Shape – The 7 Different Types of Infidelity

“Cheating isn’t just about having a physical affair—there are all kinds of emotional cheating that can cause major road bumps in your relationship”

We all know what physical cheating is, or at least we think we do, but often we are at risk before we are even aware. Those less obvious signs of cheating are something that can be harder to recognize, and can sneak up on us. I was pleased to help out on this great piece by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal for on the different types of infidelity, especially the not-so-obvious ones. To read the full article, click here.


Of course, that doesn’t make physical infidelity any better (or worse) than emotional infidelity. But it does raise the question of what, exactly, constitutes as cheating. One definition: “Secrecy is a good litmus test—if you wouldn’t tell your partner about the interaction, no matter how ‘innocent’ you think it is, you’re having an affair,” says clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark. Other ways you could be cheating? Here are seven.


The Internet opens up a world of opportunities for infidelity—with friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. “Playful banter in a public forum can quickly become flirty and intimate,” Clark says. “It’s an odd mix of intimacy and disconnect.” It’s easy to become overly-intimate with someone online because of the Internet barrier between you. But this doesn’t make it okay, Clark says—anonymous online flirting is still an emotional investment.


There’s nothing wrong with having opposite-sex friends, or even opposite-sex best friends. And it’s only natural to share intimate details about your life with your best bud. But this is where Clark’s secrecy litmus test comes in—if you can’t (or won’t) tell your guy about the conversations you have with your guy friends, then something’s fishy. (Here’s How to Be Friendly (Not Flirty!) with Male Friends.)


“Novelty is a big player in attraction, and anonymity offers opportunity,” Clark says. Taking a solo trip can cause you to do things you wouldn’t normally do—like cheat. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex with a stranger. “Maybe you meet some guy on a plane, and he flirts with you, flatters you, gives you something you’re not getting in your primary relationship,” Clark says. “If you engage in a way that helps you fill whatever void you have in your primary relationship, you’re entering emotional infidelity territory.” Of course, sex with a stranger also counts.


Porn and sex toys aren’t people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cheat with them. “Porn addiction is a very real thing,” Clark says. “Using porn regularly can negatively impact your arousal for your partner, which means your sex life will suffer.” Both porn and sex toys, when used as frequent aids for solo sex, can give you unrealistic expectations (e.g. a dildo is not a penis) for sex with your partner.


It’s both ridiculous and impossible to police your dreams and thoughts. But if you’re constantly dreaming or fantasizing about other men, Clark suggests you take that as a warning sign—something’s not going well in your relationship. That doesn’t mean you can never fantasize about Chris Hemsworth’s sexy abs during sex, it just means that you shouldn’t always be thinking about a guy other than your partner.


Looking for more help with understanding your relationship anxiety? Learn more about my book Hack Your Anxiety and access free tools to help you manage the fear and anxiety going around the world today.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD