What Is Infidelity?
Is Emotional Cheating Infidelity?
On the face of it, you might think the question asked by the title of this article is silly. After all, doesn’t everyone know the definition of infidelity?
However, one only has to think back a few years to recall a presidential scandal over oral sex. The President of the United States declared that oral sex didn’t count as infidelity or adultery! So perhaps the question “what is infidelity?” isn’t quite as silly as it may sound.
As a counselor, I have listened as a husband or wife tried to tell their spouse that their on-line friendship was not actually an affair, or that their close friendship with obvious emotional ties was not cheating. In just about every case, the offended spouse was unmoved by the assertion.
So, what constitutes infidelity? Allow me to offer a possible definition.
Infidelity is defined as a strong emotional and/or physical attachment outside of marriage. Under this definition, an affair can be purely sexual, purely emotional, or both emotional and sexual.
It’s usually more difficult for the parties involved in an emotional affair to admit that their attachment actually constitutes cheating. “After all,” they protest, “we haven’t slept with each other!”
But this singular focus on the sexual act fails to take into account the alienation of affections that occurs through a relationship with such strong emotional attachments.
If the affections held for the third party do not actually crowd the mate out of their rightful place in their spouse’s heart, they certainly find themselves sharing that space with the intruder; this is infidelity.
Such “sharing” of the affections always diminishes a spouse’s standing in the heart.
Simply stated, emotional cheating is still cheating and any cheating can destroy a marriage.
By the way, of these three types of affairs, the easiest for a couple to recover from is the purely sexual affair. The most difficult type of infidelity is the affair that is both sexual and emotional.
But it is interesting to note that an affair that is purely emotional is more difficult for a couple to recover from than an affair that is purely sexual. Emotional infidelity possesses amazing power to destroy a marriage.
However, there is still some very good news in all of this.
An affair, whether emotion, sexual, or both emotional and sexual, does not have to mean the end of a marriage.
Counselors regularly help marriages survive all three types of affairs, and when the couple commits to doing the work required, they are healed by the damage that infidelity causes and actually find that their marriage can be become stronger than it was before the affair!