Monday, October 19, 2009
Sexual vs. Emotional Infidelity
Though everyone may have a slightly different definition of what qualifies as infidelity, most people seem to believe that it involves sexual or physical betrayal. This type of betrayal is incredibly painful for the partner who has been cheated on, and countless self-help books discuss ways to cope with this kind of event when it happens.
It is my belief that much less is documented and discussed when it comes to emotional infidelity. I’m not talking about finding out that your partner follows pornographic websites or is connecting with others somewhere in sexual cyberspace. Even though those partners may not be actually having sex and may not ever meet, the nature of the infidelity is still sexual.
Emotional infidelity refers to behavior that one partner engages in that fosters emotional intimacy in the here-and-now and sometimes promotes the possibility of sexual intimacy in the future. Many people maintain secret or semi-secret friendships when there is a clear mutual interest or attraction, while others may not be interested but encourage others’ interest in them.
The sad reality is emotional infidelity is often totally hidden to the extent that you may not know if and when your partner is emotionally cheating. Because the connection is not sexually based, there are fewer opportunities to detect the infidelity. For example, when there’s no need for a hotel room, it’s difficult for anyone to find proof of the betrayal upon review of your credit card bill.
Many articles and books will give you the top tips to tell you if your partners cheating, but what are the tips to tell you if your partner is emotionally cheating? The truth is that it is very difficult to tell – in some cases, next to impossible. The best indicator is to consider the character of your partner and to ask yourself how much you truly trust his or her integrity. How loyal is your partner to his or her friends? To his or her job? To his or her family? Is there a history of unfaithfulness in any form in the past?
Ultimately, we all have strong instincts that guide us. Your instincts will have a hard time telling you someone is emotionally cheating on you, but they will easily tell you whether your partner is inherently trustworthy or prone to infidelity. It never hurts to discuss this issue with your partner so that you can be sure you have the same definition of infidelity. It is my belief that your definition of cheating should include both emotional and sexual components.
Finally, one point I would like to emphasize is that couples often wait until they’re in a trouble spot to discuss uncomfortable issues. In my clinical work I always tell my clients that the best time to discuss problems is completely counterintuitive – do it when things are going well!