Emotional Infidelity: Is Emotional or Physical Cheating Worse?

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A study was conducted at Kansas Sate University surveying some 500 men and women asking the question: which would worse: imagining your partner involved in passionate sexual cheating or your partner engaged in emotional cheating with someone else?

And, following the lines of gender stereotypes, the study concluded that men would be more disturbed by the physical cheating and the women by the emotional cheating.

Now, here’s an important question I raise: Did any of those surveyed have an experience with a cheating spouse?

From my experience it makes a huge difference.

I would guess that most of those interviewed, and maybe most were college students, did not have extensive experience with a cheating partner. And, so they would follow along with the gender stereotypes that become apart of us from an early age.

In 3 decades of clinical work with hundreds of couples and thousands of individuals suffering marital crisis, cheating being a major portion of those, gender differences seem to fly out the window.

Once infidelity or cheating strikes (in a long term relationship of deep emotional investment) you see and experience the world differently.

Men are just as concerned about the emotional loss of their spouse as they are the physical interaction. Men often discover a layer of feelings and emotionality they did not know exists, or at least did not realize the intensity of those feelings.

Emotionally pulling away leaves a void and vacuum that strikes one deeply.

On the other hand, many women with a cheating spouse report the difficulty of shaking images of their husband in bed with another woman. It raises profound questions about their sexuality and their sexual desirability that continue to be a source of struggle as those images intrude and demand attention.

Another important factor is the type of affair. I’ve outlined 7 different types of affairs, and each arise from different motives, personal needs and struggles. For some the emotional connection is most important. In others, the physical act is desired.

The partner of a cheating spouse, usually knows the partner very well; is aware of the underlying pain, emptiness and the patterns that bring trouble. The emotional or physical component takes on different significance in different types of affairs.

One understands and appreciates best the pain of cheating, it being physical or emotional, once it becomes a reality in a marriage or important relationship.

What do you think? Would (is) physical or emotional cheating be worse for you? Why? If real bold, share your experience in the comment section below.

7 thoughts on “Emotional Infidelity: Is Emotional or Physical Cheating Worse?”

  1. I knew about the emotional aspect at first, and he said he knew I wouldn’t go back to him if I knew of the sexual as well. A month after trying to reconcile I finally found out and I should say the sexual part destroyed me much much more than the emotional aspect. Until now whenever we’re in bed all I can think of is how they did it, what they said to each other, how they kissed, how they felt. It’s the most intimate part of our relationship and now it’s been shared, it feels nothing is special anymore and no connection is just me and him anymore.

  2. I found out my husband had affair for 4 years. He says she was just “good friend who talked to him because I wasnt there”. I was suffering from depression and tried but he said he was almost gone because I was moving too slowly. We had talked about separating until I was told by sister of his mistress. He told me he had not planned on stopping to her in case we didnt work out. He said he kissed her once and felt nothing and nothing else happen

  3. Emotional because he let her into our marriage. His thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings , and his heart. Additionally, he said untruths about me to her and even her friends. He told her I was a bad mom, lazy person, and a distant wife. Not true! I am a working mom, teacher, SCOUT leader, Sunday school teacher, do volunteer work with senior citizens, cook dinner every night, and keep a clean house, raise our kids, and supervise and assist our kids with their homework. I loved him, tried to make a comfortable home for us, and was VERY interested, available and even initiated sex. He decided sex was too much repetition, kissing was only for dating and newleyweds. No need for that anymore. Then he decides to have a FIVE year affair???? He is off work on Fridays and often has to work late. I trusted him. 🙁 Then I find out he gets to have sex and I don’t? Once I found out about his affair, I discovered he had been addicted to porn for years, went to strip clubs when I was out of town, had porn website subscriptions, had a secret cell phone, and even told his family not to tell me about his phone. Heartbreaking. He said he broke up with his affair partner, but his phone records and receipts show that he contacted her for at least a month after breaking it off. I think once caught, cheaters go underground even better than before. We went to a weekend marriage counseling session, the eight follow up meetings and that was it for him. HE was done with doing the work prescribed. (I had been hopeful and excited to make a better marriage ) We are back to normal. (according to him) He has the same life as before, no requirements, no intimacy, no affection, just his TV shows and hobbies. He is pleasant enough, but that’s it. I tried and tried. After almost 2 years, I don’t know or care what he’s doing anymore.(self-preservation) He is not interested in knowing himself and is afraid of what he may find out. He is emotionally detached and I can’t keep banging my head against the wall. I’m staying in this marriage until our last child graduates. Saving money , working on myself, taking tennis and golf lessons. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a future husband on the links or court. Don’t worry, I know that I will never cheat on my husband because that will mean I am only cheating myself. To thine own self be true.

    1. Brian Persinger

      Think about what you said for a little while, your a Sunday school teacher who is only hanging around until your last child graduates, that makes you a user also, and pretty much dishonest. Get out, set yourself free, or can’t you make it without your husband’s money. My sister in law is the same, she told her mom one day she would leave her husband but she knew as soon as she did he would start making a lot of money again, what a prize she is.

  4. Brian Persinger

    I could deal with a one night stand way easier then her telling another man that she loves him. She’s done both in our 26 year marriage. The I love you just about killed me.

  5. Both are devastating, but as a “survivor” of emotional infidelity, an important aspect of this type of betrayal is that it tends to last longer and possibly with more individuals because emotional infidelity is so easily accessible.Aa one therapist rightly describes, it’s like “death by a thousand cuts”.

  6. Iforgivebutimtiredoftheanxiety

    Lol I think the verbal junk is way easier to deal with than physical and sexual. Once it goes that far it’s like you’ve been raped and any sense of sexual security is out the door, like way out. Being intimate is not at all the same. Literally this infidelity feels way harder to deal with than sexual abuse and I’m saying from experience. It wasn’t that way at first but it is now and I think maybe just the initial shock made me go survival mode and I was a bit numb to it. It seems that with all the lies and sneaking around, all the verbal stuff you pretty much know was a lie and a fantasy so in my opinion it’s not even near as bad as taking it further than that. Yeah that hurts too but then you find out it went on from verbal to physical and sexual garbage. My h called one of his affairs by my nickname in their texts. I hate it when he calls me that now but I’ll probably never tell him that but it’s not as painful as thinking of him with another women which I try not to do but it feels like it’s in my face whenever I see him. He’s actually trying really hard to make up for it and I really believe he is sorry. I don’t ever bring it up and randomly the other day he apologized again and I said I know and he said I don’t think you do, I said I’m sorry if it shows how much it hurts and he said you have nothing to be sorry for. Then he said if there’s anything he can do to help with my anxiety tell him. I said thank you, but I’m sure I looked surprised because I’ve been trying to hide it, only because I just don’t want to bring it up and he’s actually trying to be a good h and father so I just don’t want to ruffle things again.

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