>Physical vs Emotional Infidelity

>Picture this: You’re getting ready for work and your husband offers to help with packing lunch. He insists you stay in bed while he goes to the kitchen and instructs the maid what to cook and how to pack the food. And because it’s unusual for him to be so nice to you, you decide to check what’s really cooking in the kitchen. Turns out that the husband is fooling around with the maid, fondling and caressing her. And not the first time. He’s been physically infidel for a long time.

Now picture this: A recently-married boy is caught exchanging SMSes with his ex. They go out for coffees after work. He apparently still has feelings for his ex, as does she. And the wife intercepts their messages – they aren’t love messages, just messages friends would exchange. She accuses the husband of cheating on her. The ex thinks it is just friendship, but the wife doesn’t. She thinks it’s emotional infidelity.
(Both are real life incidents.)

What would irk you more – the emotional or the physical infidelity? Would you be able to sleep with a man who goes looking for easy physical gratification elsewhere? And would you be able to sleep with a man who seeks solace in someone else’s company? Which is worse – a spouse (it could be an unfaithful wife as well) who’s with you only physically or a spouse who’s with you only emotionally?

Technically speaking, it may seem easier to forgive a person for their physical transgressions than emotional ones. But when you catch your wife or husband in the act with another person, can you ever forget it? Can you overlook his carnal desires and be happy that he’s in it only for physical pleasure, nothing else? I, for one, wouldn’t be able to. If my man finds another woman so much more attractive that he cannot resist her, I would label him unfaithful and would never be able to love him the same way again. Because for me physical intimacy is also an act of love. It’s not something that exists outside the realm of feelings and emotions.

But it would be bad enough if I knew my man loves another woman, wants to be with her and is bound to me by only a superficial show of fidelity. If I cannot have his affection, I will not want any part of him. What makes emotional infidelity worse is that it is so much easier to hide. How do you draw the line between harmless flirting and repressed feelings? How easy it is for someone to say ‘We’re just friends’ but still harbour a love that can’t be categorised as mere friendship! And how difficult it is to sit and find categories for love!

But it could be different for you. I know so many women who overlook their husband’s physical rendezvous because they probably look at marriage as more elevated than any other kind of relationship. What would bother you more – emotional or physical infidelity?

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41 responses »

  1. >Interesting post. I think it would depend on how we define 'emotional infidelity'. My definition of that would be if my (hypothetical) partner confided in a friend of the opposite sex things they didn't or wouldn't confide in me. That would be emotional infidelity and I don't think I would like that. I also wouldn't be able to forgive physical infidelity. But if it was having some feelings for an ex but not cheating physically or emotionally (as per above definition), and just being friends with them, I could be okay with that. I guess to cut a long story short, I think both emotional and physical infidelity would bother me! 😛

  2. >I;m not married, but I think both would bother me. If physical infidelity is confined to just a one-night stand, I can probably forget it. I can tell myself that it happened on an impulse. But if it is more regular, it is difficult to deal with.And emotional infidelity is a tricky business. I know a man and a woman can be friends. They can be good friends. But m not sure if they can be really really close friends, without crossing over to something more than a friendship. Like the previous commenter said, if u confide smthg in a friend that u wudn't confide in a partner, then it can be emotional infidelity. But what if this friend is of the same gender?

  3. >any fidelity would bother me,for sure ! Mistakes are forgiven not blunders…As far as my man having a friend who is a girl,I don't mind. But he needs to follow the friendship rules..no thinking out of the box in this and all that !!

  4. >the first case doesnt warrant a reply… the second one.. if its a healthy friendly relationship… the spouse should also be knowing about it !!! I guess no probs in be-friending an ex.. but hiding it would make me feel fishy !

  5. >@Psych Babbler & Pointblank: I agree about the confiding bit but you know, people could want to share things with their friends. Not all spouses are best friends with each other. Is that infidelity too? @Nu: The only problem with those terms and conditions is that there's no way of getting into someone's head and knowing what exactly they're thinking!@hitch writer: Yes, I think it's important to be open in a relationship and if you're hiding something, there's bound to be suspicion and insecurity.

  6. >Whilst physical intimacy with a person can be easily 'measured' (either one is or is not physically intimate), emotional intimacy cannot be measured. Consequently, drawing lines in re emotional intimacy would really be left to each person.I have found that the more secure a person is with themself, the more likely the person would trust and understand others.I would trust and/ or understand my partner, irrespective of what I hear and/ or 'see' to the contrary because I K.N.O.W. my partner to be a wonderful human being (I'm not discussing arranged relationships here). And when comes the day I feel I must necessarily draw a line because I am uncomfy with something I see and/ or hear, I would discuss this with my partner and let my partner decide whether my concerns merit importance at all and, if so, how they should be addressed. (I would, of course, offer non-binding suggestions) And if my concerns are not adequately addressed, I would likely exit the relationship.P.S. – It is important to understand that merely being insecure and/ or suspicious do not infidelity make. And where one does engage in infidelity, it does not mean one is no longer a wonderful person. I'd rather be with a wonderful person all of my Life than loose out on account of my insecurities or suspicions.

  7. >To me, a person's body and mind can not contradict. So, any kind of infidelity would mean the person is dishonest. Hence, not acceptable.Anything hidden from the partner would raise questions and later problems.I love your writing, especially your choice of words.

  8. >i would have said emotional infidelity but i agree with you- physical fidelity comes out of the emotions. you cannot separate one from the other. either ways, i wont ever be able to love my man again, physical or emotional.

  9. >Physical urges can be controlled more much easily than feelings…when we define emotional infidelity as developing feelings for someone else, theres little that person can do to control or erase them, in spite of their best intentions…its not even like they meant to be unfaithful to you…whats there to forgive or not, what can anyone do in that case? I dont know.

  10. >The maid example is …no words. I would be more than anything disgusted. Here there is no doubt about the infidelity, unlike the other example which looks like just good friendship. Or maybe emotional infidelity has scope for 'benefit of doubt'.

  11. >@Bones: Yes, it is hard to say which is worse.@Stray: How you address the problem is another question altogether. But suspicions and insecurities are not always without reason. If you can live with those reasons because you're living with a nice person, it's a choice you're making. I wouldn't be able to make that choice.@celestialrays: I've always wondered about this question but on Saturday morning, when I reached office, I had a colleague crying over instance #1. And hence the post. But I'm off to read yours ASAP.@BlueMist: And agreeing over those lines is also very very important.@Bindhu: I agree with that logic. And thank you for the compliment 🙂

  12. >@Piggy Little: Like I said, at first look, the answer seems to be evidently emotional infidelity, but physical infidelity cannot be dismissed either.@V: That makes sense as well. Except that if the person is like me, she would not feed those thoughts and feelings. It is possible to nip certain emotions in the bud. And if you aren't doing that you're being emotionally infidel to me.And yeah, please go ahead and link the post.@IHM: That's exactly what that poor girl said – if he had to, he should've had better taste. Emotionally infidelity is such a grey area – difficult to define.

  13. >nice post, Demotional or physical – it would bother me either way…i won't be able to forgive and forget, be it emotional or physical infidelity…i'm ok if my partner decides to talk to his ex or be close friends with someone of his opposite sex…but there must be boundaries…i shudn't be kept in the dark…as long as he is open with me and doesn't feel the need to hide anything, then the trust will be intact…once he goes behind my back and starts to depend on someone else for emotional support, then starts the problem…

  14. >nice post, D.first instance is so bothersome, something that tells about a person's psyche that you stoop so low. It is simply unpardonable.Second case, I guess is still ok, coz it's difficult to get over feelings for ex and esp. if you are just friends, what's the harm? Here you have to define 'how much is too much' and then term it as infidelity.But, for me, both forms of infidelity is unacceptable.

  15. >both bother me… and it aint easy to pin point what bothers me more… as a male, i would need to say physical cheating would hurt me more, because we as men fail to understand emotions sometimes, so i am assuming that for a lot of men, they might overlook the emotional attachment.

  16. >@Titaxy: Exactly my thoughts!@snippetsnscribbles: I think we all agree on how infidelity as such is unacceptable. But that makes me wonder what circumstances can make someone accept it in any measure…@Soulmate: True.@sscribbles: The latest in that story is that the husband has apologised. But is that enough?@Mac: Nice to get a man's perspective on it. I think most men would agree with you.

  17. >I think the emotional infidelity would most probably tip me over the edge. I believe that most affairs start in the head, even the intense physical one's.. One's head would be the main stimulant and not the hormones..A long time ago, when the DH was in college, this girl would have hour long conversations with him.. I had to put my foot down and stop it.. This was a cause of joke with our common friends because he went on movies, trips, lunches with a lot of girls and I really din care 🙂

  18. >Infidelity is the faithful partner of the ignorant. It is as constant as change, that's all I, as a married woman, can say after reading your post. Take care, Shini

  19. >Hey D,A very thought provoking post and I must say that either of the infidelities should not be pardoned. Nothing can justify infidelity be it physical or emotional…I just chanced upon your blog a few days back and then lost your link only to find it back today… U have been blogrolled 😀

  20. >Even I tend to agree with Mac. I have heard men take physical cheating more seriously. But if ur wife or gf misses a male friend terribly, enjoys his friendship more than urs ( whether its just talking, going out or dinners), shared her dreams and fears with him, wouldn't that affect u? She mite not hide this friendship. She might even tell u about their meetings. But the frequency of the meetings need not always tell u about the intensity involved.

  21. >@Dee: Totally understandable – what you did, that is. And you put that well: how most affairs start in the head.@Shini: And what are they ignorant of?@Nutsy: You really are Nutsy? I mean, I have a real life friend called Nutsy – and he's a guy!Thank you for blogrolling me.@Pointblank: Yes, I would be a tad jealous, but I still wouldn't be able to call my husband unfaithful for that reason.

  22. >I guess both kind of infidelity can be cruel to anyone.I do think that in the second instance, meeting with an ex after marriage does not mean he is cheating on her (unless proven otherwise).What needs to be asked if its okay for a married man/women to go out with their ex or maintain a distance…

  23. >Fooling partner either way is bad. First scenario no doubt is bad and evident. As for second one, I have seen people pretending to be someone else and enjoying the virtual life and fooling their spouse/partner and when caught blame their partner. People should know to draw lines in virtual life. Real life is not a movie.

  24. >hmmmm. emotional infidelity.as for physical, like a friend says, "har koi behek jaata hai" … it happens as long as it's not a repeated happening. if it happened once and lesson was surely learned, it shouldn't kill off an otherwise faithful relationship.

  25. >I dunno… both would make me see red, I guess.A partner can be caught in the act of physical infidelity. How do you 'catch' emotional infidelity? Where do you draw the line between a great friendship and emotional infidelity? Somehow I think the latter is so much sadder. For the spouse who commits EF and the spouse who's ignorant of/left with suspicions of EF. And ultimately emotional infidelity would lead to physical infidelity as well. So I 'd slot the EF as the more dangerous of the two.

  26. >@The Survivor: In the second instance, the grey area is the bit where the husband doesn't tell the wife he's in touch with his ex. I think there is no question on maintaining an honest relationship.@symphonyofthesoul: But you didn't say why…@JLT: That's a very valid argument.@RK: Interesting article, but I'm not sure what it has to do with emotional/physical fidelity.

  27. >This is a very contentious topic. Dont think there are authoritative answers. But I do want to muddy up the water, because I think they are important.1) Emotional or physical – this is not a symmetrical feeling. Man's definition of infidel is different from woman's. 2) This whole discussion is based on a institution which we have been conditioned to. In certain religions, it is wives has accepted to sharing their positions both literally and intellectually. Even in our own culture, it was common before a couple of hundred years. I am not justifying this by any means. All I am saying is, if we are conditioned to a new institution that says "every husband can have 2 wives and every wife can have 2 husbands", in 200 years from now, that will be the new "normal"In any case, I think it is very safe to make 2 conclusions:a) Women are sensitive to physical infidel because they associate physical intimacy with emotional intimacy (which men clearly dont – the obvious evidence is in porn industry)b) Women to men or men to women, I think emotional infidel is more dangerous to the institution of monogamy.

  28. >Brilliant Post and absolutely relevant questions.Personally I would say it is easier to forgive physical infidelity because its an act of moment and something controllable if a person is willing to work it out. However, emotional infidelity is beyond control, I mean there is no way if person loves someone else he/she would start loving you and forget the other one. So despite all the person who is being infidel intentions and tries he might still be infidel. Hence, I would be willing to work things out with someone who erred Physically than someone who is not in the same plane with me emotionally. Reached here through Blogadda… Loved it here…Subscribing to the feeds.

  29. >Let me play the devils advocate – If humans are the highest level in the food chain,humans are the highest forms animals in some sense right? Almost 100% of the animal kingdom is polygamous in nature. and we humans are causing all the conflict.! This explains why infidelities occur. People fight a natural instinct.and it is not a "man" thing.For every infidel man there is a woman at the other end !That said, whether emotional or physical infidelity is just a state of mind.My point is why be in a relationship in which you dont want to be.? Get out .Why be in denial and keep looking outside.If the feeling or need to find solace,emotional or physical, is outside, then why be inside?

  30. >A thought provoking post indeed. Infidelity in any form is unpardonable however, we should be able to define emotional infidelity. The parameters of measuring fidelity have broadened in today's world. You may be friends with someone from opposite gender at work and perhaps, have some emotional dependence on the person as you both understand the stress levels at the work more than your spouse or perhaps the spouse has paucity of time to shoulder your work related stress. I read about the concept of having an office spouse who would be there for emotional support, with no string attached.If it does not affect one's marriage and the spouse is aware of such friendships, would you term this as emotional infidelity ?

  31. >@RK:You mean to say that infidelity can occur only when you are in a marriage? According to me, if you are committed to a person and if you cheat on that person, it's still infidelity. @Prats: Welcome to my blog. Am glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for sharing your PoV.@Gyanbaan: Irrespective of whether I agree with that theory or not, if we do assume your premise to be entirely true, then my question is why get into a committment to one person if you believe in polygamy? Why play along with the rules of monogamy and then flout them? Also, I agree that infidelity is not a male-specific thing.@loveacrossbridges: An emotional anchor at workplace would not amount to emotional infidelity for me. But it may not be the same for another person.

  32. >infidel or kafir basically literally means absence or lack of faith.for argument's sake, infidel is a very broad term (like happiness or sadness) – and is certainly not limited to relationships or marriage.having said that, for this discussion, we are talking about marriage.if you disagree, then lets talk about man-man infidel, woman-woman infidel, infidel in business, parent-child infidel, teacher-student infidel…..you see, the point is getting lost…

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