In detail

Myth or reality: emotional infidelity

Myth or reality: emotional infidelity

Over time, much has been said and written about the subject of infidelity: its implications, consequences and the emotional damage it causes in people who have been subject to deception. Nevertheless, Does it affect an emotional infidelity in the same way as a sexual one? Do men and women live the same way?


  • 1 Types of infidelity
  • 2 Causes of infidelity
  • 3 Differences between men and women
  • 4 Changing patterns

Types of infidelity

We will begin by defining what infidelity is; according to the Royal Spanish Academy the word infidelity comes from Latin infidelÄ­tas, what does it mean lack of fidelity. Therefore it implies the lack of loyalty towards any moral commitment in a love or erotic relationship. That is to say, to be unfaithful is to consciously break a pre-established affective or sexual agreement for the type of relationship chosen, which is generally monogamous.

As for the types of infidelity it is understood as sexual infidelity to the relationship that is based solely on attraction and sexual intercourse, while the emotional infidelity, is characterized by being based on a love relationship, without there being a sexual contact.

Causes of infidelity

The causes of infidelity are as varied as the people who inhabit the planet earth and may be related to individual erotic personality and history; dissatisfaction, boredom, curiosity, search for novelty, narcissism, revenge, disenchantment, loneliness, need for love, poor communication, crisis in the couple, among others. However, although many couples usually consider it as the cause of a crisis in the couple, in reality when it happens, it is because the couple had already been left behind long before.

Differences between men and women

The evolutionary theories developed by David Buss and his collaborators, argue that men are more concerned than women facing possible sexual infidelity while women feel more affected by the possibility of being emotionally deceived by their partners. To support these statements, evolutionary psychologists relied on the difference between men and women, the amount of energy to be invested and the possibility of transmitting genes during reproduction.

While men produce a high amount of sperm, women have only one chance to transmit their genes, and in terms of energy investment, which takes a man a night of sex, for a woman it represents 9 months of investment. For this reason, men would be more likely to seek the greatest number of sexual encounters which will allow them to transmit their genes, while women would look for a small number of potential partners, privileging quality over quantity.

On the other hand, the woman would always have the certainty that the son is his while the men would not have that de facto certainty, so they would be forced to monitor their partner and drive away potential competitors to be sure that the Breeding is yours, hence I was so afraid of sexual infidelity. In the case of women, the opposite would happen, since they would seek for the man to commit to resources for the survival of the children, and the existence of another competitor with children could take away possibilities for their offspring, so they developed an alarm before emotional infidelity, since only a man in love would stay long enough to provide resources for a child.

Changing patterns

However, recent studies do not coincide with evolutionary theories, since each time there are more women who would react worse to sexual infidelity and men who would react worse to emotional infidelity, giving greater weight to cultural influence, than to evolutionary.

A study conducted in 2009 in Spain where 372 heterosexual people voluntarily participated: 250 women and 122 men with an average age of 22.4 years. They found that both men and women were more likely to feel more threatened by possible emotional infidelity. In the case of women, this type of infidelity was the one that most affected regardless of the number of years of relationship, attractiveness of the couple or personality, they were more concerned about a possible crush, than a sexual encounter.

On the other hand, in the case of men it was found that both infidelities worried them indistinctly throughout the relationship. However, if they perceived their relationship as something long term or were in the initial part of the relationship, they perceived emotional infidelity as more threatening, so that sexual infidelity was displaced.

All these data show us that both women and men are more affected by an emotional infidelity, denying the idea that men were more concerned with sexual infidelity.

Today, both men and women are equally affected by an emotional infidelity of their partner, men as well as women fear that their partner falls in love with someone, about the infidelity that is only of the sexual type.


Ortiz, J. M., García Leiva, P., & Jacinto, L. (2009). Jealousy and emotions: Factors of the relationship in the reaction to infidelity. (Spanish). Athenea Digital (Journal of Thought and Social Research), 39-55.