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What Is Emotional Infidelity?
Emotional Connection Between Couples
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection." Author Brené Brown
What is Emotional Infidelity?
Emotional infidelity, a.k.a., emotional affair, is when one person in a relationship develops an intense emotional attachment with someone outside of their romantic partnership.
Although similar to it's counterpart, sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity often goes ignored or unnoticed, but is more damaging than people think.
When people are involved in an emotional affair, they crave the emotional connection with the third-party they bring into the relationship.
As a result of this connection, their partner feels a loss of emotional availability from them to a certain degree.
An emotional affair also leads to divorce, and break-ups. But even if it doesn't, emotional infidelity causes severe heart ache.
What Does an Emotional Affair do to Your Significant Other?
Although it's not a physical relationship, emotional infidelity leaves the other partner feeling more hurt and alone, because they:
- Feel betrayed the same way as, or sometimes worse than if their significant other had an affair of a sexual nature.
- The guilty party doesn't have the excuse "It was just sex," because it goes so much deeper than that.
- The loss of emotional support, takes a chunk away from the foundation of the committed relationship.
The Effects of Emotional Infidelity Versus Sexual Infidelity - The Movie "Last Night"
The movie "Last Night," starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington, is a perfect example of emotional infidelity and sexual infidelity.
The Scenario: A husband and wife are separated for a night, and they both spend it with someone else.
Background Leading up to the Night: The husband has to go on an over-night trip for work, with a new female co-worker. The co-worker openly hits on him and tells him the fact that he's married doesn't concern her. And while her husband is away, the wife runs into an ex-boyfriend.
While they were in their relationship, he wasn't emotionally available. After being separated from her, he's realized his error in judgment.
The husband ends up going out for drinks at the hotel with his co-worker, and his wife goes out for supper with her ex-boyfriend, and some other people.
The outcome: The husband ends up having a meaningless one-night stand with his co-worker. While the wife stays up all night talking to her ex-boyfriend. Although the scene takes place in a bed, there is no sexual contact. However, they totally connect on an emotional level, talk of the past and have a good cry.
Spoiler Alert? Although I have told you how the movie ends, you still have to watch it to get the total effect, especially the ending.
If there's a possibility you're having an emotional affair, or if you think your significant other is, watch this movie with him or her. If you or your partner don't understand the seriousness of emotional infidelity, this movie will educate you.
Signs of Emotional Infidelity
Often, parties to an emotional affair don't even realize what's happening. So If your significant other is having an emotional affair, or if you think you may be involved in one, these are signs to look for:
- Emotional affairs generally start out as friendships, and often begin at work.
- Eventually, the one in a relationship with someone else starts getting more and more emotionally attached to the third party.
- They're always looking at their phone or emails waiting for contact.
- Your mate will interrupt your private time with them, to speak to the other party.
- They become drawn to them, and conversations start to become intimate. Not usually sexual, but intimate and deep.
- Conversations are often about thoughts and feelings that they don't share with their romantic partner.
- The committed party starts discussing problems within their marriage or committed relationship with the third party.
- Conversations become secret, because they know deep down the relationship is becoming inappropriate. So they don't want to admit the number of conversations, or length of them.
- Obsessively thinking about them.
- Backing out of family events to spend time in person, on the phone, texting, or internet with them.
- An emotional triangle develops, and the one involved in the emotional affair attempts to keep the two parties apart. They don't want their partner talking with the third party.
Flirting and Emotional Infidelity
Flirting on its own isn't harmful, but when you attach it to sexual attraction, or emotional infidelity, it can be a cause for concern.
Emotional infidelity and a Sexual Affair are Both Toxic, but
What Would Hurt you More, if Your Significant Other had
How Men and Women React to Emotional Infidelity
According to the poll results above, twice as many people feel that emotional infidelity would hurt them more than a sexual affair. However, this data does not specify if the responses are from men or women, heterosexuals, gays, or lesbians.
A website called Sage Journals meta-analyzed 54 articles to see if men and women are deferentially distressed by emotional versus sexual infidelity titled Meta-Analyses of Sex Differences in Responses to Sexual Versus Emotional Infidelity - Men and Women Are More Similar than Different.
The following is a breakdown of the analysis. To read the complete article, there is a link in the resource and further reading section.
What does meta-analysis mean?
Meta-analysis is a term related to statistics and refers to contrasting and combing the results from different studies to try to identify patterns, sources of disagreement among the results, or interesting relationships that come to light from the results.
The studies and articles reviewed in the meta-analysis were derived and tested from an:
- Evolutionary psychology (EP) perspective
- Social-cognitive perspective
- Double-shot perspective
Evolutionary Psychology Perspective
Argues that men are more upset if their partner has a sexual affair than an emotional affair. Based on the idea that if a woman was involved in a sexual affair they are not guaranteed that the offspring they’re raising are their children genetically.
This perspective also argues that women are more likely to get upset over emotionally infidelity, than sexual.
Social-Cognitive is the storage, retrieval and processing of information in the brain relating to the same species.
In regard to emotional and sexual infidelity, this perspective argues that differences between the sexes doesn’t exist. Males and females tended to be more upset by emotional infidelity than sexual, when they were forced to choose which one was more distressing. But the sexes indicated that a sexual affair was more distressing than an emotional affair when they were asked to rate their distress levels separately.
Argues that when a man hears that his wife or girlfriend had a sexual affair, they automatically assume that she is in love with the other man. Going on the theory that women don’t have sex with a man unless they’re emotionally involved.
Contrarily, with this theory when a woman hears that her man is in love with another woman, she assumes that emotional infidelity is in place, so he must also be having sex with the other woman.
In both situations, it is assumed that if one type of infidelity exists, the other one does too. So there is a double betrayal, or “double-shot.”
Lesbian and Gay Study Samples
Were often consistent with the double-shot theory because they were inclined to respond based on stereotypes related to the sex of their partner, assimilating heterosexuals.
Emotional Infidelity and the Internet
Due to the nature of emotional infidelity, the internet is a breeding ground.
Does Emotional Infidelity Lead to a Sexual Affair?
In an article written by Dr. Gail Saltz on Today.com, she said:
"About half of such emotional involvements do eventually turn into full-blown affairs, sex and all."
How to Stop Yourself From Getting Emotionally Involved?
Howcast.com has a two-minute video called How to Prevent Emotional Infidelity. In the video they suggest the following to avoid an emotional affair, and signs that you or your partner are getting too involved:
Emotional Infidelity versus Platonic Friendship
Know the difference between the two. According to the video there are three elements that differentiates the two:
- Sexual tension
- Sharing information that you don't share with your significant other.
Suggestions to Avoid an Emotional Affair
- If it's a co-worker, limit conversations and don't hang out after work
- Don't communicate outside of work.
- If you already do, ask yourself what your spouse would do if they read your emails, or heard your conversations. If you know they wouldn't approve, you may already be too involved.
- Don't be friends with people you have a crush on.
Signs to Look for at Home:
- Your significant other spends too much time on the internet with a specific person, or they change screens when you come into the room.
- They've stopped emotionally confiding in you.
If you Suspect Your Significant Other is Getting to Close for Comfort
- Blatantly ask them.
- Remind them to keep a professional relationship, but don't be overly jealous.
- Try to reconnect.
Know the Reasons Why People Cheat
- Desire attention
- Sexual frustration
- Desire for romance
How to Recover From Emotional Infidelity
Dr. Shirley P Glass, an American psychologist and infidelity expert has the following advice on how to recover from emotional infidelity.
- Talk about the emotional affair after it's over
- The unfaithful party needs to be ready to tell all, and answer any questions their spouse or significant other has. So that the affair will become a part of the couple's shared history.
- 'Build a cocoon around yourselves as a couple'.
References and Further Reading
- You don’t have to have sex for it to be an affair - today > health - today > health > relat
"Emotional affairs," where there is a deep connection without physical affection, can be just as damaging as the real thing, says Dr. Gail Saltz.
- Emotional affair - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An "emotional affair" is an affair which excludes physical intimacy, and is usually based on emotional intimacy
- 12 Warning Signs That It’s Emotional Infidelity – And Not ‘Just Friendship’
There are at least 12 warning signs to alert you to take action to protect yourself and your relationship from ‘emotional infidelity.’
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