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Understanding the Different Types of Infidelity
October 18, 2016
By: Staci Lee Schnell, M.S.,C.S., LMFT
Understanding the Different Types of Infidelity
The expectation of exclusivity and monogamy are commonly assumed although not always adhered to in a marriage or long term relationship. When this expectation isn’t met, emotional damage can occur, including feelings of severe anger or rage. Others experience a sense of betrayal and loss of trust in their partner while some lose a sense of personal confidence and self-esteem.
Many have struggled to differentiate between platonic friendships and infidelity. While a friendship with the opposite sex is not the determining factor, the issues of faithfulness, deception and betrayal are.
There are several different types of infidelity that may occur in a relationship. Understanding the differences are important, so one doesn’t fall prey to one or more types of them. It is also helpful to know them in order to be able to continue to nourish and work on one’s marriage.
There are two main categories of infidelity: Physical and Emotional. An Affair is generally considered to be a secondary relationship that would be considered a combination of types and possibly fall under both main categories of physical and emotional infidelity. For instance, combining sexual and emotional or cyber and emotional intimacies.
An object affair can be described as pursuing an outside interest that may reach a point of near-obsession and where the interest leads to neglecting one’s relationship. A healthy balance of outside interests are perfectly fine, normal and encouraged in a marriage, but when one is so consumed with the object or if the interest takes priority, that is where the problems arise. By choosing interests in which both partners can participate, the object is more likely to bond the couple than hurt them.
A cyber affair occurs entirely online. The acts of “sexting”, texting, chatting or video chatting without your spouse are all considered to be a cyber affair. Cyber activities with one’s partner can be very healthy for a marriage. “Sexting” with your partner can be great foreplay as well as watching pornography together. A wonderful way of staying connected throughout the day with one’s spouse is texting.
An emotional affair occurs when one partner becomes emotionally attached to someone other than their spouse. One may spend a great deal of time communicating with this other person about deeply personal things or have inside jokes with them. Sharing problems, issues, life dreams and goals with someone other than your spouse takes attention away from your marriage and is considered an emotional affair. Sharing the ups and downs and ins and outs of daily life with your spouse is essential in a successful marriage as it promotes closeness and nurtures the relationship.
A sexual affair is when one has sexual relations or intercourse outside their marriage, experiencing no emotional attachment to their sexual partner. Examples may be one-night stands or hiring a prostitute. Having a healthy sex life is an important aspect in a marriage and most people believe in monogamy or sexual exclusivity. Monogamy allows the trust needed to be vulnerable with one’s spouse.
What one person considers an affair or infidelity may not be considered infidelity by someone else. Knowing what your spouse views as infidelity is key in not breaking your marital vows. For example, a person might not consider his or her partner’s viewing of pornography to be cheating, while another person might consider it to be infidelity and experience feelings of inadequacy as a result of the disclosure.
Some view infidelity only as sexual intercourse outside the relationship and therefore may not consider emotional affairs to be cheating. However, this type of infidelity may be more detrimental to a relationship than physical infidelity, as an emotional affair might indicate that the partner committing the infidelity is no longer invested in the relationship.
Studies have shown that women appear to be more likely to forgive sexual affairs since there is no emotional bond while men have a more difficult time forgiving a sexual affair.
Attending premarital therapy, can be helpful to discuss views and expectations around monogamy and relationships outside of the primary relationship early in one’s relationship to avoid future disagreements, issues, or hurt.
If infidelity has occurred in your relationship, seek the help of an experienced marriage therapist. It is possible to overcome infidelity and move forward and have a stronger, successful, happy and healthy marriage.