Infidelity is a problem that a lot of couples face during their time together. Sometimes a partner’s cheating marks the end of the relationship. Other times, the couple works through their issues and the relationship moves on. Infidelity doesn’t always mean the end of the relationship, but it always means that something has to change.
When we think about cheating, we’re usually thinking about a partner who has been physically intimate with someone other than their partner. But cheating can take many different forms. Sometimes people consider emotional intimacy with people other than your partner to be cheating. Some believe that having any feelings at all for another person means that you’re cheating on your partner. Other people’s definitions of cheating aren’t so restrictive. They believe that feelings don’t count, but actions do. Others believe that it’s the dishonesty that matters. If you’re doing things you feel you have to hide from your partner, then you’re cheating.
There are as many different definitions of cheating as there are couples in the world. What counts as cheating in one relationship may not be seen as cheating in another relationship. It’s really up to the couple to set their own boundaries. Of course, there are some acts that are universally seen as cheating, like doing it with someone other than your partner, but other than that, the boundaries around infidelity vary widely.
This can leave people wondering, what exactly counts as cheating? Here’s what some people have to say about what is and isn’t cheating.
12. Different views on what defines cheating
Many people enjoy traveling, most hope to meet someone special while on their voyages. But what happens when you do, and the customs on cheating are so vastly different. What if someone else’s definition of cheating is different from yours? Do you try to compromise or would you rather not get involved to begin with? This is one of the most difficult tasks when settling down with someone, the hope that you will always see eye to eye. This confession makes us wonder if she conformed to the new relationship standards or did she decide to casually go about kissing Americans. Guess we will just have to assume this one for ourselves.
11. Everyone defines cheating differently
It’s impossible to come up with one, universal answer to the question what counts as cheating. The truth is that every individual is going to have a different answer to that question that’s based in their own upbringing and experiences. Someone who was raised in a strictly religious family is going to have a very different definition of cheating compared to someone who was raised in a non-religious family. A person who is completely committed to the idea of monogamy is going to count certain behaviors as cheating that a person who believes in polyamory wouldn’t count as cheating. Someone who’s been cheated on in the past is going to be more sensitive to behaviors that may indicate cheating than someone who hasn’t had that experience.
Everything about the way we’ve grown up and the experiences we’ve had since then factor in to our ideas and our beliefs about infidelity. Trying to place clear boundaries on cheating for all people simply doesn’t work.
10. It’s up to the couple
Since there are so many possible definitions of cheating, it’s up to each couple to define what cheating means for their relationship. This is a conversation that should be had early on in the relationship so there’s no room for misunderstanding. Infidelity is a very touchy subject for many people and it’s uncomfortable to discuss, but having a solid understanding of what counts as cheating to your partner is essential to having a healthy relationship.
If one person’s definition of cheating is very rigid and the other’s allows more wiggle room, this can cause major problems within the relationship. The partner’s who definition is looser may act in ways that they consider to be acceptable without knowing that their partner considers their behavior cheating. Having a conversation about these boundaries early on ensures that both partners know what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable so they can make informed decisions about their actions.
9. How would you feel if your partner did the same?
When defining what cheating is to us, we have have internalized double standards. We want the freedom to do what we want to do, but we don’t want to give our partner the same freedom. Like, we want the ability to flirt with other people because we see it as harmless, but if we caught our partner flirting with someone else, we would be hurt and angry.
This kind of double standard doesn’t work when setting boundaries around what is and isn’t cheating. Both partners need to be working with the same set of rules and they need to adhere to the same set of rules. If you’d be mad at your partner for engaging in a behavior, then you’re not allowed to engage in that behavior either. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, no matter how much we’d like to.
8. Are you hiding things from your partner?
If you’re hiding your actions with another person from your partner there’s a good chance you’re headed in to cheating territory. Maybe you’re only texting with someone or talking to them frequently. If you’re honest with your partner about this and they’re fine with you doing that then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your actions. But the same actions take on a more sinister meaning when you’re hiding them from your partner.
Chances are you’re hiding these actions from your partner because you don’t think they’d approve. If you don’t think they’d approve of what you’re doing, you should probably stop. You may not be cheating yet, but you’re not far from it. If you don’t want to stop and continue to hide your actions from your partner, you’re definitely breaking their trust, which is the main component of infidelity.
7. Are you unsure if your behavior is out of line?
A common response to the question “is what I’m doing/have done cheating?” is “if you have to ask then you’re cheating/you cheated.” Basically, if you’re unsure whether your behavior is out of line, you’ve probably already crossed the line. In many cases, this is true. If you are curious if what you’ve done is considered cheating it’s probably because some part of you believes you’ve cheated. If you didn’t believe you’d done anything wrong then you wouldn’t be asking if you had.
However, if you and your partner don’t have clear boundaries around cheating then the question of whether or not something counts as cheating is perfectly valid. Your definition of cheating may not include actions like texting, flirting, or being emotionally intimate with someone. But when you talk about taking these actions with someone else they may accuse you of cheating on your partner. This inevitably causes a lot of confusion about whether you’ve been unfaithful.
6. Do you feel guilty?
Feeling guilty about the actions you took is a pretty clear cut indication that you’ve cheated. You engaged in behaviors you thought were okay, but after the fact you realized that they didn’t feel right to you. Or you engaged in behaviors you thought might be cheating and the feeling of guilt after lets you know they were definitely cheating. Guilt means you’ve crossed your own, personal boundary for what counts as cheating.
Even if you come clean with your partner and they’re okay with your actions, you still need to heed this feeling of guilt. Just because something doesn’t count as cheating for our partner, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as cheating in our own minds.
Sometimes we don’t know what our boundaries are until we cross them. Feeling guilty allows us to identify that we’re not okay with what we’re doing. We don’t need to get stuck in guilt, but we do need to let that guilt inform our future actions. If you felt bad after doing it, don’t ever do it again.
5. What about “emotional affairs”?
For some people, cheating doesn’t have to involve anything physical. They believe that if you’re connecting on a deep, emotional level with someone other than your partner, you’re lessening your level of intimacy with your partner. There’s definitely some truth to this. If you feel the need to connect deeply with someone other than your partner, you’re probably not getting the emotional connection you need from your partner. Instead of seeking it elsewhere, it’s probably a better idea to let your partner know you need more intimacy from them.
If your partner’s definition of cheating includes “emotional cheating” you need to be hyper aware of your close relationships with other people. What you consider a friendship your partner may consider a threat to your relationship. However, if your partner’s definition of cheating doesn’t include “emotional cheating,” deep friendships with others may not be a problem as long as you’re being honest about your interactions with these friends. This is why it’s so important to work with your partner to define what counts as cheating. There’s a lot of gray area.
4. Is having a crush cheating?
Crushes are far in to the gray area that exists when it comes to cheating. Some people believe that if you have feelings for anyone other than your partner that constitutes cheating. To those people, having a crush on someone else would definitely count as cheating.
Others believe that it’s perfectly normal to have feelings for people other than our partners. They believe that you can’t really control who you’re attracted to. Some people even believe that it’s abnormal to just have feelings for one person. They believe that we all have feelings for multiple people at a time.
Usually, even people who think it’s fine to have a crush will agree that acting on that crush is what constitutes cheating. What they define as acting on a crush is variable as well. Some might consider flirting with someone you have a crush on as cheating, while others only consider intimate physical contact cheating.
If you find yourself developing feelings for someone other than your partner, it’s best to be totally honest about it so they can let you know how they feel and the two of you can establish boundaries.
3. What about being physically affectionate?
Some people are very physically affectionate by their nature. They give hugs, don’t think twice about putting their hand on someone’s shoulder, or running their hand through a friend’s hair. To them, physical contact is part of being friends. Being physical with someone doesn’t always mean there’s something going on. For some people this is totally innocent.
For some, this behavior may be considered cheating, even if the intent is innocent. They consider physicality to be something reserved for partners only. For others, only certain kinds of physical contact would be considered cheating, while other types of physical contact would be permissible.
Sometimes, physicality is considered cheating only when paired with feelings. A lingering hug between friends may be no big deal. But if the emotional connection between those friends is deep, the physical contact has more meaning and may seen as threatening by your partner.
2. If you’re doing anything with anyone other than your partner how is it not cheating?
On the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, you have the people who think that pretty much everything is cheating. Texting other people is cheating. Talking to other people is cheating. Hugging other people us cheating. These people define cheating super narrowly, and dating them is a constant interrogation about who you’ve been with and what you’ve been doing.
Setting boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior with other people is important, but there is such a thing as having too many rules and boundaries. If your partner considers everything you do to be cheating it will put a lot of strain on the relationship.
Some level of trust is required for a healthy and successful relationship and that includes trusting your partner to have friendships and to maintain boundaries within those friendships. If you’re with someone who doesn’t trust you to do that, maybe it’s not the best relationship for you.
1. Would you act that way with a relative?
A good benchmark for whether or not your behavior is cheating is whether or not you’d engage in that behavior with a relative or a friend you didn’t have any feelings for. You’d hug your cousin, right? Then it’s cool to hug your friends. A peck on the cheek? Probably safe. Kiss on the lips? Probably not a great idea. Anything more than a kiss? Definitely off limits.
Of course, the most innocuous behaviors carry more meaning when feelings get involved, so always be on the lookout for developing feelings. If you have even the tiniest crush on someone who’s not your partner, back off your physical and emotional interactions with them. This will decrease the likelihood that you’ll engage in behaviors that your partner might consider cheating.
Bottom line, if taking the action seems questionable, don’t do it! It’s not worth losing your relationship.
Cheating is really tough to define. There’s a lot of gray area. Everyone has their own feelings about what constitutes cheating. What you think is okay may not be okay with your partner or the other way around. Some people are okay with just about everything and others aren’t okay with just about everything. The most important thing is honesty. If you’re honest with your partner about your interactions with other people and they approve of it, you’re good to go. If you’re hiding things from your partner because you’re pretty sure they won’t approve, you’re cheating. Other than that, lines can’t easily be drawn.