Emotional vs. sexual cheating: Which one is worse?

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Simone Paget, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:54 PM ET

A recent study reveals that Canadian women and men have very different opinions when it comes to cheating. The study which was commissioned by dating site ELITESINGLES, surveyed 667 men and women and found that the majority of men (65%) think sexual infidelity is worse, whereas 55% of women can’t bear the thought of their partner falling in love with someone else.

However, despite their opinions on what constitutes the worst in infidelity, men are more likely to cheat sexually (43% had in the past compared with just 30% of women) while women were more likely to engage in emotional infidelity (27% said that they’d fallen in love with someone outside a partnership, compared with just 12% men). Does this mean that we’re all a bunch of hypocrites? Not necessarily.

Victoria Milan, a dating site for people seeking affairs, conducted a similar study recently and found congruous results. However, Victoria Milan CEO Sigurd Vedal was careful to point out that although women viewed emotional affairs in a harsher light, any kind of affair has the potential to be hurtful."What kind of cheating is more painful? It totally depends on the individual,” said Vedal in a press release.


Emotional cheating impacts a relationship in a very similar way to sexual cheating, experts say.

Infidelity is messy - period. Sometimes the emotional and the sexual gets knotted together in a giant, painful ball of betrayal to the point where it’s hard to tell when one ends and the other begins. When an ex-partner revealed to me that he had cheated on me, it felt like a violation on all counts - emotional and physical.

According to Iona Monk, a registered clinical counsellor and founder of Vancouver Couples Counselling, emotional cheating impacts a relationship in a very similar way to sexual cheating. They both constitute a breach of trust. “The "cheated on" partner feels betrayed, jealous, surprised, traumatized, shocked- as if a rug has been pulled out from under them. I think it is similar to how one processes being emotionally abused vs. physically abused. Because there is no physical proof of the "affair", the cheated on may feel like he/she is making something out of nothing, or it may make the person feel crazy or judge themselves harshly for "creating problems" where there are none. But nothing could be farther from the truth,” Monk says.

When asked which has a more detrimental effect on a relationship, Monk explained, “Sexual cheating can really implode a relationship. It is the absolute physical proof that something is really wrong. It is the point of no return.” Although it can be the lead up to a physical affair, when it comes to emotional cheating, “there is still time to do something about it before it gets physical, but it most likely will get physical at some point if there is that emotional intimacy,” she says.

Monk is careful to point out, “To use an analogy, the emotional affair is the soft background music that something is wrong in the relationship, whereas the sexual affair is the blasting music that cannot be ignored.”

 

WHY WE CHEAT

-When asked why they cheated, the poll conducted by ELITESINGLES also found answers varied by gender. While most men (55%) struggled to identify exactly why they cheated, 28% admitted to wanting sex with someone else, and a further 25% said it was due to relationship boredom. A small minority (7%) noted it was born out of revenge, while 12% revealed it was another love which made them act.

-As for the women, a somewhat larger number admitted to taking revenge (11%), while 35% said they were bored in their relationship and 27% in love with someone else. “I wanted to have sex with someone else” was agreed with by just 16% of women.


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