Emotional Cheating vs Physical Cheating – Is There a Difference?

by Yvonne Chase on July 11, 2013

Strong Emotional Connection
Earlier today, I participated in an interview about emotional cheating on HuffPost Live.  Here’s the blurb that jump started the conversation: “In a recent survey, a surprising number of people considered a strong emotional connection to be cheating.  So what really constitutes cheating? And can your spouse’s emotional connection with another person be worst than a physical one?


Break Trust
According to me, cheating is any secret behavior happening outside the marriage that would offend your spouse and put your marriage in danger.  Things like secret emails, texts, phone calls and letters, secret dinner and lunch outings, secret meetings at happy hour, secret getaways etc.  If you’re hiding anything from your spouse that would breach trust and nullify your marital vows, you are cheating.

Very Dangerous
Emotional cheating is very dangerous.  I believe its the gateway to physical cheating.  Sharing your heart with anyone other than your spouse is opening the door to cheating.  Its a no-no.  Aside from occupational cheaters, I don’t believe anyone sets out to cheat.  I don’t believe anyone wakes up and says, “You know what, today would be a great day to cheat on my spouse.  Let me go out and make that happen.”  I believe people find themselves in situations that evoke cheating.   Something was presented to them that they’re not getting in their marriage and they act on it.

He’s Working Late – She’s Working Late
For example, we’ve all heard of affairs that start at work.  He’s working late.  She’s working late.  They’re ordering in while working on a project or stepping out to grab a quick bite.  All of a sudden they’re talking and connecting with each other beyond work and the next thing you know, they’re involved in an emotional affair that could lead to a physical affair.

Something Missing At Home
The connection beyond work was able to happen because something was missing for either party at home.  Could be the reason both didn’t mind working late.  Actress Vivica A. Fox referenced this in the movie Two Can Play That Game  when she said, “The number one excuse of a cheating man is, “I was working late.”

Fill Any Holes
According to licensed marriage and family therapist Susan Mandel, PhD, “Men love their spouses, but they don’t know how to fix their relationship problems, so they go outside their marriages to fill any holes.  Men want it all and have the skewed notion that another woman will make the longing for something more disappear. Then, they can live happily ever after with their wife–and their mistress–without confronting the real issues.”

Thou shalt not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14

Something to think about…

P.S Women initiate cheating too not just men

What say you? Is emotional cheating worst than physical cheating? What constitutes cheating?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Hector July 13, 2013

I think they’re both equally bad. For women, linking emotions to someone other than our partner is in some ways even worse than the physical act, but the physical act seals the deal, so to speak. They both are cheating because something clandestine is going on without the other partner’s knowledge.


Yvonne Chase July 17, 2013


Cheating is cheating whether emotional or physical. I believe when a woman physically cheats with a man, that act hurts her husband more because she gave her body, his body to someone else.

When a man emotionally cheats with a woman, that hurts his wife deeply because he went inward and gave the deepest part of himself to another woman.

Its all hurtful no matter how you slice it.


MikeB July 15, 2013

I’m so glad you included the PS that women initiate cheating too. No matter who initiates it, it destroys relationships. I watched your youtube video and I agree with it. When a man emotionally connects to a woman other than his wife, his marriage is in seriously trouble because that is such a tough place for us to go.


Yvonne Chase July 17, 2013


The thought about women initiating came to me at the end. Men and women initiate cheating today. There was a time long ago when it was more men than women. Women seem to have caught up. Its hurtful no matter who initiates.


Ms. Nix July 17, 2013

I can say when I have had conversations with various men and women about the subject. More women can understand the concept of emotional cheating than men. Maybe I am closed minded but or bias but the males I’ve polled usually don’t believe emotional cheating is a form of cheating at all. Talking to old flames should not matter to his spouse/girlfriend – its just conversation. However, this behavior can certainly lead to unexpected situations to happen.


Yvonne Chase June 30, 2015

@Ms Nix,

You make a valid point. A lot of men don’t look at emotional cheating as cheating. For them it is just conversation. Like you said, emotional cheating can and usually does lead to unexpected situations and physical cheating is usually on that list.
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Lareia January 4, 2019

I also agree that flirting is cheating. I think I hurt more than I would have had he had sex with them. Having a hard time dealing.


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