survive Emotional Infidelity Better Than Physical Infidelity?
Every relationship is unique, and the ability to survive emotional or physical infidelity depends on the individuals involved and the circumstances of the affair. However, emotional infidelity can be more difficult to recover from as it involves a deeper emotional connection and can lead to a loss of trust and intimacy between partners, which can be challenging to repair.