When your partner is physically involved with another person while you’re dating, that’s cheating. We can all agree on that, and we can agree that finding out about cheating hurts terribly. Yet, when it comes to emotional affairs, are the consequences the same? Is having an emotional affair as bad as having a real affair?
Turns out that when emotions are involved, things can get truly complex.
What Is An Emotional Affair?
Sometimes you will hear an emotional affair referred to as emotional cheating. This is a kind of infidelity that involves a partner sharing an intimate connection with someone else outside of the relationship. Often, this emotional connection goes beyond what is considered a platonic relationship, as both parties harbor sexual chemistry for one another. There may also be other behaviors that would be considered a breach of trust within the marriage or relationship.
However, this kind of definition doesn’t show just how damaging and devastating an emotional affair can be.
Emotional Affairs vs. Physical Affairs
The dividing line between emotional and physical affairs is the physical part. Typical cheating involves two people meeting and having sex. An emotional affair, though, involves everything but the sex. This means that an emotional affair can be established over DMs, through text, or while chatting with a coworker on lunch break.
While there is no physical intimacy, there is an emotional connection. One that is strong and overpowering, at times. People tend to think that, because there is no physical intimacy, it’s not infidelity. In reality, any kind of behavior that causes distrust between you and your partner is a betrayal.
But should an emotional affair be considered equivalent or even worse than a real affair? Yes.
Is Having An Emotional Affair As Bad As Having A Real Affair?
The unfaithful partner is devoting their time and energy to someone else, thereby neglecting their marriage or relationship. People may crave physical touch, but it’s the emotional connection that truly kindles passion and love. While physical attraction fizzles out quickly, emotions run deep.
The signs of an emotional affair alone can prove how much of an impact this kind of betrayal has on a relationship. What starts as a friendship quickly snowballs into late-night conversations that leave the other spouse alone in bed. Details are overshared with the other person, while you barely speak to your partner. The problems in the marriage or relationship are exacerbated by the distractions and withdrawal caused by the emotional affair.
Why Emotional Cheating Hurts So Much
Having established that yes, emotional cheating hurts a lot, it’s time to discuss the reasons for that pain. Although knowing the truth doesn’t make anything sting less, it can help you talk about the hurt with a marriage counselor or therapist. Especially if you’re feeling like you’re dealing with PTSD.
Here is why emotional cheating can be just as bad as a real affair:
1. The Feelings Were Deep
This is the worst part—the fact that your partner fell in love with someone else. Furthermore, an emotional affair is implying that it wasn’t a physical attraction but one based on personality. In your head, you might think this kind of cheating proves that your spouse doesn’t like you as much as you thought. Keep in mind that even emotional affairs begin because someone seeks validation.
And if you both vow to work through the affair with an infidelity therapist, you can both take steps to find passion in old hobbies and new ones together. It will take time, but an emotional affair, like a physical one, isn’t the proverbial nail in the coffin.
2. You Feel Like An Outsider In Your Own Relationship
When someone has a physical affair, it’s easy to denounce what they did. But with an emotional affair, you simply feel like the third wheel to a friendship and don’t really understand why. Deep down, you know there is something wrong. Your partner stops looking at you the way they once did and reserves their most loving expressions for another.
It’s heart-wrenching to see them fall in love with someone else right before your very eyes. It hurts so much, you might try to deny it for a while.
3. You Feel Like You’ve Been Gaslit
Physical cheating is cut-and-dry. Either you cheated on your partner or you didn’t. Emotional affairs, though, don’t make it easy. The lines between fidelity and infidelity start to fade when the emotionally charged relationship can be seen as a friendship from the outside. You probably felt like you were going crazy for your suspicions that there was something more between your partner and their not-so-platonic best friend.
4. Emotional Affairs Are Difficult To Spot
Even though there are signs, emotional affairs don’t always involve the same behaviors and actions of a physical affair. For one, there’s no sex. In a physical affair, the sexual element is very pronounced. Emotional affairs, though, look as innocent as two friends meeting up during their lunch break for a stroll in the park. You won’t know your spouse has developed feelings for that person until, well, they begin to drift away.
5. It Takes A Long While To Heal
Sure, even if your partner never slept with the other person, they also were involved with someone else on a very personal level. It’s difficult for people to develop that kind of emotional connection in a short amount of time; so it makes sense that you would be deeply hurt. That you aren’t willing to trust them whenever they leave for work or say they have a meeting.
If you two decide to stay together, it is important that you take time to communicate and regain trust in one another. Be sure to visit an infidelity recovery specialist to start the long road towards something better.
Is having an emotional affair as bad as a real affair? It is. Some may argue that emotional affairs are much worse, because genuine love and affection were involved, not just lust. Because of this, emotional affairs can be incredibly damaging to relationships. If you have recently discovered your spouse cheating on you emotionally, confronting them about it will be difficult, but it has to be done.
Once you are on the road towards recovery, the next step is finding help. Couples Academy was designed by marriage counselors and an infidelity recovery specialist. Together, you can learn how to move beyond the hurt and towards a more loving future. Contact Couples Academy today to learn more about the program.