Mental Infidelity – Does it Really Exist???

Photo: DNA Plus
Photo: DNA Plus

When one thinks about infidelity, often the first thought is something sexual, occurring between two people with one or both being in a relationship with someone else.  There are scars that may come from this – feelings of betrayal, distrust, hurt, and a plethora more depending on the person.  The result of these affairs can split relationships, marriages, families, and even cause a ripple in the bonds with friends, co-workers, and others who once held a high esteem for the individual involved.

Emotional infidelity isn’t far behind.  While there may not be physical contact, there is a deeper bond created by sharing thoughts and feelings with another instead of sharing with the spouse or mate.  When the cat’s out of the bag, there may be similar feelings of betrayal, hurt, and distrust.  Some may try to work through those things to better the relationship with their mate/spouse.  Others may see it as the writing on the wall, now knowing what the mate/spouse is capable of and decide to part ways – not wishing to experience further damage.

So what about mental infidelity?  What is it?  What does it involve?  Are we all guilty of it?

According to Dr. Bill Strom at Power to Change, mental infidelity is the practice of fantasizing about other partners.

Photo: Getty Image
Photo: Getty Image

Reading that definition leads to the assumption that just merely seeing someone and having a thought about how attractive they are is mental infidelity.  On the contrary, Dr. Strom affirms that the line is crossed when the individual in a relationship daydreams about what life would be like with the other person.  It could even be the belief formed that life, sex, time and so on would be better with this person as opposed to the mate/spouse.

When you think about it, mental infidelity could be the precursor to emotional infidelity and that leading on to physical infidelity.  It’s a chain of thoughts that can yield desired feelings leading to actions and behaviors that may feel good, but could have dire consequences.

Reminds me of the tenets of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that I learned in my counseling classes eons ago. The principle of CBT is that what you think drives the way you feel and we act accordingly.  Please take that information as just that.  I’m not a practicing counselor or therapist nor is this post meant to be therapeutic.

So why the post, then?  Recently, I’ve had discussions with friends about relationships, and one of the topics was infidelity – emotional and physical (or some call it sexual).  When I asked whether they believed in mental infidelity, there were crickets.  They had not heard about it or knew what it was.  But I see that this is a question that others have as well.    It drew my curiosity at how common this may be in action, not theory, and how many people would be willing to admit it.

I will be the first, at least here.  In my first marriage, things weren’t the greatest.  There were financial difficulties,  an interfering family member, and finding out that the goals we discussed before marriage as joint ventures were now lone endeavors.  Trying to talk and work through these issues was like talking in the wind.  I was frustrated.

I remember a man who I had known from years before.  I never dated him, slept with him, or anything other than a cordial greeting.  But the way he carried himself and treated other people made me admire him.  He was motivated and appeared to be balanced.  I wondered at times what life would have been like if he and I were together.  My imagination went wild thinking about how much we’d accomplish – build a house, have kids, travel the world, etc.  But the truth was that I was already in a relationship – no matter how unhappy or unfulfilled.  Besides I was raised that when one marries, it is ’til death. I would learn later that infidelity was an out as well (based on my understanding of Matthew 5:31-32).

All in all, everything came to a head and we divorced.  I did not seek the guy I had fantasized about.  Not really sure why I didn’t.

When I think about that time and what has been described above as mental infidelity, I am afraid to say that I was guilty.  And I’m pretty positive that my thoughts further drove my dissatisfaction with my former marriage.  All a hard pill to swallow, but one that I will take with wisdom.

Photo: Worship House Media
Photo: Worship House Media

So how can we avoid the whole infidelity thing?  Dr. Strom offers a point of sage advice:

Commitment is our intent to stay in relationship with our wives [or husbands]; faithfulness is the practice of doing so.

Makes sense.  What’s the point of holding on knowing that you won’t be faithful?  In like manner, why be faithful and then be lackadaisical in the commitment to the relationship?  Never understood why some are monogamously in relationships without putting forth effort.  Relationships, especially marriages, are already hard work when there is an effort. Why make relationships an unpleasurable struggle by being unfaithful or not committed?

I think I’ve said enough. 🙂  So, what are your thoughts about mental infidelity?  Is it a deal-breaker?


13 thoughts on “Mental Infidelity – Does it Really Exist???

  1. I would say that (unless you’ve had your libido surgically removed, a little counter-productive when it comes to your own relationship) then it’s impossible to not find people attractive.
    Is seeing someone you find attractive and having a moment’s pleasure looking at them classed as “infidelity”? If the answer is yes, then Hollywood needs to find a whole load of ugly actors, otherwise every blockbuster could be sited in divorce settlements.

    Honestly, people find people attractive, that’s all. We don’t want to be unfaithful and jump into bed with everyone who meets our personal aesthetic ideal, it’s just fatuous nonsense.
    Making up bullshit psycho-babble to keep relationship councillors in work is just that, bullshit.
    Do you really think your partner would hold it against you if you said something like “He/she is pretty.” because they thought you wanted to sleep with a random stranger in the street?
    If so, get a blindfold, or your relationship is doomed.

    1. I don’t think it’s about just finding someone attractive. I believe it goes deeper to the point where the person fantasizes about a life with the object of their attraction. I can see how someone can get to where they start comparing their mate to the other person finding flaws that very well may or may not exist.

      1. I was under the impression that you are describing the bullshit they call “emotional infidelity”, as opposed to the purely instinctive reaction that is “mental infidelity”, which, I should once again point out, is utter nonsense.

        Oh, and did I mention the natural tendency of humans to be polygamous, and therefore our already impressive ability to stay even physically faithful?

      2. Very true especially in today’s society. It could be difficult to remain faithful regardless of what type of infidelity. But what I think is key is what was quoted about commitment and faithfulness. It’s a choice we and our mates must make to try to keep the relationship sound and lessen the likeihood of stepping out.

      3. I take your point, of course.
        But I think the natural progression here is that we all walk around with blinkers on, just in case our treacherous subconscious gets us in trouble by making us glance at a nice ass or a pair of boobs, (as evolution designed us to) not as a matter of habit but because that’s how we work.

      4. True, it would be out of human nature to not find others attractive, but what we do with that is what could be a problem when it comes to relationships. Thanks for the dialog. Always enjoy hearing the views of others.

  2. I have to come to realize as you have perhaps that yes, while it may not be a “deal-breaker” it does precipitate a lot of things in your life that may already be going downhill. For me actually physical infidelity is not as bad as an emotional one because the latter is far deeper. I would perhaps forgive a “one-night stand” as a lapse of judgement but an emotional relationship is a sign of a far deeper disconnect in an existing relationship and therefore just makes sense to either let go completely or work on. But its a non-negotiable and not something that can be overlooked and moved on. Its far worse and could have worse repurcussions in my opinion

    1. Hi ritz! Thanks for sharing. I agree with you that emotional infidelity can be deeper because feelings are involved. Where I’m kinda on the fence is whether mental infidelity could be worse. Since we cannot read the minds of others, we have no way of knowing what they think until they say or do something. But what about when they do? Take for example a spouse who starts saying stuff like “why can’t you be more like so-n-so”. There had to be thoughts and some sort of desires beforehand to even mention it.

      Either way, whether emotional or mental, infidelity can be disheartening if our mates are thinking/lusting about someone else, desiring a life with that person or sharing their innermost feelings with them. The question is whether to move on when revealed or work it out. For me, I’m willing to work on it if my mate’s efforts in doing so are geniune and sincere. But as far as for my trust and respect for them, it will have to be rebuilt from scratch.

  3. What about if there are things about your spouse that you don’t like and you would be willing to deal with anybody who does not have that characteristic? A lot of guys would prefer any woman who nagged less than their wife. ( seriously ) . I had this problem and started talking to someone else. My live-in girlfriend claims that’s an emotional affair. I was just fed up of her talking. I would have spoken to a pile of socks if it didn’t nag. This is not driven by attraction to another person as much as being worn down over time and wanting some peace. What are you guys opinion on this?

    1. I have to agree with the girlfriend. This is still an affair. When you give to someone else what should be given to the one you’re committed to, it is an affair.

      In reading your comment a couple of questions come to mind. Did you ever have a discussion with your mate about the way she communicated? In the things that she nagged about, was there any truth to her complaints? I ask because I’ve found that a lot of times the breakdown of a relationship is communication and compromise. With the latter, I don’t mean tolerating things that go against your beliefs or anything like that. I mean being able to be selfless in some situations.

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