Which Is Worse: An Emotional Affair or Physical Affair?

emotional affairWe know that Americans think cheating is the worst of a long list of moral transgressions, but there’s more than one way to cheat on a partner. Yes, physical affairs are devastating, but are they worse than emotional affairs? Two love experts at YourTango argue that emotional affairs are actually far more difficult for couples to recover from.

“Emotional infidelity is defined when one partner goes outside the primary relationship to get his or her emotional needs met — and it is more common and more damaging than you might imagine,” says dating coach Lisa Shield. She goes on to say, “Anytime you break an agreement with your partner, you undermine the trust and safety in your relationship.” But, she says, “As damaging as sexual infidelity can be, emotional fidelity is the hardest thing to build — and it takes the biggest toll on a relationship when it is betrayed.”

Therapist Gina Binder agrees with Shield, and illustrates her point with the following anecdote:

Mindi felt like she and Chris were oceans apart. She wanted to make her 15-year marriage work, but a big piece of Chris was committed to someone else. For several years he’d been cultivating a relationship with someone at work. They shared meals together, talked about his hopes and dreams, and took day trips together — all without sex. While Chris was living large with his coworker, Mindi was alone with the kids, feeling like a single mom whose emotional account was overdrawn. When both were home, they gravitated to different parts of the house. Mindi had little motivation to reach out to Chris while he was invested in his coworker, and Chris could not effectively reach out Mindi until he let go of his extra-marital emotional attachment.

Have you experienced the fallout of a physical affair, an emotional affair, or both (even if in different relationships)? Do you feel that one form of cheating is morally worse than the other, or that one is more difficult to recover from?

For more on this topic, visit YourTango.

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