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Types of Cheating in a Relationship

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

If you thought there were only a few ways to cheat in a relationship, you might be in for a shock. There are at least five different types of cheating, with some types having smaller subsets. When you consider the many ways to cheat, you might be surprised that many couples stay together and honor their wedding vows.

Object Affairs

The object affair occurs when you allow something to steal your time and attention away from your marriage, according to psychotherapist Michael J. Formica in the “Psychology Today” article, ‘The Extra-Relational Affair: A Study in Contrast.” The object could be your job, a favorite hobby, your car or shopping for the next pair of shoes. At first, it could seem harmless, but over time your relationship suffers, because you aren’t available.

Sexual Affairs

When many people think about affairs, they think sexual affairs. The sex meets a physical need and might create a chemical high because of the secrecy and forbidden nature of the affair. It might not include any real intimacy and could be as short as a one-night stand, on something lasting a little longer. This type of affair burns hot and fast, according to Formica. It can include revenge affairs, serial cheaters and “it meant nothing to me” sexual missteps, according to Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, in the “Psychology Today” article, “Having An Affair? There Are Six Different Kinds.”

Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs are a recent news topic. They are largely fantasy driven, romanticized and have little or no intimate interaction, although they can progress to a physically intimate relationship. They might occur through text, email or phone. The emotional affair occurs with one marital partner is not emotionally available and the other partner seeks someone to satisfy that need. The betraying partner might claim the relationship is innocent because there was never any sex. However, when you spend more time interacting with the affair partner, share intimate things about your primary relationship and keep the emotional partner a secret, it’s cheating. It can offer a spouse a way to step out of the marriage without actually separating, explains LaBier.

Bonus Relationships

An affair that includes all of the components of a marriage -- social, sexual and interpersonal -- with shared values and interests is a secondary or bonus relationship, according to Formica. It may last for years, and often the affair partners admit that the bonus relationship will never replace the primary relationship. Examination of the bonus relationship can help you identify what’s missing in your primary relationship and help you incorporate it into your marriage, writes Formica, which might ultimately improve your marriage.

Financial Affairs

A financial affair occurs when you hide financial information from your spouse. It can include lying about what you earn, how much you spend or owe or what you spend your money on, and could include an addiction such as gambling or overspending, according to Sarah Cook Ruggera, a marriage and family therapist specializing in financial affairs, in her article, “Are You Cheating?” You might squirrel away money so if the marriage breaks up you have something to start over with, reveals a Forbes article, “Is Your Partner Cheating On You Financially? 31% Admit Money Deception.” The deception is the key factor in the financial affair.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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