Is Emotional Cheating Real?

An affair is not defined by whether or not the infidelity is physical.

Many people believe that as long as sex isn’t involved, then it cannot be considered cheating. An affair is defined as a romantic or passionate attachment typically of limited duration. The word sex is not in the definition because it is not the only element of cheating.

The Huffington Post conducted a study and surveyed 1,000 people. 66% of the study considered emotional affairs cheating, while only 18% said that it wasn’t cheating. 43% of the 66% have never experienced cheating, yet they still believed emotional cheating existed.

When an individual emotionally cheats on their partner, they are trying to seek out an emotional satisfaction that is empty. Cheaters are allowing their emotional energy to go into another person versus their spouse. The denial helps to maintain their conscious from feeling guilt. Instead of considering the “encounter” a relationship, they classify it is a friendship. However, the underlying question should be, would they treat their best friend like this?

Emotional cheating provides the cheaters with an emotional high, which may result in a physical relationship. Peggy Vaugh, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs said, “The big red flag is the secrecy. Emotional cheating is about breaking trust with your spouse, not having sex with someone else.”


Unfortunately, emotional cheating is used to nurture other relationships to fill gaps or needs that remain unfulfilled with partners; ultimately cheaters are trying to find substitutes for contribution to their lives that they wish could be met but at the moment are not. Many studies have suggested that victims of cheating believe that emotional cheating is worse than physical affairs. “If you’ve made a strong emotional connection with someone else, with or without sex, it can be painful for your spouse,” said Vaugh. Emotional affairs involve feelings and a person’s heart, where in many cases a physical affair is purely sex. Victims of emotional cheating feel like their partner invested their heart and soul, which is of greater value.

There is no such thing as accidentally carrying on an affair. According to several family researchers there are four stages of affairs:

1. You develop a close emotional bond. This is considered the talking stage.

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