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Emotional Infidelity - Is It Cheating?

By Edward Talurdey

The traditional definition of cheating, or infidelity, is that one person in a committed relationship is physically involved with someone other than their spouse. Due to a number of factors, cheating behavior has been reclassified to include the traditional definition and a more contemporary definition, known as emotional infidelity.

The Definition of Emotional Infidelity

Emotional infidelity is defined as any infidelity that occurs through feeling or thought. During the late 1970s, in an interview with Playboy magazine, former President Jimmy Carter stated that occasionally he "lusted in (his) heart" for women other than his wife. His thoughts were equated with infidelity, and he was considered to be unfaithful to his marriage, even though his statement described emotional infidelity, not physical infidelity.

Since that time, and with the technological development of cell phones and the internet, the definition of cheating has been expanded to include the traditional definition, plus the feelings and/or thoughts that comprise emotional infidelity. Cheating now includes having intimate correspondence with someone while on a cell phone, meeting someone over the Internet and maintaining a relationship, or viewing pornographic material through any available source.

The Difference Between Traditional Cheating and Emotional Infidelity

The primary difference between traditional cheating and emotional infidelity is actual, physical contact. Traditionally, cheating involves people meeting face to face, and then engaging in physical intimacy. With emotional infidelity, there may be a meeting, but it can occur on a cell phone or a computer. There may be physical activity involved, but it is conducted within the confines of separate locations; the people involved aren't "actually" touching. Many of the people who are emotionally cheating don't consider it to be infidelity. Their rationale is that, because there is no actual physical contact, the behavior can't be considered cheating.

For some people, there is no difference between traditional and emotional infidelity. They view emotional infidelity as having the same behavioral components and end result as traditional cheating; therefore, any perceived differences are a moot point. When someone cheats, they use flirtation, discussion, seduction, and discretion – regardless of where either person is located or what vehicle of communication they are using. The end result is that the unfaithful spouse is paying emotional and/or physical attention to someone other than their partner, and they are removing themselves from the marriage commitment.

Emotional Intimacy Can Lead To Physical Intimacy

Emotional infidelity begins with the exchange of personal information. As the people involved get acquainted, the information exchanged becomes more personal. When the information becomes personal, it can lead to a face-to-face meeting and, most likely, physical intimacy. It can be argued that emotional infidelity is harmless because it is more of a casual relationship than traditional cheating; however, the intimate nature of the communication, plus the emotional investment made by the people involved, places emotional infidelity on the same level as traditional cheating.

Considering the wide-reaching capabilities of the internet, the continuing advancement of cell phone technology, and the various other communication devices available, the number of people engaged in emotional infidelity will only increase. People cannot be stopped from engaging in an illicit affair, but they should consider the effect that cheating will have on the spouse. They should also consider the possible consequences of emotional infidelity, which can be the same as those of traditional infidelity, including divorce.

If you suspect emotional infidelity in your relationship, you can discover how over 25,768 people just like you have put their mind at rest by visiting Catchacheat 

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mara wrote Jul 11, 2008
    • I agree Wendy.  This article does bring up a lot of great issues.  Can I be having an emotional infidelity with the opposite sex and not know it?  That can be kind of scary when you are not trying to do this and it happens.  This gives me a lot to think about.  Thanks for the article.

      [Link Removed]

      Mara, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jldixon wrote Oct 8, 2008
    • I liked the article too.  I do think that you will definately know if you are cheating emotionally/emotional infidelity.

      I have been through this.  My husband was talking to a girl who was a friend of someone in the family.  It started out supposedly being conversations about his son, and the girl having a crush on his son.  Then the conversations obviously turned into more because they would talk on the phone between 15 min to an hour, several times a month.  This was all during his work hours.  Which are late afternoon until 3 a.m.  I was very much hurt, and pissed off at both of them! When I confronted him he explained that they were just friends and that their conversations were always about "the boys". My family was going through some drama at the time, that I would have thought he would have talked to me about, instead of another woman, after all it was "our" family having problems, and I was supposed to be his best friend, right? He assured me that there was no "affair" no meetings, no physical contact or attraction on his part. I don't believe that to be true. Because he was hiding the fact that he was talking to her. I feel like if you have to "hide" something from your spouse or significate other, then it is something that you should not be doing. If you feel guilty about doing it, then your concious is telling you not to do it. I do not trust him due to that and have found out that he also talks to a coworker on the phone a good bit about work.  There are other people she can call to confide in, they even work in different counties.  However she was trained by him.   Maybe I'm just jealous, but due to almost every relationship in my past resulting in infidelity on the man's part, it takes alot for me to trust someone. (male or female) and when you earn that trust, it is easily chipped away at, and don't take much to crush it.

      So, what are ya‘lls feelings?  Am I just being a jealous wife?  (By the way, my husband is the bomb!) LOL  Or do you think I have good reason to have felt betrayed?

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Shari Tenner wrote Oct 12, 2008
    • Jldixon,

      You are so right.  After a million dollars of therapy I know that if your spouse cannot tell you who he spoke to or what he spoke about then he should not be doing it.  But remember this—-a stick c**k has no conscious...know what I mean?.  If he has a secret email address than he is hiding something, as well as a throw away phone or secret address books.  If he has many whispered phone calls, late meeting and unexpected appointments dig deep and investigate things. I don’t think that you are being jealous.  I am mired in the same muck now and am seeing a marriage guru to determine if my marriage can be saved. My husband has a 3 year friendship with a young woman and i have in the past found a phone in his car, evidence of dating and yet he denies any wrong doing.  I stay because he is very convincing and change sucks...but three years later and some internet email evidence and I think I am wondering if maybe being alone and single will be better. Trust needs to be earned and once it is lost it is so hard to rebuild, not to mention respect and passion. How can you be passionate with a man who tells secrets to a stranger.  And what of that woman who is attracted to married me?  Karma will be the ultimate revenge in these situations.  Meanwhile for me, more therapy...

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sweetnsassy wrote Oct 30, 2008
    • Even if your husband is “the bomb” it doesn’t make his “cheating” right nor does it mean you have to put up with his disrespect.  You may be jealous but have every right to be.  Do you think he would be ok with you talking to other men about “family issues“?—-Or anything else for that matter?  He should respect you enough to cease communication with anyone other than  family members involved. I think you‘re right in feeling the way you do.  One last piece of advice—-Never second guess yourself or allow anyone to devalue your feelings.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Searchingwithin wrote Jan 12, 2009
    • I have always heard the question, time and time again, can and man and woman really be “just” friends. Anytime I have read about this question, and found answers from a man’s point of views, it has always been stated by men, that anytime a man has a friendship with a woman, he has an attraction to her, and he has at the very least, considered having sex with her, if only in his mind. It is the woman who determines where the relationship goes from there, and whether or not it turns sexual in the end.

      If this is in fact true, and I have to admit, I believe it is in the very least 90% of the cases, and more likely higher, the woman he is having this friendship with, and her integrity have to be considered.

      A husband and wife should be each others best friend, as well as partners, and lovers. No other person or relationship should come before your spouse. PERIOD. Your relationship and spouse should be given top priority in every decision that you make. Although you are an individual, which should have a degree of independence, and making sure that your needs are being met, you are still a portion of a “one“. Anything that comes between that in any way is cheating the relationship.

      If you have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, that includes sexual talk, or intimate details of your life with your spouse, or significant other, or discussing issues that you should be discussing with your partner, and are instead sharing with someone else, you are cheating your relationship, and it will only lead to trouble down the line. Especially, if the other party is encouraging this type of disclosure. If they were truly just a “friend” they would be giving the involved person the best type of advise possible, and that would be to go home and have this discussion with their partner.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mira66 wrote Apr 3, 2009
    • I’ve lived this where my husband, now soon to be ex, was having an emotional affair for a year. Of course he said it wasn’t an affair but he failed to mention to me that he was having a conversation with this woman online (while at work), on his phone with repeated text messages and phone calls, all of which I never knew about for an entire year. I knew it was for a year because I did the investigating. Of course I suspected something was going on and the way I found out was snooping on his phone. Total heartbreak- 19 years of being together, the trust and relationship were gone. An affair is an affair whether phyiscal or emotional when the other partner hides it and shares intimate conversations with someone else that they should be having with their significant other.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Livingvictorious wrote May 14, 2009
    • Dear Readers,
      I believe the actual line for individuals to openly Cross Over in an Emotional Affair has occured (to me) is when the spouse suddenly is taking-up for the person you have asked questions about.
      My ex and sister tried denying the affair because the lack of sex...duh!
      Of course they would. Especially in a church setting (back in the mid ‘80’s) and in a leadership role. The Senior Pastor and Music Minister ignored my cries and complaints which lead to people thinking I was jealous and insecure. BTW, the pastor has a tongue that sinks many ships. My only consolation is that he has to answer to God for his actions!
      I forgave both of them and I have moved on in my life but I am frightened to death to get involved with another man. I have even thought of pulling a Lorena Bobbitt with that dumb a—!
      Everyday or so I want to take back the forgiveness but I have to take into consideration how much I am hurting myself. My ex is well-known in our city and he has almost everyone fooled but a very very few educated people who took the time to listen to my screw ups and his.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michelle Bailey wrote Nov 7, 2009
    • My boyfriend was having an emotional relationship with a woman at work.  She is physically located in another office in another city but because of their jobs, they communicate through instant messages, email and occasionally by phone most workdays.

      I found out about it and almost ended our relationship because of it.  He insisted she was just a friend, but they were texting each other and talking on the phone quite a bit outside of work, and I knew nothing about it.  

      They shared information about their relationships, she was divorced and dating and would confide in him about her life.  He told her personal things about himself and our relationship.  They had not only exchanged cell phone numbers but also email addresses and Myspace pages.  All this, plus the interaction at work added up to a lot of time being spent with each other, albeit not physically in person (as far as I know).  

      The fact that he kept the relationship a secret from me is what spoke volumes to me (although he insists he wasn’t trying to).  I believe he knew he was attracted to her and that he knew he was doing something wrong.  Of course when I confronted him he got extremely defensive of himself, and what hurt even more, of her.

      While I do believe that men and women can be just friends, there are definitely exceptions, and the two involved usually know exactly what’s going on some level.

      I believe that what was going on between them had a very high chance of escalating into something more, but because I caught it about a month and a half “young“, it didn’t get the chance to evolve (again, as far as I know because they still communicate at work).  

      I believe my boyfriend is in love with me, but I also think he was engaging something without really thinking of the possible consequences, and keeping it from me made it easy for him to lie to himself about it.  

      We are still together, but the relationship took some damage and for me it is not quite the same.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lani Evangelitsa wrote Oct 14, 2010
    • Hi I came across this thread and want to say Meg, I truly believe in what you said. I recently ended my friendship with a classmate of mine who had a big crush on me since our senior year in high school. We recently reconnected via email, text, and a few phone calls. Our conversation was more then what he told his wife. We both knew it was wrong but our attraction towards each other got the best of us. We live miles apart (he NO. CA, and me SO CA) and never seen each other since our 20th reunion. We had planned on seeing each other at our 30th reunion. My friend started to feel guilty and suddenly confessed to his wife the extend or our emails. He then tells me we can no longer be friends because of what we did. He was the one that lead me on when I told him it was wrong for me to continue to talk to him because he is married. However, I continue to answer his emails so I was wrong too. He is not attending our reunion so we will not see each other as planned.
      I’m coping with the loss of my friend but I feel so much better knowing he is rebuilding the trust with his wife. My marriage ended with “the other women” and I vowed I would never want a wife to feel and go through that ever. I will never be the other women.
      I never knew about Emotional Infidelity until a friend told me.

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