Is emotional infidelity affecting your relationship? Sexual infidelity has always been considered the greatest breaking of trust in any relationship. But new research has highlighted that there are two types of infidelity; sexual and emotional. Sexual infidelity is where one partner is engaged in sexual intercourse with someone other than their partner. Emotional infidelity is where one partner is understood to be falling in love with another person other than their partner. Emotional infidelity can be described as; sexual fantasies, nonsexual fantasies about falling in love, sexual attraction, romantic attraction and flirting. Emotional infidelity can also be a behavioural dyad; such as studying, having lunch, going to the movies, intimate dinner with someone other than one’s partner.
Research has shown that men are more likely to be upset due to sexual infidelity and women by emotional infidelity. These concerns may have some basis in ancestral man and woman. Ancestral man may have been concerned with ‘cuckoldry’ – being uncertain of the paternity of a woman’s child. Consequently, men are more likely to respond with intense jealousy to sexual infidelity. Ancestral woman on the other hand, faces an uncertain future if the partner was emotionally unfaithful as this may have placed his resources towards another woman’s children.
Men also believe that if a woman is having a sexual affair with another man then she is probably also in love with him. While women believe that a man can have a sexual affair with another woman but not be in love with them. Hence a man may experience sexual infidelity as a greater betrayal as there is already a presumption of emotional infidelity.
The main concern behind all infidelity is secrecy. Meeting up with someone without your partner’s knowledge or arranging clandestine dinners, drinks etc, gives the relationship a special power. Even if there is no sexual intent, keeping it a secret from your partner allows for a special type of relationship.
Peggy Vaughan has written several books on the effect of emotional and sexual infidelity in marriage. She suggests that it’s best to be completely honesty with your partner. She suggests that it’s only by popping the fantasy balloon can infidelity can be trumped. By telling your partner how you find the next door neighbour attractive or how an office worker flirts with you, can stop the fantasy developing into a fully fledged emotional or sexual affair.
It’s impossible for us to go through our lives being unattractive to other people. If you don’t talk about temptations you are starting to keep secrets which are the fuel for all affairs. Confide in each other about how you feel, and being honest helps keep you both connected. Before the problems become too serious its may be time to see a marriage counsellor.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand