I sometimes hear from wives who ask for my opinion on whether a physical or emotional affair is worse for your marriage and your own well being. Many wives see their own situation as the one which is the worst. I heard from a woman who said: “my husband had an emotional affair with his assistant. I know about this because I have found countless texts and emails between them. She is married also and has children. I even read in the emails where they agreed that their relationship could never become physical because of their families. So I do believe that it never got physical and that it never crossed the line. However, the emails break my heart. They are sharing very personal secrets from their child hood, telling one another that they are best friends and soul mates and lamenting the fact that they didn’t meet when they were younger. It is most definitely an emotional affair. Even my husband admits that. He also admits that he loves her but he doesn’t get why I am so upset since it wasn’t a physical. I believe that an emotional affair is worse and I told my husband the same. He thinks that I am crazy because he never touched this other woman in a physical way. Who is right?”
I believe that both spouses are right in their own mind. I also know that whether infidelity is emotional or physical in nature, it is still a betrayal and it still hurts the innocent party and the marriage. Recovery and healing is still going to be necessary regardless. I will discuss this more below.
Emotional Infidelity Feels Like A Betrayal Of The Heart: Men often do not think of it this way, but women know that the thing that makes the marital relationship different from all others is the emotional connection. Every one has been physically attracted to other people before they met their spouse, and yet, they ended up married to their spouse because the emotional connection was stronger than it had been with any one else. That is what makes your relationship so special. That is what makes you soul mates. You feel as if your spouse understands you better than any one else and vice verse.
Why your spouse seems to feel this way about someone else, it can be a dagger through your heart. It can make you feel as if you were wrong about your connection all along. It can make you wonder if your feelings were just one sided. Many wives tell me that they worry that their husband actually wants the other woman more because he has not yet been able to sleep with her. Since he can’t have her in that way, the wife worries, he wants her that much more. And this can be a devastating thought. Anyone who tells you that an emotional affair is in some way less serious than a physical one just does not understand this.
With A Physical Affair, There Are Horrible Mental Images And Self Esteem Issues To Deal With: On the flip side of the coin, a physical affair has its own set of problems. Even if you believe that the relationship was only based on sex, you still know that there were probably strong physical desires. And this can give you horrible mental images that you must overcome. This can affect your self esteem and your sexual confidence. It is certainly no walk in the park, even when you compare it with an emotional affair.
The Bottom Line: To me the bottom line is this, both types of infidelity are still cheating. Both types hurt. Both types cause devastating damage. Which is worse depends upon who you ask. Neither are an easy thing. And personally, I don’t think that one is easier than the other. I dealt with physical cheating. And the mental images were so painful. Never did I say to myself “well at least there wasn’t an emotional attachment.” And I hear from plenty of women on my blog who are dealing with emotional cheating. These women rarely focus on the lack of the physical betrayal. They are struggling just the same.