Are you a little confused as to where the line is when it comes to cheating?
Whether you’re in a relationship now or hope to be in one in the future, you need to make sure you get that line firmly drawn as early on as possible…
…for the sake of everyone involved.
Being clear on what’s considered cheating and what’s not from the get-go can save a whole load of heartache.
If you cheat on your partner, or vice versa, it can inflict an awful lot of damage and pain, both on the two of you and on other important people in your lives.
If you’ve ever been cheated on, you’ll know only too well how devastating it can be, and, for some people, how hard it can be to learn to trust again in future.
No two relationships are ever the same and I am not going to judge any mistakes you might have made in the past…
But, if you have cheated on someone you loved, then, if you’re honest with yourself, the guilt of that might still be troubling you deep down.
Basically, when trust is betrayed, nobody involved comes out of it well.
Trust is the linchpin of absolutely every human relationship, romantic or not, whoever you’re attracted to and whatever rules you set with the person you love.
Even in polyamorous relationships, which can often be hard for strictly-monogamous folk to understand, lines are always drawn, and the people involved will feel hurt and betrayed if those lines are crossed.
But, for the purposes of this article, we’re going to consider what the ‘average’ person in a monogamous relationship in western culture might view as cheating.
We’ll try to establish a middle ground, as there are always extreme points of view one way or the other.
After all, there are people out there who’d accuse their partner of cheating on them just for looking at another guy or girl, and people out there who wouldn’t bat an eyelid if their partner kissed someone else.
In the interests of providing some kind of useful guide to those who aren’t sure how far is too far and what actually constitutes cheating, I’ll be drawing a line in the sand here.
Just remember that although you may not be able to label some things as full-on cheating, they could still be considered to be a betrayal of trust, which your partner may find difficult to forgive.
Of course, every couple needs to figure out for themselves early on in their relationship what is okay, and what is not.
6 Things That Don’t Necessarily Qualify As Cheating
The things listed in this section have many layers to them. In a lot of cases, it’s not what you actually do, but what your underlying intentions are.
Some people may consider these things as cheating, others may not. It’s up to you and your partner to decide how you feel about them.
A little bit of innocent flirting shouldn’t be a big deal, and lots of us flirt with members of the sex we’re attracted to unconsciously…
…even if we’re not attracted to the person in question.
For that matter, we can even be flirtatious with members of the sex we’re not attracted to, for all kinds of reasons.
Whilst just plain flirting with no ulterior motives can’t be defined as cheating, there are some circumstances in which someone would have the right to be upset or angry about their partner’s behavior.
If you’re deliberately flirting with someone you fancy (that’s not your partner) in an attempt to get them to take a sexual or romantic interest in you, that isn’t a good sign.
It doesn’t even matter whether or not you intend to actually go through with anything.
Similarly, if you find yourself flirting with someone that you’re aware has an interest in you in order to encourage them, whether or not you like them back, then you’re betraying the trust of your partner.
Whilst we can sometimes judge these situations poorly, your conscience will generally let you know if you’ve behaved in a way you shouldn’t.
This category can cover all manner of sins.
You are, of course, quite within your rights to text whoever you want…
…and if you find that your partner makes unreasonable demands that you cut off contact with a friend or an ex who’s now a friend, then you need to consider carefully whether they are overly controlling, and whether the relationship is healthy.
They definitely shouldn’t be going through your phone or demanding to read your messages.
That’s what trust is all about.
However, if you have messages on your phone that you wouldn’t want your partner to see, or messages that you feel guilty about, then you’re moving into dangerous territory.
As is the case with flirting, no matter how much you might try to ignore the niggling feelings, you’ll always know deep down whether who and what you’re texting is a betrayal of trust.
3. Doing your special thing
Every couple has their own rituals and their own special activities which they only do together, just the two of them.
Therefore, there are certain things that some people would never even associate with cheating that for others could be the ultimate betrayal.
Even someone who’s in a polyamorous relationship, for example, might be fine with their partner kissing or sleeping with someone else, but would feel cheated on if their partner watched the next episode of their favorite TV series with another person.
If there’s anything that the two of you always do together as a way of strengthening your bond, then be wary about doing it with anyone else.
I think we can all agree that an innocent dance with someone else isn’t cheating.
If your partner likes salsa dancing, for example, then you’re just going to have to get used to the fact they will often be dancing with multiple people.
But even within dancing, there is a line.
Some people are terrible at judging this, but if someone asks you to dance, you can generally tell whether their intentions are innocent or if they have ulterior motives.
It’s all about trusting your judgement, and also knowing that your partner has faith in you, and won’t get angry if you thought it was innocent but suddenly realize your dance partner has other ideas in mind.
Grinding, on the other hand, is a fairly blatant sign that sex could potentially be on the cards.
You might dance a bit provocatively when you’re messing around with your friends just for a laugh, but if there’s a sexual element to it, then it could be argued to be a mild form of cheating.
Many couples enjoy interlocking their fingers and holding hands in a sign of togetherness…
..and because it feels nice to have a physical connection with your partner.
But some people like to hold hands with others too, and it doesn’t have to have any special meaning to it.
Platonic friends of all sexes can hold hands quite innocently. It might even be for practical reasons such as feeling safe whilst walking at night.
You once again have to return to the question of intent and how you feel when you hold hands with someone.
If you are doing so to display romantic feelings, it’s probably not going to go down too well with your partner.
Hugging someone else doesn’t count as cheating in itself.
Hugging is a natural human action that helps us to build bonds with the people that are important to us.
At its most basic level, it is something you should be free to do with anyone you want to.
However, if a hug continues longer than is necessary and you are pulling together in a tight embrace that symbolizes a more intimate physical attraction, it could be lightly classed as cheating of sorts.
5 Things That Definitely Qualify As Cheating
Now, let’s turn our attention to the things that could reasonably be called cheating in a monogamous relationship.
A peck on the lips with your best mate doesn’t count, but I think most people in monogamous relationships would agree that a passionate kiss with someone else qualifies as cheating.
It doesn’t necessarily have to spell the end of your relationship, but it is something you need to be entirely honest with your partner about.
You also need to be honest with yourself about the reasons the kiss happened, and if you’re truly happy in your relationship.
2. Sexual touching
If you’re in a monogamous relationship, then touching anyone else in intimate areas is not something you should be doing.
There’s no two ways about it.
Texting is one thing, but sexting is definitely crossing the line.
Even if you haven’t had any physical sexual contact with the other person, sending sexual messages is a betrayal of the trust your partner has placed in you.
It displays an emotional form of cheating whereby you shared an intimate experience with someone other than your partner.
4. Phone sex
Just as with sexting, phone sex with someone else is not acceptable if you’re in a monogamous relationship.
It doesn’t matter if it only happened once.
It doesn’t matter if you were drunk.
It doesn’t matter if it didn’t mean anything to you.
If you’ve had sex with someone else when your partner trusts that you’re committed to one another, then you’ve cheated on them, and you need to accept it.
How would you feel?
A good way of figuring out where the line is for your relationship is to consider how you would feel if your partner acted in a certain way.
If you would feel betrayed if they had a certain kind of contact with someone else, then you shouldn’t be doing it either.
Double standards are not okay when it comes to committed relationships.
Emotions are important.
As we’ve touched upon, cheating can come in two different forms.
There’s physical cheating, which is more obvious and clear cut…
…and then there’s emotional cheating, which can be harder to identify.
When it comes to your emotions, it’s reasonable to say that if you are doing something with someone other than your partner and you feel a sexual or romantic connection with them, you have to be on high alert.
It’s one thing to be attracted to another person whilst in a committed relationship, but it’s another to act upon that attraction.
If you are doing things based on your feelings that you would not have otherwise done if those feelings didn’t exist, you are either nearing or crossing the line of emotional cheating.
This might include things such as buying a person special gifts of treats, seeing this person at the expense of seeing your partner, and even thinking about this person whilst making love to your partner.
What should you do if you’ve cheated?
If you realize that you’ve crossed a line, then don’t panic.
The key now is total honesty.
You need to figure out if you want to stay in your relationship, and if you do, then it’s time to confess.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.