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What Really Counts as Cheating?
What do you consider cheating? Most monogamous individuals will agree that having a physical affair while in a serious relationship is a treacherous form of betrayal. The term "cheating," however, often covers a variety of other behaviors, many of which fall into a grey area. Is flirting considered cheating, or is it only unacceptable when the flirting partner develops feelings for others? Is watching porn acceptable or not?
Many individuals find such questions difficult to answer, as there is no universal definition for cheating. What is acceptable for a polyamorous pair may not be right for a monogamous couple with strong religious beliefs.
What sort of behavior do you find unacceptable? Ask yourself the following questions to help you better define your personal limits in future relationships.
1.) What do you and your partner consider cheating? Discuss it!
Discussing cheating is almost always uncomfortable. What is cheating for you (Though detailing the behavior you consider unacceptable may be difficult, it is far better to do it now, before any questionable behavior arises. By establishing clear boundaries, you and your partner will find it easier to respond to tricky situations that may arise later in your relationship.
Some subjects you and your partner may wish to discuss include the following:
- Maintaining an online dating profile or remaining active on dating apps (even if "just looking")
- Dancing with others
- Maintaining contact with exes
- Kissing others
- Emotional relationships with others
- Watching Porn
- Sexting, sending intimate or romantic private messages
- Behavior while intoxicated
- Boundaries in friendships with others
- Acceptable behavior while "unofficially" dating versus "officially" in a relationship
- and more...
It is important to consider the nuances of these many situations. What is the difference between friendliness and flirting, for example? Do you consider your partner kissing another woman just as bad as kissing another man? Though it may seem silly to discuss such scenarios, addressing these situations as hypothetical possibilities will help you better manage potential relationship crises in the future.
2.) Is there secrecy or lying involved in a given situation?
If you're questioning whether or not a situation should be considered cheating, examine the behavior surrounding the issue. Most of us tend to be honest when we have nothing to hide. Though secrets and lies may not be a sign of current betrayal, a partner that is hiding details of their personal interactions with others may be making it easier to engage in questionable behavior at some point in the future. If your partner is frequently dining with an attractive colleague and telling you about it, you probably have no reason to be concerned. If, however, you discovered them texting about their fifteenth secret lunch date, this situation suddenly looks a lot more suspicious.
Unless you've explicitly told your partner that you'd rather have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding potential cheating, you should demand openness and honesty in your relationship.
3.) What are the intentions behind the behavior in question?
Being honest about our motives can be difficult. It's easy to tell ourselves that flirting with a coworker is just an innocent way to boost our ego. You should take some time, however, to really examine your intentions. If your coworker kissed you, would you kiss him back? If you're attracted to someone and actively fanning the flames of desire, you may well be on the way to cheating.
It is practically impossible to know the true motives of our partners. In an ideal world, we would all confess to our minor transgressions and correct our actions before they snowballed into more dangerous behaviors. This, however, rarely occurs. The best you can do is discuss potentially questionable behavior and hope for honesty from your partner. If they admit that they need to step back from certain individuals or situations, you may be able to overcome these issues before they progress.
Cheating can only be defined upon personal reflection. By defining unacceptable behaviors with your partner, you can better address instances of potential infidelity in the future. Knowing your boundaries will make it easier to determine whether or not particular relationships are worth salvaging, too. In short, establishing these limits will allow you to feel both comfortable and empowered in your future relationships.