What Is Cheating In A Relationship?


Imagine your BFF has invited you to come over and take tea. You would naturally have certain expectations, such as tiny sandwiches, scones and steaming tea in a china cup.

Suppose your friend served lukewarm tea with sour milk, in a chipped mug. There were no tiny sandwiches or scones, just stale crackers and squeeze-cheese in a can.

Would you feel cheated because your BFF didn’t live up to your expectations?

The same applies to cheating in romantic relationships. Both partners enter relationships with expectations, which may or may not coincide.

For instance, how would it feel if you discovered your guy was taking his “tea” with another woman? What if you observed him kissing somebody on the dance floor, who wasn’t you? What if you learned he had re-connected with a high school sweetheart on Facebook?

So - What Constitutes Cheating?

What is cheating in a relationship? Co-workers on the floor behind a desk about to get sexual.

Your feelings would depend upon your expectations, as well as your definition of cheating in a relationship. Nevertheless, any of these scenarios might leave a taste like sour milk in your mouth.

The real deal is, different people have different viewpoints about what’s considered cheating in a relationship. Overall, the male population operates with more relaxed standards than females.

According to Clare Casey, author of the best selling “Capture His Heart” program, this topic is a hot one for her clients. Our aim is to encourage a meeting of minds and eliminate some of those dicey “who’s cheating” rough spots.


Who's Cheating In These Relationships?

Tracie worked for a law firm, whose unwritten rule was "what happens in our office stays in our office". When they won a big case, the partners threw "employees only" parties.

After drinking too much wine at one of these parties, Tracie woke up the next morning in a colleague's bed.

Did Tracie cheat on her partner? Or, was it a case of Carpe Diem viewed through a rosé-colored wine glass? She didn't mean for it to happen and her colleague would never tell.

Tracie cheated. Accidental or not, engaging in physical sex with anybody except her partner is cheating.

Linda hired a professional trainer with the intent of "looking hot" to please her guy. Ultimately, it was the trainer who proved to be hot. It started with harmless banter, which progressed to risqué innuendoes and intimate touches. Linda "woke-up" and dismissed him before it became a full-blown affair.

Did Linda cheat? Frankly, this is one of those gray areas. What do you think?

Elaine joined one of the Classmate meet-up websites and the next day, she got a message – "Hi Elaine. Remember me? James."

James was her first love, the one we never forget. It began with a stream of e-mails that soon became very personal. He lived in London, so they couldn't very well meet for coffee.

James started sending love poems he'd written for her. Elaine sent slightly suggestive pictures to him. They had been corresponding for about six months when her partner found the latest message on their printer.

Did Elaine cheat? This is another gray area that depends upon her partner's expectations.


So – What's Gray and What's Not?

A couple of decades ago, there was but one stringent definition of cheating in a relationship - your partner engaged in physical sex with somebody who wasn't you. But now there's a profusion of gray areas that basically depend upon individual perception.

Emotional Infidelity – Research is finding that women would forgive physical infidelity above emotional infidelity. When your partner engages in an emotional affair, it always includes his lying to you that the other person is "just a friend". He is also disrespecting you by sharing intimate information about your relationship with a third party. Your man is breaking trust by looking outside the relationship to get needs satisfied that are meant to be fulfilled within the relationship.

This is cheating of the highest order. Your relationship may not survive this in-your-face type of cheating.

Sexting –the new phone sex, is dangerously close to cheating. However, the participants rarely see sexting as cheating because they have no intent to meet their anonymous partner.

The aura of anonymity lends a thrill element to sexting that gives even the shyest person permission to talk dirty and share their fantasies. Survey statistics report that 89% of married couples see sexting as a form of cheating, which could justify divorce. It is also a valid reason for a single person to break off the relationship.


Connecting with Exes - Could be Cheating in a Relationship

He runs into a woman from his past at the supermarket. Someone he admired from afar; she liked him too, but they never really got together. She invites him for a drink "to catch up". Sounds innocent enough, right?

Depends on what happens next. One drink with an old friend can't be construed as cheating, can it? But, things will deteriorate rapidly if they continue to see each other and he lies to you, including by omission.

Pornography on the Internet - What's your stance on your partner's habit of viewing porn? Is it technically cheating? Nobody's touching each other, right? If the naked actors frolicking on his computer screen make him happy, what's wrong with it?

That's a pretty progressive attitude. Perhaps you think by making light of his attraction to internet pornography, he will soon get bored. Not!

Psychologists have found that porn viewing easily becomes addictive. They hurry through dinner and scurry to their man cave to crank up the internet and watch porn. They stay up late watching porn. This takes a toll on the relationship.
While looking at "dirty" pictures may not fit the definition of cheating, it's a precursor to actual cheating. Studies have concluded that the majority of people who are obsessed with porn are inclined toward online infidelity and/or physical affairs.

Like other addictive substances, i.e. morphine, pornography promotes a blast of feel-good hormones.

When the partner who isn't into porn finds out, it feels like a punch in the gut. She erroneously believes she couldn't satisfy his sexual needs. Her self-esteem plummets. He has bitterly betrayed her trust.

We urge you to take Internet porn seriously and even talk about it as a couple.


One Night Stands

 - Clearly meet the cheating criteria. Even if both parties agree they will never meet again, they share themselves sexually. The only saving grace (if one exists) is that women are more prone to forgiving their partners for one night stands vs. ongoing affairs.

When you're involved in a non-exclusive relationship is cheating an issue? Here is where your man's perspective of cheating may differ from yours. As long as he hasn't agreed to have a monogamous relationship, it's fair game for him to see other women.

Perhaps it's time for females to cop a new attitude! Many is the man having his "Kate and Edith too". Because women "feel" committed in a relationship earlier than men, they have unrealistic expectations. Until actual words are said and promises to be faithful to each other are exchanged, it's foolish to assume he is committed to the relationship.

We suggest that you date other men until you are both in The Commitment Zone. You won't lose him. In order to lose something, you must have it. It's not even a gamble. When he realizes how attractive you are to other men, he will wake up and see you through new eyes of desire. Don't be surprised if he initiates the commitment talk.

In the unlikely event he moves on, you can quit wasting valuable time and find a guy who is on your wavelength.


Setting Boundaries

Prevention is the best cure for maintaining healthy relationships. Boundaries are good medicine. The optimal time to set boundaries about cheating in the relationship is before either partner strays.

Once you establish boundaries about what is cheating and what's not, it's a good idea to type and sign them. Something about affixing your signature to a document makes it real.

Congratulations! As a couple you have developed your definition of What Is Cheating In A Relationship!

Any Thoughts? Please use the comments section below.




  • Kelly

    Reply Reply May 26, 2015

    You should definitely define boundaries in a relationship – specify what each of you consider cheating, so there is no grounds for confusion/ excuses etc. I think it’s also important to redefine these boundaries later on in the relationship as well… I’ve had friends that have started a ‘relationship’ as a casual affair, but later on one half wanted the relationship to progress further, and for there to be no other women/men in their lives.

    Funny you mentioned boyfriends cheating with a reunited ex – that’s exactly what happened in one of my previous relationships. My now-ex, reunited with his ex via facebook and somehow that lead to him cheating on me and getting his ex pregnant – better her than me!

  • Ann

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015

    Oh goodness! I’ve had friends who have been on the receiving end of it, or done it themselves. My husband, I have no worries about, because we BOTH have the same opinions on what’s appropriate and what isn’t. And we certainly don’t hide any secret calls, texts, social media pages, and such. And I do believe that emotional cheating is just as bad, if not worse, than physical. When you’re in a relationship you think is monogamous, and find out later that he or she has been just “talking”….without the knowledge of the other half…..what are you hiding? I’ve had friends who’ve been traumatized by that stuff, whether it’s just their husbands/boyfriends chatting it up online, or phone, or whatever. And I’m far from a prude, but a man who’s in a relationship and watches porn…..get out of it. That alone screams no respect for women.

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