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?