Emotional cheating is another form and level of infidelity that has its own character and risks for people over 50. Generally, the term is referring to a person who is married or in a committed intimate relationship having an affair with someone else but without actual sex.

Those involved are usually quick to point out that it is not infidelity or an affair or adultery because there is no actual sex. Those involved are seeking something, usually comfort or validation, but sometimes they simply an experience of sexuality that they can't, or believe they can't, get in their primary relationship.

Having used the term "actual sex" twice in a row, you are quite right to be asking . . . what is this actual sex? That's not so clear. In fact, it's not clear at all.

It's been fairly recent that we had a president of the United States who was asked under oath if he had sex with a particular woman respond by asking the questioner to define sex and upon hearing the definition saying that he did not. That may have been the way to answer in court, but the logic doesn't cut it in relationship terms. When you feel emotionally hungry and you seek to be fed outside your relationship, sooner or later the chances of what you find getting sexual, whether physically or not, is very high.

As you get older, reasons that you might find yourself feeling emotionally neglected, needy, and in need of comforting often simply come along in the flow of things. Some common situations include:

  • physical separation due to work travel or military deployment
  • illness of a partner and caregiving
  • death of a close family member and mourning
  • grandchildren
  • differing beliefs or desires relating to sex.

Not having sex, however you define that, does not keep an emotionally intimate, sexually tinged relationship with someone other than your partner from being infidelity. Anyway, it has been estimated that as many as half of emotional affairs go on to include sex. Whether it goes on to sex, when it comes time to try to pick up the pieces from an affair it is not uncommon to hear the partner say that the sexual component of the affair was not nearly as hurtful to them as the realization that their partner really cared about and got something from the other party.

Our minds can get really slimy when it comes to providing justifications, explanations, and equivocations for what you really know is bad, damaging behavior. When it comes to telling yourself why emotional cheating is really OK,

  • stop for a moment,
  • say what you're thinking out loud,
  • listen to yourself, and
  • see if you'd really think it makes sense.

Of course this assumes you are capable of telling right from wrong in the heat of the moment, which apparently people who have repeated affairs aren't, but you probably wouldn't be reading this if that were the case.

The answer lies in turning back into your self and your relationship when these kinds of stresses and desires arise. It's not necessarily easy, but it is the path of personal and reltionship growth. And, it is hard things that bring the challenges that make us stronger.

Return from Emotional Cheating to Infidelity

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