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Which Kind of Infidelity Feels Worse?

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistSeptember 30, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Imagine your partner has sex with someone else – but it’s purely physical, with no emotional ties. Then imagine that your partner falls in love with someone else – but does not have sex. Which would bother you more?

That’s the question researchers recently asked of almost 64,000 Americans. The Chapman University study found that 54% of heterosexual men were more upset by sexual infidelity while only 35% of heterosexual women responded that way. The researchers also found that gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual people all responded similarly to heterosexual women.

The important takeaway is that, regardless of which kind of infidelity bothered them more, everyone felt jealous. Jealousy is a universal feeling – it’s just a matter of which kind of infidelity would be more upsetting. When your partner acts in ways that threaten your sense of self or sense of security in your relationship, the consequences can be significant. At the very least, your partner may be making you feel unhappy and insecure in your relationship. It might also be triggering the demise of your relationship.

But what if it’s you who is being unfaithful either sexually or emotionally?

If you are being sexually or emotionally unfaithful, take some time to really think about the situation.

  • If you don’t think what you are doing is “that big a deal,” consider what it feels like from your partner’s point of view.
  • If you think that you’re not cheating just because you didn’t have sex with someone else, understand that whichever kind of infidelity is happening, the feelings are equally distressing. So, to relate to how your partner might be feeling, imagine what it would feel like for your partner to be sexually unfaithful.
  • Consider what is motivating you to stray. Is there something in your relationship that you need to change?

Sexual infidelity has been found to be the reason for many divorces. Emotional infidelity is no doubt also a major culprit. So, if your relationship is important to you, it’s essential that you take both kinds of infidelity seriously.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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