1. People & Relationships
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

What Is The Difference Between An Emotional Affair And A Physical Affair?

By

Couple kissing in rain, side view, close-up
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Question: What Is The Difference Between An Emotional Affair And A Physical Affair?

The traditional definition of cheating is that one person in a committed relationship is sexually involved with someone other than his/her spouse. In recent years, cheating has been reclassified to include not only the physical affair but, also, the emotional affair.

Answer:

An emotional affair is defined as any infidelity that occurs through feeling or thought. 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 close, personal relationship with someone other than your spouse.

The difference between a physical affair and an emotional affair.

The primary difference between a physical affair and an emotional affair is actual, physical contact. Usually, cheating involves people meeting face – to - face, and then engaging in physical intimacy. With an emotional affair, there may be a meeting, but it can occur on a cell phone or a computer and there is no physical intimacy. Many of the people who are emotionally cheating don’t consider it to be infidelity. Their thinking is that, because there is no actual physical contact, the behavior can’t be considered cheating.

The end result is that the unfaithful spouse is paying more emotional attention to someone other than their partner, and they are removing themselves from the commitment they made to their marriage.

An emotional affair can lead to a physical affair.

An emotional affair begins with the exchange of personal information. As the people involved get acquainted, the information becomes more personal. Some argue that an emotional affair 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 an emotional affair on the same level or worse as traditional cheating.

It is much more dangerous for a marriage should your spouse connect with someone emotionally than physically. Anyone who finds himself or herself drawn to another person on an emotional level should consider the possible consequences of such an affair. Emotional affairs are just as likely to lead to divorce and physical affairs.

The danger of an emotional affair.

While it is healthy and normal for people to have friendships outside the marriage with men and women, an emotional affair threatens the emotional bond between spouses. Friendships are based on attraction, in that we are drawn to various qualities of our friends. Healthy friendships and attractions don't need to threaten a marriage at all, but add richness and enjoyment to life. When an attraction turns into an obsession or into an affair, it can become harmful to everyone involved and nothing is more harmful to a marriage than the breakdown of the emotional bond marital partners have for each other.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.