Ten Non-Sexual Types of Betrayal 

By Frieda Friedmann

Do you feel betrayed by your partner? Even though you know he or she is not having an affair? There are other ways to betray a lover, as we will explore in today’s blog. Ten types of non-sexual cheating are described by Dr. Gottman and Nan Silver in their book “What Makes Love Last – How to build trust and avoid betrayal” that we will discuss in detail in this fourth blog in the series on Dr. Gottman’s research. They consist of: Conditional Commitment, A Nonsexual Affair, Lying, Forming a Coalition Against the Partner, Absenteeism or Coldness, Disrespect, Unfairness, Selfishness, and Breaking Promises.

If you feel your relationship is impacting your mental health, consider reaching out to our experts at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne. We’re here to help you on your journey towards healing. Remember: You’re not alone.

While reading through this list, remember what Dr. Gottman says: “This list (of non-sexual cheating) isn’t about condemning or giving up on your relationship. It isn’t about who’s right or wrong. As with sexual affairs, these betrayals can be overcome if you recognize the problem and repair the relationship.”

1. Conditional Commitment

Conditional Commitment happens when one of the partner’s attitudes is “I’m here for you until someone better comes along.” Such partners may show availability to others (and therefore lack of commitment to you) through flirting and other signals, but don’t follow through. They are not actually in a relationship and their behaviour and communication lacks genuine commitment. Couples may fall into conditional relationships if forced to marry or cohabitate, hoping it would deepen over time. The lack of commitment usually becomes evident over time. If you are in a relationship, consider openly discussing the purpose and significance of your life together to avoid shallow commitments. Taking intentional time to discuss goals and dreams can prevent you from being in a conditional relationship.

2. A Nonsexual Affair

Platonic friendships can form through non-romantic shared experiences, such as working together or pursuing common interests. These connections, which jokingly can be referred to as “work wives” or “work husbands,” can extend beyond the workplace to various settings. While nonsexual, they involve sharing intimate details. If your partner would be uncomfortable witnessing these interactions or learning about them, the closeness may pose a threat to your relationship. Keeping such friendships a secret can be as damaging as discovering evidence of infidelity.

3. Lying

Engaging in secretive behaviors to avoid conflicts and deceit pose a significant threat to relationships. When lies are exposed, it creates tension and hinders addressing underlying issues. However, lies for the sake of maintaining peace, though harmful, can be overcome with communication and resolution.

A more concerning form of lying is chronic dishonesty, which can be rooted in childhood patterns developed in response to harsh parenting. People who lie habitually, even without threats to the relationship, may struggle to establish an open and honest connection with a partner. Overcoming this pattern may require the assistance of a therapist to foster genuine communication and intimacy.

4. Forming a Coalition Against the Partner

A familiar coalition (but certainly not the only one!) involves a husband siding with his mother against his wife. The wife, facing interference from her mother-in-law, is betrayed when her husband supports his mother’s actions. This dynamic can result from a competition for priority in the man’s life. The husband must communicate that his wife is his priority, refusing to tolerate criticism of her. Additionally, he should avoid sharing intimate details of conflicts and may need to limit interactions with his mother if they interfere with his relationship.

5. Absenteeism or Coldness

Emotional absenteeism doesn’t have to be dramatic; it can manifest in consistent turning away during everyday challenges. Committed relationships necessitate supporting each other through both significant events and daily stressors. Unless both partners prefer emotional distance, a relationship is at risk if a partner lacks empathy in these moments. Because emotional connection and support is vital, many people will feel rejected if affection is absent.

6. Withdrawal of Sexual Interest

If the decline in sexual interest is caused by problems such as negative comments, disrespect, insults, or insecurities relating to aging or physical body changes, the usual advice such as taking time for a weekend getaway might not be enough. Some couples may also have mismatched sexual drives. Others, particularly over the age of forty-five, may even stop having sex. While this may not affect relationship satisfaction for some, addressing the issue honestly and lovingly is crucial to prevent hurt and rejection.  

7. Disrespect

Openly showing contempt, criticizing your partner harshly for small mistakes, undermining your partner’s intelligence during disagreements, dismissing your partner’s suggestion, and implying their plans are less important are forms of disrespect. Regardless of the form, implying inferiority is disrespectful in a relationship. Such behavior, whether name-calling or subtle slights, amounts to emotional abuse. Correcting grammar during arguments is another example of toxic communication.

8. Unfairness

Sometimes, life can be unfair. However, a loving relationship should be a refuge from life’s injustices. Mutual satisfaction declines when one partner takes advantage, as seen in disparities like spending on personal items versus shared interests or unequal housework contributions. Commonly, housework becomes a source of tension when agreed-upon responsibilities are neglected. Unfairness in financial matters, such as bill paying, can strain relationships, with one partner taking on a disproportionate burden. Decisions around parenting and career changes can also be a source of injustice. When an agreed-upon plan, like a return to work after having children, is not followed, it places a financial burden on the other partner, impacting family time which might lead to resentment. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sharing child-raising responsibilities, it’s crucial to communicate and adjust prearranged workloads together.

9. Selfishness

In long-term relationships the occasional sacrifice is required to maintain the relationship. However, resentment can arise if one partner constantly refuses to prioritize the relationship over his or her personal needs.

10. Breaking Promises

A broken promise can be as damaging as a deliberate lie. In building a life together, couples establish expectations and make promises that strengthen their bond. Failing to fulfill these promises or contradicting them can impact mutual trust and jeopardize the relationship.

The most serious broken promises often revolve around addiction. Maintaining a healthy relationship can seem impossible when dealing with drug abuse, alcoholism, or dependencies on gambling, sex, or pornography. The afflicted partner may promise to change but often fails, deepening the sense of betrayal. Seeking professional help is essential for any chance of salvaging the relationship in cases of addiction.

Seeking help

If your relationship impacts your mental health take the first step towards healing today and call us at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne on 03 9077 0122 to book your appointment. We can help you develop the skills and strategies you need to manage your emotions and improve your mental health. Remember: You’re not alone!


John Mordechai Gottman, & Silver, N. (2013). What makes love last?: how to build trust and avoid betrayal. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.