What Counts as Cheating?

In a very broad sense, cheating involves betraying a partner’s expectations about the type of contact the cheater has with others.

broken heartWhen a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, violates one’s expectations about what is appropriate, people feel betrayed. Keep in mind that relationships are not based on logic, but are influenced by our emotions.

As a result, cheating is difficult to define because people differ in the type of contact they feel it is appropriate for a partner to have with someone else.

For example, some people believe that it is unacceptable for a partner to:

  • Flirt with others
  • Engage in sexual talk with someone else
  • Exchange personal e-mails or text messages
  • Deny being married or in a relationship
  • Spend time with specific individuals
  • Engage in specific types of contact—sleeping in the same bed with another person
  • Purchase intimate gifts and presents for others
  • Chat online with someone else (online affairs)
  • Have sexual contact with someone else (physical infidelity)
  • Become emotionally involved with someone else (emotional infidelity)
  • Develop a crush or feelings for another individual
  • Share their most private thoughts and feelings with someone else
  • Become best friends with someone of the opposite sex
  • And the list could go on and on....

Again, the main point is that individuals differ in what they consider to be an acceptable form of contact with other people.

At one extreme, some couples think it is acceptable to have sex and fall in love with someone else (see polyamory), while some people view flirting with another person as being inappropriate.

Cheating is complex because the definition varies so widely. However, when someone violates a partner’s expectations, the emotional outcome is the same—their partner feels betrayed and rejected.

couple fighting Cheating is also problematic because couples rarely discuss exactly what their expectations are.

In any given relationship, what one person considers to be acceptable may differ from what a partner thinks is appropriate. Many problems arise in relationships because people do not see eye-to-eye on this issue.

And to make matters worse, many people do not like to define what counts as cheating. Many people prefer not to define what counts as cheating because by keeping the rules vague and ambiguous, it makes it easier to cheat. If you don’t know what the rules are, you really can’t break them—or some people like to think.

It’s a lot easier to deceive both oneself and a partner about cheating when the rules are not clear.

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