Hope for Relationships

The whole-person approach to healing

Are You Emotionally Cheating?

The foundation of all healthy relationships is emotional integrity—both in person and online. What begins as an innocent online friendship can quickly evolve into a devastating act of infidelity. With easy, instant access to people online, how can we protect our relationships against emotional adultery? Read More

why is sex rarely the reason?

This article is not the first time I've heard a relationship expert say that sex is rarely the primary reason for physical affair. I find it hard to understand from my own viewpoint -- perhaps I'm not the norm. With desire discrepancy being one of the most common complaints in sex therapy, with causes including ED, menopause, childbirth, hormones, health, etc., it seems that sex is the problem. Of course, other disagreements and emotional issues can arise from this discrepancy quite easily.

If I have a good emotional and close friendship with my wife, but she has shut me off sexually (perhaps for valid reasons of health, sex abuse issues she couldn't conquer, whatever), then I would be tempted to "cheat" if I could not resolve the problem with my wife. To suggest that I would not be tempted to cheat in this situation is absurd for most men -- I doubt most men would say, oh, I wouldn't cheat just for sex so I'll just be celibate. I don't think so!

If I have a good sexual relationship with my wife, I would not be much tempted have sex with other women, even if I had them as close friends.


Dead on target comment.

If you're not getting it at

If you're not getting it at home, I wouldn't even call it "cheating". With what divorces cost these days, who can afford all this stuff about openness, talking it over, leave the relationship, etc? Do what you need to do to be happy. I'm sure you'll be in a better position to make your partner happier too. Or at least deal with them in a more positive manner.

It's a matter of perspective.

Man's perspective: let's have great sex while we work on the emotional aspect of our relationship, and deal with outside pressures like work and finances.

Woman's perspective: let's fix the emotional aspect of our marriage so I can *truly want* to have great sex again.

Women use emotion to get to a sexual place.
Men use sex to get to an emotional place.

Woman: We're not as close anymore - you're distant, detached.
Man: Okay, so let's have sex tonite!
Woman: You don't get it.
Man: Oh, okay I'm gonna go watch TV.

What he is THINKING is his head is "Yeah, I don't get how not having sex is going to make us feel less apart..." but the man is probably fearing being lambasted for being 'emotionally insensitive', simply for offering his feelings from a male perspective.

I do think women have a tendency to believe they hold all of the emotion cards in the relationship as they are the "emotional creatures", and then dismiss the emotions of the man. (We make this worse by not communicating our emotions very well verbally, where this is second nature for women). The man's desire for sex during difficult times is not just because he's a cold-hearted horny beast who just wants sex - for us men, we use sex as the main way we bond with our wives. The women, they bond emotionally and the sex is a celebration of that bonding. When we want sex in difficult times she's thinking "Now? How could you?"

If it's a "frequency discrepancy" maybe they can come to a consensus. But if one or both partners has physical or mental health issues that are a barrier to sex - look out. Sex won't fix that. Sex in that case is the symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.

So, my advice is to not think of it as "more sex is the cure for not enough sex" but instead, "What is causing one or both partners to pull away? Why is she less interested in sex? Why is he turning to porn instead of trying to work with her on it? Did he try but get stonewalled, and turn to porn out of frustration? Did he try but then one-day a group lunch at work ran late and two people were left, alone, talking with each-other? Did she ask him to lose weight or get help with his ED or see a doctor about his testosterone levels or blood pressure, but he dragged his feet because of fear or complacency?

For us men, "not enough sex" is fixed simply with "more sex".

I think we need to think about things from a more female perspective if we want improvements in our relationships. That said, women need to understand that we're not just in it for the physical aspect.

Women want their emotional state to be ripe for sex.
Men use sex as a way of expressing their love and emotions.

If she's not into sex because things are not right, he can't express his love for her using sex. You get into a catch-22 scenario.

He *has* to communicate with her and figure out what the barriers to intimacy are. BOTH people need to work on it together and DO what they say they will do. If either partner has NO INTENTION of doing their part to fix the problem, it won't get fixed. In fact, it could be possible that many people (women especially) *allow* the intimacy to dry up so that the relationship can be terminated. It's much easier to leave someone you want to leave when all love is gone. So, to do that, you just stop loving.

Truthfully, I think that is what happened to me. She didn't want to be with me anymore and left the building emotionally 2 years before she called it quits. We both had our issues we brought to the table, but she decided she wanted out before I even had a clue that it was that bad.

One big red flag for me was when she was "done with" marriage counselling. She also started doing more and more things without me. I even started showing up in fewer and fewer photographs. I was being slowly eased out of my own marriage and I watched it happen. Her being the mother of my kids is a big deal - right now I can't imaging trying to love anyone else as hard as I tried to love her and be a good husband to her.

Maybe that's where I need to be right now.

If I ever go into another relationship and we're having the "next level" talk (moving in, etc.) I will openly discuss the intimacy part of the relationship:

Both partners need to put effort into staying emotionally connected and intimate even in difficult times. ESPECIALLY in difficult times. Pulling away and shutting down is not acceptable. A sexless union is not acceptable. Both partners need to be willing to be available emotionally and sexually for themselves and the other person.

Perhaps if people know in advance that choosing to neglect intimacy by either partner in any form is a deal-breaker, both people will not take it too lightly. If one person decides to "shut down", well, they knew going in it was a deal-breaker for the other person.

I may be a bit toxic towards women right now (I got separated three months ago) but I do believe that it's not a man problem or a woman problem. One or both partners stop keeping up their end of the bargain. For example, on touchy subject is weight. Usually the person who gained the weight cites "for better or for worse" vows. Gaining weight is easy, losing it is hard. Men think "we're visual - only SHE has to keep up her appearance." Wrong. Men letting themselves go is just as prevalent and just as bad as when women do it. Women get turned off by a big gut and flab just like men do. This will make a lot of overweight people feel uncomfortable. They might even call it "fat shaming". Well, I didn't write the rules of attraction. When I was carrying too much weight women would not give me a second look. Now that I am a normal weight, I get MUCH more attention from the opposite sex. Women are human too, and physical attraction plays a role with them more than we think it does.

...And if a man does start

...And if a man does start revealing his emotions, he has to do it the right way, or else he will come across as a "nice guy," and we all know what the devastating results of coming across as a nice guy will be....

You make some very good

You make some very good points, however, I would be wary of making generalizations. You seem to have extremely gender biased ideas of how men and women think and act, and what they want.
Your claim that women "use emotion to get to a sexual place" and are "emotional creatures" is a generalization that disregards females who are not sensitive or driven by emotions.
Your claim that men seem "distant, detached", "emotionally insensitive", and have an ongoing struggle to communicate their emotions is another generalization that assumes men are driven by logic, and ignores the males who are open with their emotions and make decisions based on their what their feeling.
It seems you are making these generalizations based on societies traditional expectations on women to be sensitive to appear feminine and on men to be cold/rationale to fit the portrait of masculinity.
Not all women conform to socially constructed gender ideals, just as not all men prefer to play football and go hunting over writing poetry and doing yoga.

- Thoughts from an INTJ female


Are you emotionally cheating?

Comment by Insidious_Sid has a very good perspective. If I may add a little to it from a woman's point of view

Woman's perspective:

Woman who have to take care of the family now a days and because of our economy and financial woes, both parents are working and the stress of life is getting to most families. Most women still need to do the duties at home, like laundry, make doctors appointments, cooking, cleaning, driving the kids around to soccer and making sure her house is in order etc. and the list goes on and on. It is not a romantic role and very tiring for her. That is why some women just need to feel loved unconditionally and appreciated by her husband. Physical affection is important if you meet the other needs.

I think that when a woman in a relationship where there is a void, whether it be lack of empathy, communication, security, respect, being appreciated, romance, intimate relations and lack of being understood by her husband would cause her to gravitate to another man. If the husband cannot provide these emotions, it may cause anger, depression, substance abuse and eventually cause her to stray or leave. I think most women would need most of those emotions met to feel intimate with her husband.

I think that some women may have a tendency to latch on to another man who can provide all those emotions.(Especially be careful if the other man can make her laugh and show her empathy) Therefore, emotional attachments will grow towards the man who is giving her most of the emotions listed above, even though it is not sexual. Yes, it can lead to a physical affair. Maybe most woman would think that it is safe if it is only by phone, texting, emails and cyber technology.(Even stating "we are just friends") To them that might not mean that they are having a relationship but, it is fulfilling the void that they are not receiving. I am sure there are different levels of emotional attachments and this article is trying to address the signs of emotional cheating. Although, I know some woman who have "friends" who are not their husband and no emotional ties. It is when you are not guarding your heart and let your heart attach to the other person is when you have basically checked out of your current relationship. That is when the emotional attachment becomes difficult to separate.

Couples should try to get some type of counseling first, some churches offer free marriage counseling if you can't afford it. They might have free seminars for marriage counseling on line. (Jimmy Evans has a program on marriage) At least try before it is too late. Sometimes, friends are biased and cannot give truthful advise so it is good to seek wise counsel. At least you gave it a try! Also, a little understanding goes a long way. (for instance just ask, "how are you doing and if there is anything I can do for you?" If you say it sincerely and with a hug, even if you feel rejected, keep trying but, with sincerity that is the key and don't get mad if she doesn't respond it may take several times, she should open up, if you really mean it from the heart.)

"It is when you are not

"It is when you are not guarding your heart and let your heart attach to the other person is when you have basically checked out of your current relationship. That is when the emotional attachment becomes difficult to separate."

That's a good point.

The other thing I would say that I've noticed is a danger zone is if someone starts complaining about things their significant other is doing or how they are acting/problems to a friend of the opposite sex, even online. That should really be saved for a therapist. Once you start bitching about your significant other all over the place you just become untrustworthy and you're betraying your significant other. You should be able to vent, but maybe to one EXTREMELY GOOD friend. Not to just anyone, and not to several people. And really, preferably to a therapist, because what if your significant other then has to be around the person you were bitching about them to? Even if you think that will never happen, you've just forged a secret bond with someone else that your significant other can't know about. If it's with someone of the opposite sex, there is a problem with that, since it's something you have to hide.

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Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., founded The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in Edmonds, Washington.


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