7 Reasons Emotional Affairs Are Worse Than Physical Ones

by Lindsay E. Mack

The pain of emotional affairs is often underrated. It can be easy to say, “Well, if they aren’t sleeping together, then what is the big deal?” But there are many ways in which emotional affairs are actually worse than physical ones. An affair of the body can be over and done in the matter of one night, but an affair of the heart takes much longer to form — and it can be far more damaging to a relationship.

Emotional infidelity may be harder to catch than a physical affair, but its effects are more insidious. For instance, a friend of mine dated a man who was best friends with a woman at his office. They took most of their breaks together, emailed all day, and he hung out in her office all the time. He told her all kinds of details about their relationship. Other colleagues even assumed these work friends were dating. Although there was no apparent physical affair going on (they never saw one another outside of work), the depth of this emotional affair left my friend feeling like the third wheel in her own relationship, and she eventually dropped him entirely. Basically? If you’re in a committed monogamous relationship, any type of cheating, whether physical or emotional, can suck the life out of a relationship.

But some varieties of cheating hit you harder than others. If you ever find yourself in the debate of emotional affair versus physical, here are a few reasons why being the victim of an emotional affair is worse than the physical.


They're More Sneaky

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, emotional infidelity can be dangerous because it may look innocent on the outside. After all, without a physical affair, your partner has the benefit of deniability. But the emotional distance between you and your partner can still be destructive.


They May Indicate Relationship Problems

Women's Health noted that, if you have to go outside your relationship to find deeper connections such as trust and companionship, it could point to some problems in the relationship. While a physical affair might just be the result of one bad decision, an ongoing emotional affair may indicate that some crucial component in the relationship is missing.


They Require Love reports that most people would be more devastated by their partner falling in love with someone else than a partner having a one-night stand. They consider this a violation of the emotional intimacy that partners in a relationship share.


They Are Hard To Talk About

If you're in a monogamous relationship and your partner has sex with someone else, it's expected that you might be hurt and angry by the events. But an emotional affair is more difficult to discuss and, as Psychology Today explains, you may come off as trying to control your partner's friendships. Even when you suspect that they are more than just friends.


The Internet Makes Them Easy

A physical affair requires two people to be in close proximity, but emotional affairs can involve people from any place in the world, thanks to the Internet. As Healthy Women notes, online affairs can offer up the fantasy of romantic attachment that may be waning in the committed relationship. And they only require a Wi-Fi connection.


They Can Feel Like Love

Although emotional affairs can pass for platonic friendships, these intense connections may release the same hormones that are triggered by sex and love, as Glamour explains. It can feel damaging to know your significant other gets a buzz from interacting with someone else.


The Fantasy Of Sex Is Still Powerful

As a piece in Vogue explains, a friendship that allows for deep emotional connection and some sexual tension is definitely grounds for an affair. Even if the sex part is just imaginary.