What Is Worse: Emotional Cheating or Sexual Infidelity?

emotional cheating sexual infidelity

Today we’re considering whether it’s possible to be unfaithful in a relationship – without having sex with someone else (sexual infidelity).

It’s called “emotional cheating”.

Rather than disappearing off to an unused photocopy room to have a quickie at work, it’s a much more subtle kind of affair. The infidelity is mental rather than physical.

It might sound complex, but the idea itself is fairly easy to understand. Most couples are each other’s primary emotional connection. We may have strong relationships with friends and family, but a romantic relationship has a very different quality.

So what happens when somebody is getting that kind of connection from somewhere else?

When somebody physically has an affair, the damage it causes to the trust and bond is immediately apparent. In most relationships, the understanding is that neither party will venture off to sow their wild oats elsewhere. When this is broken, the frequent result is a break-up.

But many times couples are able to fight through these kinds of difficulties. The underlying cause for wanting to physically cheat on another can often be easy to solve. After all, if you tend to have one night stands when you’re under the influence of alcohol, it’s fairly simple to limit your drinking. This isn’t to say that there’s always a clean and tidy excuse for sexual infidelity & cheating, but when compared to emotional cheating it’s a lot less complex.

In a situation where one person in a relationship becomes emotionally unfaithful, it tends to involve a sort of pseudo-relationship with another person. Imagine everything you ever did with a new partner, all the excitement of dressing up your best, laughing away long into the night, sharing intimate stories of your pasts. The only thing that isn’t there is the sex.

It might sound a lot like a really great friendship, but it’s not. Every feeling that comes with the territory of love and romance is there – it just isn’t being acted on in the same way. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable behaving in the same way with somebody other than your partner, then that’s a pretty sure sign that it’s emotional cheating. A partner who is experiencing emotional cheating will also be aware of this on some level, and you’ll see a lot of effort being made to hide the most intimate levels of their emotional cheating – even if they’ve never heard of it.

But so what?

Unfortunately for whoever is being left out, they quickly begin to notice an uncomfortable gap in their relationship. As they are no longer the source of emotional fulfillment for their partner, their own emotional needs go ignored in turn. Soon, a gaping void opens up between the couple. They become ever more distant from each other.

And then one day, it becomes apparent that the relationship no longer exists. Even the person doing the emotional cheating won’t notice until the rift is already there – and by then it’s probably too late to do anything about it.

The real danger of emotional infidelity is how insidiously it destroys a relationship. There’s no big moment that can ultimately be used to strengthen the relationship. After all, it’s hard to accuse somebody of cheating when they haven’t actually had sex with someone else. Even if you were to say (as silly as it may sound) “I think you’re cheating on me emotionally”, the accused party may not even understand. “We’re just good friends, why is that a problem?”

You immediately look like you’re jealously possessive. You’re quite likely to end up escalating the problem if you don’t have enough tact or subtlety to handle the conversation.

So what can you do if you suspect your partner of emotional infidelity?

The reality is that there’s no one size fits all approach. No matter whether the cheating is sexual or emotional, the unique circumstances that caused the lack of faithfulness to arise will require a unique solution if you want to save your relationship. Just be aware that a person can check out of a relationship long before they have a sexual affair.

You might be wondering; how can you tell if your partner is emotionally cheating on you?

Thankfully, regardless of whether your partner is cheating on you sexually or emotionally, they exhibit many of the same red flags.

If your partner becomes more inclined to sneak around and hide what they’re getting up to, this is a big sign that something is wrong. The actual reason can be a number of things. We’ve all seen sitcom episodes where someone is suspected of cheating, but it turns out they’re planning a surprise party. However, secretiveness is rarely innocent, and it betrays the trust that you should have as a couple.

Your partner may also become glued to their phone or computer for longer periods of time. This is due to the increased communication with their partner outside of your relationship. They may also prevent access to previously open accounts such as email in order to hide the depth of their intimacy.

They will also enjoy talking about the other person. It seems counterintuitive considering the aforementioned secretiveness, but it’s hard not to gush about somebody you love and admire whenever the opportunity comes up. Watch out for repeated and glowing references to a particular individual that aren’t really justified.

We’ve already covered a few other signs throughout, such as growing disinterest in your own relationship, so we won’t repeat the points.

But even if you do find your partner is emotionally cheating, it’s not an automatic death sentence for your relationship. Given time, patience and the right attitude, it’s very possible you could go on to a new level – whether together or alone – so don’t despair!







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