Why Emotional Cheating Hurts More For Women Than Physical Cheating

A husband loving another woman hurts more than the sex.

Why Emotional Cheating Hurts More For Women Than Physical Cheating weheartit

Cheating is hurtful, period.

Cheating means there is a secret, a double life of some sort. However, if you are asking me, a marriage therapist who has worked with thousands of couples dealing with infidelity, what hurts more, physical or emotional affairs, I have a clear answer.

Emotional cheating hurts more; actually significantly more. Betrayal is hurtful enough. However, when the woman believes that the man has deep feelings for another woman, that hurts even deeper.


Most women thrive on the emotional connection with their partner. That is the foundation of their aliveness; not the sexual connection.

The sexual connection flows directly from the emotional connection. I have seen women respond painfully but overall, not as painful when they hear the words: "I had no feelings for that woman; it was pure sex."

Not good but clearly not as devastating for most women.

For example, I just finished doing a couple intensive with one couple. They were ready to divorce. He had over the last 3 and a half years developed an increasingly flirtatious and deep relationship with his secretary. There was no sexual touching.  


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The wife was devastated. He was talking to his secretary about personal issues, including his marriage. They laughed together and she enjoyed his company. Meanwhile, the marital pair was emotionally disconnected.

I have another couple I am seeing where the man had a one-night stand (two times) from women he met on the Internet. The wife was angry and disgusted.

Both are difficult marital situations. However, whereas the second wife was angry and had lost some respect for her husband, the first wife felt totally emotionally displaced.

A woman’s hormonal system is much more sensitive to how connected she feels to her partner (and others). 


In the first couple, she felt totally disconnected. This can lead to significant depression and anxiety as this feeling of being disconnected and insignificant can lower important hormones such as oxytocin and estrogen.  

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In the second example, the husband was acting out sexually and had some issues of sex and porn addiction. It was easier for the second woman to see the problem as his problem.

On the other hand, the first woman felt betrayed to her emotional core and experienced the discovery of the secretive close relationship he had with his secretary as a personal message that he chose another woman over her.


Of course, even in the first situation, the problem is still his and during the weekend intensive, she got clear that his immaturity and passivity was a major factor in his avoiding his own wife and getting closer to someone else.


In their case, he is working hard to grow up and she is able to see how she can help the marriage as well so I feel good about their marital prognosis. Still, it is a longer healing period for a woman in her shoes than the second woman.

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Todd Creager is an expert in relationships. For over 30 years, he has worked as a relationship therapist, specializing in marriage, sex and couples counseling.