9 Men Reveal What They Consider 'Emotional Infidelity'

Here's what 9 men say counts as cheating on their partner (and what doesn't).

Last updated on Oct 10, 2023

emotional infidelity Ottmar Elliger, Ba Tik | Canva

My best friend called me yesterday to tell me that her boyfriend, who'd never called, texted, or come home the night before, had turned out to have spent the night in another woman's apartment.

My friend said she felt empty and immediately sent hurtling into the nothingness that surrounds unfaithfulness. It was like she'd been swallowed whole and was looking at her life from the vantage point of someone else. She wasn't here, but she wasn't there, either. She was suspended in the void.


Among the many things I asked her once she stopped talking a mile a minute, was whether or not he'd cheated. 

Call me crazy, but I wanted to give the woman whose place he'd stayed at the benefit of the doubt. This woman — this stranger who had infiltrated my best friend's relationship and stopped her world in the throngs of its spinning — who was she? Why did she do it? What did she actually do?

"She's a friend," my bestie told me, adding, "They've been friends for years. He leans on her."

And in that moment, my heart exploded. I no longer cared whether or not he'd technically cheated because, at that moment, I knew that his emotional abandonment was unforgivable. He sacrificed their connection to "lean" on another woman.


Now I felt empty too, a chill running up and down my spine. When we hung up, I couldn't stop wondering what men think really counts as cheating and why men cheat on good women.



RELATED: 5 Reasons To Stay Away From Someone Who Has Cheated Before

Is it just sex to them? Or do they see it as an emotional disregard of everything that's sacred about calling a partner, well, a partner?


Apparently, I didn't need to look far. A 2014 study by EliteSingles found that men and women view cheating on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Of the 667 singles who participated in the study, 65 percent of the guys ranked sexual unfaithfulness as far worse than emotional, whereas 55 percent of women ranked emotional unfaithfulness as a higher transgression than a strictly sexual affair.

I wanted to know just how high on the scale of things that constitute betrayal the guys I know weigh emotional cheating.

  • Is it better or worse to them than hopping into bed with someone who just happens to have a bigger rack than your girlfriend?
  • Does building a connection, feeding it, letting it grow, and escaping into it with someone who isn't their girlfriend bother them?
  • Where do they place emotions on the sex scale?
  • Does "leaning on" someone who isn't their partner even register on their Richter scale?

RELATED: 5 Excuses People Give For Cheating That Are Total Lies

Here, 9 men reveal what they consider emotional infidelity (as well as why they cheated):

1. "For lots of guys, it's just sex."

Marko, 29 and a former cheater admits that a lot of guys probably don't even give it a second thought — at least, he didn't.


"I was young, and in college, and she was a girl I wasn't really serious about," he admits. "She didn't want to go out to a party and so I went by myself, not even considering what might happen when I was surrounded by dozens of other pretty girls who were ready and eager to take me home ...

I can't speak for men as a whole, but I know that for me, it was just about the sex, which I know doesn't make it any better, but it really truly was. I didn't even know the girl’s name that night or even the next morning. I left before she woke up."

2. "I wasn't happy, sexually, in my relationship."

Austin, 26 says, "My girlfriend was great and we'd been together about nine months. She was a really good girl, did everything perfectly, and was so by the book that it drove me crazy, in a good way and a not-so-good way ...

One night, I was out with a few guy friends and I just slipped. I met this girl at the bar and went home with her a few hours later. It was a mistake, obviously, but it wasn't because I was looking for someone to connect with emotionally. I just wanted someone to take control of me in a way that my girlfriend wasn't able to."


3. "When I was younger, like right out of college, I did a lot of things I definitely regret."

Notes Josh, 33, "And the good (read: bad) thing was that all of my guy friends were doing the same thing. I was back in my hometown, feeling like I was the [expletive], a graduate, someone who 'mattered,' someone who was ‘going places’ and my college girlfriend was back in her hometown too. I had a few guy friends who were suddenly in long-distance relationships too and we didn't really know the rules. I mean, we knew the rules, but we didn't really care to follow them ...

I'm not proud of it,  but I cheated on my girlfriend a lot. Not because I needed to fill that missing connection. I still had that — every night we chatted on the phone for like three hours, moping on and on about how much we missed each other — but because I needed to fill that missing space in my bed. I brought home girls I'd gone to high school with all the time."

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4. "We had everything you needed to keep a relationship alive — except the spark."

Zak, 27, tells a different story. He'd been with his girlfriend, Gabriella for almost three years. They were happy and in love, yet the spark had died out somewhere along the way.


"I think both of us were afraid of letting that go. So, I did the thing you're never supposed to do and cheated on her with a girl I knew. I've regretted it every day since, but it wasn't like I left her for someone else who talked to me differently or snuggled up next to me better on rainy nights. She just made me feel wanted and desired in bed. It was something that I hadn't had in a really, really long time. And, this sucks to say, but it felt so good to be wanted and desired like that."

5. "Guys don't really cheat because they want to talk about their feelings."

Ryan, 29, says that he doesn't know many guys who are so overeager to talk about their feelings that they need to go find solace in the arms of another woman.

"I just don't think it's a very realistic thing that guys are chomping at the bit to get their feelings and emotions heard. Not to play into stereotypes, but I don't think there are many girls out there who dread hearing their boyfriends talk about their feelings. If anything, they want them to talk more. I don't think guys are cheating because of some emotional hankering. I just think they are hungrier than women for sex."

6. "My best friend cheated on the World's Most Unbelievably Cool Girlfriend (and yes, he gave her that title himself)."

Ryan's point was echoed by Keith, 28. "She was awesome and fun and everything you want in a girl. But, of course, he cheated on her one summer when we were taking a guys' trip. He was wasted, the girl was wasted and it just happened. Did he regret it? Of course. But the next day he was back on the phone with his girlfriend talking with her for hours — 'I miss you' this and 'I miss you' that ...


Was it fair to his girlfriend? No, of course not, but it's not like he was trying to find another person to connect with. Just satisfying a basic human urge, I guess."

RELATED: Man Explains The Problem With Dating A ‘Chill Girl’ — 'A Lot Of Guys Say They Wanna Date A Chill Girl, It’s Kinda Dumb’

7. "It's all or nothing for women."

When I asked a few guys I know why they think women put so much weight on the emotional aspect of cheating, they all answered with a resounding "women want all or nothing" response. It's not that they don't think women are capable of sexy-only steam sessions, but that women aren't looking for just that facet of a relationship.


"Girls see relationships as all-or-nothing partnerships. You can't just go halfway," Jason, 30, says. "When I was with first my wife, I wasn't even looking for a girlfriend. We started hooking up occasionally and I realized that I really liked her company, but I didn't want to rush into anything ...

About three months into our casual dating routine, she dropped the 'We need to have the relationship talk' right on my lap before leaving to go to work for the morning. I was terrified but amazed by how seriously she took herself — and how much she valued a partnership that satisfied us both. Needless to say, now we're married."

8. "I hate when girls try to tell me that they don't care if I sleep around or that we're just sleeping together."

Gavin, 25, says that he's met the "Cool Girls" and realized that it's all really just an act. "Yeah, it might work at first, but then it's two months later and she's hurdling drinks at you from the other end of the bar because you told her you're still seeing other girls. It's not wrong to want a commitment and I think that most girls want that. But they just need to find a guy that wants the same thing."

9. "I don't think a girl wants her man to go looking in other places for something she's more than capable of providing."

Says Dean, 31, "They don't want their guy to stay for dinner and not dessert. And in that respect, they'll forever be smarter than 100 percent of the douchebags out there."


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Kylie McConville is a freelance writer, editor-in-chief at Apartment Therapy, and founding editor of Romper. Her bylines have appeared in BDG, Yahoo, Bustle, Elite Daily, Romper, The Bump, and others. Kristine Soloman is a freelance editor and writer. She has appeared in Forbes, Huffington Post, Insider Business, and more.