Emotional or Sexual Affair...Which is worse?

Kayle - posted on 11/18/2010 ( 27 moms have responded )

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Right now I'm reading a book called "Love and Other Natural Disasters" by Holly Shumas.

The main character of the book finds out her husband has been having an emotional affair for over a year. He never had sex with the woman but shared intimate phone calls and emails.

My question is to you is which is worse?
Would you be more forgiving if it was strictly sexual or more forgiving if it was emotional or would you beable to forgive at all?
Through out what I've read thus far they keep stressing that he never had sex with the "other woman". Does that even matter as long as he has love for this other woman?

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Stifler's - posted on 11/18/2010

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They're both just as bad. If you're having an ongoing affair with someone (sexual or non sexual) you clearly have feelings for them or will think about them in a way you should only be thinking about your partner.

Nikki - posted on 11/18/2010

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That's a really difficult one, I don't know that I would be able to forgive either, they are both a breach of trust.

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Hmm, this is a tricky one and I actually had to read it, read some responses and go away and have a think about it. I can see the points everyone has made about why emotional affairs are more damaging or hurtful and it has made me think differently about it, but I still feel that to me a sexual relationship would be worse. Actually acting on an attraction or feeling for someone else would be more hurtful to me than contemplating it or entertaining the idea.

But, I suppose it really depends on the circumstances, like how long the emotional relationship has been going on, to what extent have they communicated (ie: phone sex, exchanged photos, dirty emails etc), what they planned to 'do' about it in real life, have they not acted on their feelings because of distance or lack of opportunity or out of a (misplaced) sense of respect for their partners? Stuff like that.

I personally have strong feelings for a number of people outside of my relationship. Most of them will never know that I feel attracted to them or have thought about the possibilities of a relationship with them, and I doubt my partner is aware of the strength of my feelings for some of these people. One or two people, I have actually had the conversation of "this is how I really feel about you" and the feeling has been mutual, but neither of us were prepared to pursue the attraction based on our own circumstances and we have been able to remain friends even knowing that we share an attraction that will never be consummated. My partner knows there are some people out there that I have strong feelings for, but he also knows the strength of my love for him overrides any of that and that I would never jeopardise our relationship over it. He knows I will always be honest with him about stuff like that because he allows me to freely express my emotions without judgement and feeling irrationally hurt. I accord him the same respect. maybe if we didn't have that kind of relationship, it would be more likely that one of us would be tempted to pursue an attraction to someone else behind the others back by having either an emotional or physical affair. I know that I love him dearly and am still finding new depths to our relationship and new strengths to my love for him, but I also know that if I hadn't met him I would have been able to love someone else. The potential for me to share deep love and respect in a relationship would be there with any number of people if I was not with him, I believe the same goes for him. Would it be the same, would I love them as much? Who knows? I will never know as long as I share my life with him.

But having read some of your responses, I can totally get what you are saying about the damage and hurt caused by ongoing emotional involvement with someone outside of the relationship. If I found out my partner was involved like that I would be deeply hurt and confused. But there would be so much more to the situation that I would have to find out before I made up my mind whether to forgive or not. Sex with someone else would just be more immediately hurtful and while I could possibly forgive both, I doubt I could ever forget either kind of affair and our relationship would be forever changed as a result.

Rosie - posted on 11/20/2010

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i think an emotional affair would be worse, although honestly i think a sexual one would piss me off more at first. i don't know, i hope i never have to experience either.

[deleted account]

A man who is emotionally involved with another person is much more damaging that a one night stand. Sorry, but I'm jumping in without reading the other comments....be back later....

C. - posted on 11/20/2010

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You know what.. I think I am going to change my answer from both being about the same to emotional being just a LITTLE bit worse. B/c many of you have brought up some points about the emotional affair that I didn't even bother thinking about.

I would be hurt a little worse if it was an emotional affair b/c your spouse is supposed share intimate details about everything to you and not some outsider. Once they have the mind, they can easily get to the heart and everything else. Once your husband or the other woman starts feeling sorry for the other (or vice versa, if it was the wife and other man instead) then that's where things can take a terrible turn. Once you're in the heart, it's hard to turn back. Sex doesn't have to be bond between two people. Some just like to run around between different sheets just b/c they're 'not getting enough' at home or b/c maybe they're addicted to sex itself and it doesn't always have to be an actual bond between two people.. If that makes sense. Both are wrong and I wouldn't be able to forgive my husband or trust him again if either one happened (and if I did either or both, it would at least be a very long time before forgiveness set in and trust was restored).

Nikkole - posted on 11/19/2010

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Yea i agree with Sara i could forgive a one night stand (but i wouldn't forget) but if my husband was emotionally involved it wouldn't work! I think both are very wrong and i hope i never go through anything like this!

Corinne - posted on 11/19/2010

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I think they're just as bad. A very close friend of mine has just discovered that her partner of 17yrs has had an emotional affair with someone, and it has almost completely destroyed her. Her confidence is completely shattered, all trust in him is gone, she doesn't believe in herself any more..... Just thinking about the state she is in right now, I feel like breaking down his door and breaking his bloody neck! No, if my man had either type of affair, it would be very difficult for me to forgive.

Sara - posted on 11/19/2010

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See, to me the difference is I think I could try and forgive a one night stand, but anything beyond that -- especially something that involved emotions -- no way. Both are wrong, sure. But in my mind it's just not black and white -- there are many subtle levels.

Jennifer - posted on 11/19/2010

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Both are just as bad..whether it is emotionally or sexually there is still the intention of cheating. I wouldn't forgive either. If my partner has either intention than there is obviously something missing in our relationship. As the saying goes "once a wondering eye always a wondering eye". Best to move on to someone who can be faithful..

Sara - posted on 11/19/2010

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I think an emotional affair would be worse. It's one thing to have sex with someone, but that can mean close to nothing to some people, just a physical act. But an emotional affair, that's intimacy and would hurt me far worse.

Jackie - posted on 11/19/2010

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Emotional affair is worse in my eyes although both are really bad and I don't think I could get over either of them. I tend to hold a grudge for dear life.

Kayle - posted on 11/19/2010

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See I think that emotional would be worse. A sexual affair the husband is following his dick, and in a emotional affair he's following his heart. I would beable to forgive a one night stand full of lust but never a year affair full of love.

Bonnie - posted on 11/19/2010

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Sex isn't just sex to me. My husband should not be going to another woman for sex when he has got me right in front of him. I am sure a lot of you will tend to agree.

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 11/18/2010

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For me its (Emotional) all the way…because sex may be great and mind blowing, but having someone’s heart is more important…it hurts either way, and it would still be hard to forgive, but if I knew some women had his heart and “Third leg” it would hurt so much more….because that would lead to him wanting to really be with her, and not just for the moment….

C. - posted on 11/18/2010

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Honestly, they are both the same to me. You're still disconnecting yourself from a relationship whether it's an emotional or physical affair and you're sharing things that should only be shared with your spouse. For me, one is not worse than the other b/c there's still that distance and emotional affairs hurt just as bad as physical affairs. And I imagine I'd react to each the same way- I'd fly off the handle.

Sal - posted on 11/18/2010

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emotional is worse i feel, i have no personal experience, but sex is just sex, it is the emotional stuff that i would feel most betrayed by.....even with out sex i wouldn't want my hubby having an emotional affair (not that i want him having a sexual one either)

Becky - posted on 11/18/2010

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Falling in love with someone you are not married to is wrong, whether you are having sex with them or not. If my husband had a one night stand, I might be able to forgive that. But letting things get to the point where he was in love with another woman, no, I think our marriage would be over. Even if he agreed to cut all contact with her, I'd never trust his feelings for me again.

Bonnie - posted on 11/18/2010

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Hmmm it is tough, but I feel a sexual affair is worse. An emotional affiar is just as bad because this means he feels he has to/can confide in this other woman. This would mean he trusts this other woman which could lead to other emotions.

Joanna - posted on 11/18/2010

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I would be okay with my husband having sex with another woman, but the thought of him developing feelings for someone else is scary, that's one I couldn't forgive.

Jodi - posted on 11/18/2010

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I think an emotional affair takes more away from a family than a sexual one. I actually think both are BAD, but if I had to choose, I would rather it be a purely physical affair than an emotional one.

[deleted account]

I think they're both equally wrong. The only thing worse would be if it were an emotional AND a sexual affair. I don't know how I would go about handling it. I'm pretty sure there would be a lot of anger involved and some yelling.

Konda - posted on 11/18/2010

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I think they are both bad and an emotional one often lead to a sexual one. It did in my husband's case(yes, still my husband). I was going though a rough time getting back on my psych meds after the birth of my child and my husband turned to my brother's wife for comfort and to talk to someone. I knew there was more, but people told me they were just both having a rough time and needed a friend. Yeah well, it turned into a sexual affair, my husband finally confessed, which ticked my SIL off since she wanted to take it to the grave. I, ticked off, plastered it on FB.

I was hurt that he turned to her to begin with, he married me for better or worse, SICKNESS and health. He should have talked to me or a counselor, and none of this would have happened. It has ruined my family. My mother is torn and having to kiss ass to see my nieces and nephew, and she love me and my brother both. Any type of affair is bad and has bad consequences.

Charlie - posted on 11/18/2010

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Sex without emotion is no way near as bad as sex with emotion although all of it is bad , emotional affair only is still pretty bad , i think it's worse than a random one night stand but if it became sexual that is the ultimate betrayal .

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