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Emotional Affairs and Cheating

Updated on December 31, 2009

If you're on the outside of a relationship looking in, you may think the terms emotional cheating and emotional affairs rather silly inventions. If you're the person being cheated on, however, you'll probably find the terms highly accurate and not a little upsetting. Some people say emotional cheating is worse than physical cheating, as it's an affair of the heart, but others see it as a harmless indulgence. I'm not going to state an opinion either way, but rather simply explain what emotional cheating is for those who aren't quite sure.

What is it?

An emotional affair occurs when a husband or wife develops an asexual, yet emotionally involved (and therefore highly intimate) relationship with someone other than their wife. The relationship progresses to the point it affects the marriage and causes upset and upheaval.

What sort of intimacies are involved?

Emotional cheating can be totally hands free, if you will, with a "couple" never so much as exchanging pecks on the cheek. Instead the relationship goes far deeper and the pair will exchange emotional intimacies on a level that far surpasses what is shared with the spouse. It could be very basic (a reassuring chat after a hard day's work) or very complex (being the go-to person following marital spats and the like) depending on the couple in involved. What is intimate for one person may not be for the next.

How damaging are emotional affairs?

They can be very damaging indeed, especially if the other spouse feels betrayed and cheated upon. It can even be viewed as worse than a one-night-stand, as emotional affairs involve a longer space of time and require the couple get to know each other, perhaps as well as the married couple do. This can lead to feeling as though there is a 3rd partner in the marriage.

How common is emotional cheating?

I've seen studies that suggest as high as 50 percent of couples will experience this, and that's not very surprising how high the divorce rates are today -- couples are falling out of love as quickly as they fell into it, and readily giving their hearts in a manner the law allows.

Does emotional cheating merit divorce?

The answer to this will vary greatly among those surveyed. For women, it tends to be a bigger offense and many will want a divorce if the feel their husband has fallen in love with someone else. For men it can be equally upsetting, but the non-sexual nature of emotional cheating often makes it easier to cope with. The thing to note in either case is that the affair was strictly emotional and could probably be forgiven in many cases -- the question is weather that emotional intimacy can be redirected to spouse who was cheated on. If so, divorce would seem rather unnecessary.

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