To cheat on a spouse or partner can have devastating consequences. It may mean the end of the relationship. How we define cheating, however, varies from person to person, and as researchers have found out, also between men and women. At one time, cheating was considered to be a physical act. Today we have other ways to commit infidelity, including emotional attachments to another person. Which is worse? Emotional infidelity or sex without any emotional attachment?
The Different Ways We Cheat
The classic idea of an affair is two people meeting in secret. They meet at a hotel room or one of their own homes, engage in some type of sexual act, and then go home to their other lives and their other partners. Sexual infidelity is what most people think of when they think of cheating, but it’s not the only way in which we can be unfaithful.
Emotional infidelity means having a meaningful relationship, whether it involves sex or not, with another person and keeping the depth of that relationship a secret from your partner. A woman, for instance, might refer to a work friend as her “office husband,” a man with whom she spends a lot of time and with whom she shares her feelings and thoughts. She may text or call him often outside of work hours for personal chats. A man is capable of doing the same thing with a female coworker. These actions could be considered emotional infidelity.
Which Is Worse: Emotional or Sexual Infidelity?
Neither type of cheating is fair to a partner or good for a relationship, but is it possible to say which is worse? Researchers have found that men and women take different views on the matter and are affected in different ways by cheating. The study is from Kansas State University and involved nearly 500 participants. The men and women were asked to fill out questionnaires and surveys that included a number of questions about affairs, cheating and infidelity.
The researchers asked questions about emotional and sexual infidelity, such as which was more distressing to think about? The results were very clear that men were more uncomfortable with the thought of their partners enjoying sex with another person than becoming emotionally attached to someone else. Women, on the other hand, were more distressed by emotional situations than by sexual infidelity. Even more interesting to the researchers was the fact that no other factor, such as relationship habits, could predict the answer to the question.
The finding is not completely new, but it is one of the strongest results showing that men consider sexual cheating worse than emotional cheating and that women think the opposite. Earlier studies have shown that men are more jealous when it comes to the physical attractions and sexual infidelity, while women are more threatened by emotional bonds. Men and women are equally likely to experience jealousy, but that feeling is triggered by different things.
What these research findings mean for men and women in committed relationships is that we can all be aware of how our actions impact each other. Men should be more sensitive about forming friendships with other women, while women can be more sensitive about flirting with other men. Ultimately, everything comes down to having respect for each other and for the relationship. Be respectful of your partner and understand what he or she needs to feel secure in the relationship. In the end, no kind of cheating is good or acceptable.