Why do we feel emotionally betrayed if our partner sleeps with another person?

There are two kinds of cheating: physical and emotional. I will address both because in my opinion neither is better nor worse than the other.

Sexual (Physical) Cheating

Sex is a biological function. While for the majority of people it is most satisfying when emotions like love and affection are involved, emotions are not necessary at all for sex to happen, or for sex to be physically pleasurable. Anyone who’s enjoyed casual sex or had a one-night stand can agree with this.

Couples, whether they’re dating or in a long-term committed relationship, pretty much always involve their emotions in the bedroom. These romantic relationships thrive not just on sexual intimacy, but also on the core needs of honesty, trust and respect between partners. Two partners can have an amazing sex life, but if they don’t trust and respect each other, they will encounter a lot of suffering and pain in their relationship.

Cheating is not about the physical act of sex. Cheating is about lies, deceit, and betrayal. A cheater is not simply defined as someone who is intimate with a person who is not his/her primary partner. A cheater is someone who establishes a boundary of sexual/emotional monogamy with one partner,  then gets intimate with a different person anyway, and lies about it. A cheater betrays their partner, deceives them, and lies about what they’ve done.

There’s a plethora of non-monogamous couples who walk this Earth, and successfully maintain their romantic relationships while having sex with other people who aren’t their primary partner. I’m one of those people. My husband and I are non-monogamous and we completely trust each other. Early in our relationship, we established boundaries for what we’re comfortable with, in terms of extracurricular sex. If and when it’s ever necessary, we revisit those established boundaries and make sure everything is still good. We have a constant, open dialogue about our sexual desires/needs and everything is laid out with 100% honesty.

Emotional (Mental) Cheating

You can also call this emotional transference. Emotional cheating is when one partner begins to bond emotionally with a third party in a way that feels, to the other partner, like an act of betrayal. This just just as much cheating as sexual infidelity is cheating – but it’s much less discussed, because everyone seems to have this idea of cheating being a solely physical act of betrayal.

Emotional cheating could be a girlfriend repeatedly revealing her personal issues to a guy who’s not her boyfriend, while she discusses her personal issues with her actual boyfriend less and less. It could be a husband spending more quality time with a co-worker than he spends with his own wife.

Emotional cheating is more about the way it makes the cheated on partner feel betrayed, than the method of betrayal itself. Sometimes one partner cheats on the other emotionally, without even realizing they’re doing it — and that stems from a breakdown of communication and/or trust in the relationship. Anyone who has experienced the effect of emotional cheating, anyone who’s felt betrayed because their partner was “transferring” their feelings of affection or closeness to another, will tell you that it’s just as hurtful as sexual cheating.

Emotional cheating comes from the same place as sexual cheating: there is a basic lack of trust and respect for each other between partners. One party feels it can’t be honest with the other, or maybe the feeling is mutual. The method of cheating is different; the result is the same.

We don’t feel emotionally betrayed simply because our partner is physically intimate with another person. We feel emotionally betrayed because our partner does something that we feel communicates their lack of respect for and trust in our relationship.Boundaries are different for every couple. The concept of betrayal can run the gamut from a years-long affair, to a girl’s boyfriend stealing a glance at another girl’s ass. On a very basic level, cheating is betrayal in any form, and betrayal is a symptom of a relationship that lacks trust and honesty. Many couples will disagree on what constitutes betrayal – and this itself is problematic, because if you don’t understand your own boundaries in a relationship, you can pretty much guarantee you’re going to hurt your partner, or get hurt, whether you intend to or not.

I will end on this note:
It is literally impossible to overstate the importance of honesty, trust, and respect in a partnership.

Credit: Siri

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Why do we feel emotionally betrayed if our partner sleeps with another person?
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