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You Didn’t Physically Cheat but Is Emotional Infidelity Just as Bad?

Dating & Relationships / Sex / October 1, 2016

Emotional infidelity is any situation that creates or causes some degree of emotional unavailability on the part of one partner that interferes with one particular aspect of the relationship, along with the quality of the relationship as a whole – Psychology Today

On the generic list of prerequisite questions often asked at the beginning stages of dating is, “What’s your zodiac sign? Do you have any siblings? Is that your real hair? What was your college major? Will bands make you dance? Have you ever cheated?”

Wait a damn minute here! This is getting a little too personal.

Next to being asked how many people you’ve had sex with (are people still asking???), “Have you ever cheated?” is one of the most uncomfortable questions that can lead to a field day of judgment and possibly the end of a budding relationship. Few other questions give reason for pause. And. A lie.

I can remember being asked this question more than once (after all I was a serial dater and hot commodity, at least in my mind) and each time my response was always the same, equipped with eyes as big as saucers and all the dramatics of a soap opera actress, “No! I am not a cheater.” But apparently I was a liar. (Whew. That was difficult to type. My right pinky had to have stretched towards the “DELETE” key at least twice before the “r” found its place on the screen.) To cushion the blow I’d like to add that I really had not considered myself a liar or a cheater. I’m sure my then boyfriend would not so politely disagree. The phone conversations with my longtime platonic friend who we will refer to only as Friend were justified by the fact that we’d never even shared a kiss.

His name would appear on my phone screen and despite our “innocent” friendship I’d smile with genuine excitement. Happy that someone who I made myself believe had no hidden agenda outside of getting to know me – the real me, all of me.

Our friendship, though mostly confined to lengthy telephone conversations, included the occasional lunch date and maybe drinks every now and again, but never a kiss or anything beyond a kiss. A drink yes. A kiss no. For some reason my typing keeps getting interrupted by the voice of Iyanla Vanzant yelling, “Let’s call a thing a thing!” Whatever Iyanla! I refuse to label whatever it was Friend and I had as a “relationship.” And yes, I know you’re probably thinking, Um, sounds like you and Friend were dating. I’m ignoring your thoughts too.

emotional infidelity


I was so deeply connected to Friend I felt that under different circumstances we could have been a legit couple. We had cemented a bond that outlived the deaths of several “external” relationships and fizzled out dates. We were definitely bonded.

Again, we never so much as shared a kiss. A kiss may have actually diminished whatever it was we had. Kisses and hugs were dime a dozen gestures that I could have easily gotten from my boyfriend. It was the “emotional sharing” of our thoughts, feelings, dreams, and laughter that were dangerously seductive, and I admit, somewhat addictive.

For every emotional experience I shared with Friend was one less experience shared with my boyfriend. Even in the same room with my boyfriend there was formidable emotional distance on my part. Ironically I began to feel my boyfriend didn’t care about me and I resented him for it. After all he wasn’t the one who asked me about my feelings, goals, and innermost thoughts. In hindsight I realize that my boyfriend did not know me in the same capacity that Friend had. How could he ask questions about the things he wasn’t privy to? That is an entirely different post. Point is I dedicated more time nurturing an unwavering “friendship” with Friend than I had with my boyfriend. Our relationship was doomed the moment I refused to acknowledge that my “friendship” with Friend was more than meets the title.

The signs of emotional infidelity may be subtler than a physical affair but no less damaging to a relationship or marriage.

As per Huffington Post, Signs You’re Headed for Emotional Infidelity if you:

1. You look forward to seeing him with more excitement than a typical friend, and spend more time with him than you should.

2. You find yourself dressing up and paying more attention to your appearance in a hope that he’ll notice you.

3. You confide in him about your relationship troubles at home.

3. You confide in him about your relationship troubles at home.

4. You flirt with him, touching him while talking or making playful comments.

5. You turn to him first, before your partner, when something is troubling you.

6. You fantasize about what it would be like to be together in a relationship or sexually.

7. You either talk way too much about him to your partner & friends, or you never mention him at all, keeping him a secret.

8. You wouldn’t feel completely comfortable telling your partner everything about your relationship with this person because you know some of it is inappropriate.

© BeQuoted

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Andrea is the author of a blog where she pens everything from the ups and downs of marriage and parenting to politics and lifestyle. She is a two-time college graduate in complete debt and complete depth, making it her business to provoke opinions and conversation, bringing humor, fun and informative content to a blog where only the topics worthy of being repeated are shared. To that tune don’t expect to see many posts about celebrities and what they wore, said, ate, and didn’t eat…you get the picture. be-quoted/

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on May 3, 2013

Wonderful article. I certainly think it is cause for concern, but would not put it on the sam level and a physicla affair. To me it is the next level, but it is still a different level. I would be much more hurt if my mate told me they had actually slept with someone versus what is on this list.

    on May 3, 2013

    I think that most men feel far more disrespected and disgusted by the thought of their partner getting physical with another men. Personally, emotional affairs are more dangerous in that it truly creates a bond and can have one fall in love – whatever that is…lol. Thank you Shawn for your perspective.

      on May 3, 2013


      Really wonderful article. From the replies you have really hit a hot button. I also clicked on your blog and really enjoyed the enteries.

      I would say that I think a physical affair is much more dangerous. With an emotional affair you do not have to worry about unwanted pregnancies or STDs. Neither is good, but if I had to choose would I rather my wife get close to a guy, but never get physcial or get physicla and never get close, I will choose the emotional. For me emotional is easier to forgive. Once you have crossed the physicla boundary it is pretty much wrap for me.

        on May 3, 2013

        Shawn you are certainly right about physical infidelity being dangerous – hell, deadly – to a person. In the context of this post I am referring to emotional infidelity being dangerous to the relationship, not to my health, though it can do that too. I’m not going for either. Any infidelity of any kind will get homeboy on the first thing smokin’. Call Tyrone…”but ya can’t use my phone!” Thank you so much for checking Be-Quoted out! Appreciate it!

on May 3, 2013

Wheeeww!!!!! YES! YES! YES! I believe that emotional cheating is so much more damaging…because the minute someone is able to catch your attention mentally & emotionally & can have you open without any physical connection yet….that’s dangerous! Trust me….I know…it’s hard to find someone who you can connect with on that mental & emotionally level…once you establish that bond….it’s over…because now that person has access to your heart…you trust that person…they excite you by simple conversation….it’s a beautiful thing….if you are not in a relationship with someone else…of married for that matter….because then…it’s detrimental and at times can be the very demise of your committed relationship! As I read this article I agree with everything you said….100%!

    on May 3, 2013

    “Dangerous” is DEFINITELY the right word to use. You can sleep in someones bed & be forgotten, but once you take residence in their heart & mind you’re a memory forever.

on May 3, 2013

After reading this article I think that an emotional affair can be quite dangerous and can ultimately lead to a physical relationship with that person. I would be much more affected by the thought of my woman being involved with someone physically as Shawn stated, but on the other hand I would not what her to confide, get excited, or fantasize about anyone besides me and thats my take on the topic, by the way great article.

    on May 3, 2013

    I can respect your perspective.

on May 3, 2013

This post speaks truth about the nature of infidelity and how it occurs.As is pointed out, emothional infidelity does not always involve actual sexual intercourse, but emotional infidelity is of a sexual nature that can and often does have the same effect. Infidelity does not just happen. It begins in the senses, Then it involves targeted action. I believe it is always a danger when you see someone, or allow someone to enter your relationship “through the back door” of “wow, he’s fine” – in the mind or spoken OR he/she says “your husband/wife is a lucky guy” (this is usually a test that many partners fail because it is said to see if/how you respond (verbally or nonverbally) and to gauge whether or not it is a door opener. Once attention has been established, the elaborate dance (him/her focus) begins. They become the favored one, the one who understands, etc. There is a lot to be said about this issue….bottom line is open,honest communication with your partner, and if you don’t want to go there, don’t begin the journey there. I Thessalonians 5:22 tells us how to keep it clean and Stevie Wonder says, “If it’s special, why aren’t we as careful…..”. Andrea, keep evoking thought. Something amazing might happen. People might actually grow.

    on May 3, 2013

    This response is the TRUTH! I love that you mentioned “tests” & entering the “backdoor.”

      on May 3, 2013

      Truth always involve keeping it real. I’ve seen people devastated by living in self-delusion, pretending that what will surely cause harm is “harmless”.

on May 3, 2013

I agree with you 100%. Up until the close monitoring part…LOL

on May 4, 2013

I agree with many of the comments posted thus far. I definitely believe that an emotional connection holds more weight than a physical one and if you are sharing your mind/heart with someone other than your significant other, then it’s time to assess the situation.

on May 9, 2013

I think if you are married, you should stop right now. When you marry some, the one you married should be your best friend… work out to make the relationship exciting. Constantly analyze the relationship and improve it slowly.

on May 10, 2013

I think this article does a great job at describing what an emotional affair looks and feels like. I think it’s so easy for us to take refuge in the fact that nothing physical may be happening but beneath all that talking something more serious is brewing. It really pen points just how dangerous an emotional affair can be & how important it is to be honest with ourselves and “call a thing a thing” when appropriate.

    on May 17, 2013

    Zenica you are so right. Emotional affairs are the worst. At least with physical ones you can cut ties and try to mend your relationship. With emotional affairs, how do you cut off love?

on June 2, 2013

As a married man that just found out that his wife has been engaging in emotional affairs with men for years I find this article to be written and informed. I had no idea things like this existed. My wife left and is currently planning on taking one of those to the next level. These are so dangerous and can leave the other person in the relationship in a world of hurt. I let her have her friends because i didnt want to be the jealous type and I got burned. Current total of targets, that I know of, is up to 6. I got burned good. I also got blamed for it all and I got turned into a monster for her to justify it all. FML

    on June 2, 2013

    I meant to say “well” written and informed.

on July 25, 2013

The emotional infidelity is by far worse than the physical. There are excuses that can be made for someone “accidentally committing the physical act of cheating”. Emotional cheating will always lead to the end of the relationship. Simply because their is no excuse for it. It requires a thought process and for that it is unforgivable.

on October 17, 2014

Emotional cheating imo, is worse than physical, and this comes from personal experience.

    on October 17, 2014

    Bren, I agree and definitely very hurtful to know that your mate had emotionally checked out

on October 5, 2016

Emotional cheating is far more dangerous than the flesh. Though they both suck, I think real feelings are harder to get over.

on October 5, 2016

Since I love Iyanla, I will call a thing a thing. Cheating is Cheating! Giving yourself, in anyway, to another person is a violation to your committed relationship.

on October 6, 2016

Nobody wants to be cheated on, but emotional cheating is far worse because folks aint giving up their emotions easily these days, so for someone to be able to have that part of you? Hurtful shit. All cheating sucks, but people give sex away with no commitment daily. They don’t give their heart away as easily. Hurts more.

on October 6, 2016

That is very interesting and a good scenario. I like the list of signs because that clearly shows emotional cheating with the warning signs even if there isn’t physical cheating.

on October 6, 2016

You really hit the nail on the head! It’s important to keep a loving, open and honest relationship between you and your spouse so that this type of thing doesn’t began. Once it begins it is difficult to end.

on October 6, 2016

Learned something new reading this article. I never knew what emotional infidelity was/is but I can see how it can ruin a relationship or marriage. Great article!

on October 6, 2016

I agree that emotional infidelity is destructive, and for me, aside from having a child outside of a marriage, is probably the worst type of infidelity.

on October 6, 2016

Emotional cheating is just as hurtful as physical cheating. It is very dangerous for a relationship. I think that if emotional cheating is not addressed, it could lead to physical cheating. I also think you can work things out, but it takes time to rebuild trust again.

on October 6, 2016

This is a great article. I think emotional infidelity is actually worst than physical cheating – especially if don’t by a woman!


on October 7, 2016

This is the exact reasons why I don’t entertain relationships of any kind with the opposite sex. I prefer my husband be my everything and if I feel like I’m not emotionally connected to my hubby, well then we have a huge problem. Great post!

on October 7, 2016

Emotional cheating seems so easy to slip into. Just because it can start of so innocent and before you know it walls have fallen down because that comfort of a “platonic” relationship is there.

on October 9, 2016

Emotional infidelity can be very damaging to a monogamous relationship. I personally believe emotional and physical are just as bad because both take time and effort to develop that should have been spent on the monogamous relationship or marriage. I would be more devastated over a physical relationship because it’s harder to commit to it. Interesting phone convos are easy, like feeling great over a compliment from a stranger. A convo can be had on lunch break or when the spouse is away for a hobby. But with physical, a person actually commits to intentionally touching and having intecourse with another individual. They have to plan time away and lie to cover heir tracks. They risk contracting and passing on a sexually transmitted disease. That takes some real balls AND emotions could be involved as well.

on November 2, 2016

I had an emotional affair for about a year until my husband accidentally read my messages. It was devastating but it opened doors for communication. This caused us to reexamine our marriage and work on it. We stayed married and now have a more loving relationship.

on November 1, 2017

I am going through this right now, my husband of 20 years decided to betray me with the neighbor girl. She is 30 years younger than him and his reasoning is it was a huge ego boost that she was interested. I am trying to make him understand that the pain he caused me is very real. I find myself wondering if I hadn’t stared hiding tape recorders in our house while I was at work if I ever would have found out and just how far it would have gone.

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