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What Is Considered Cheating? (The Truth)

by Michele Kelsey

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the percentage of men who have been sexually or emotionally involved with a person outside of their committed relationship is higher compared to women. Yikes! That’s a pretty good reason to understand cheating, wouldn’t you agree?

While that may be true in a general sense, wouldn’t you agree that specific details often change the narrative when it comes to cheating? After all, you may not have an agreement with your partner about whether or not hand-holding is okay. Still, the intimacy of the act could make it, at least, to be on the borderline of cheating

Cheating is often a subjective word, meaning each person defines it for themselves, but it’s important to understand as a couple what the word means to each of you. This way you are on the same page.

What is considered cheating? Men and women often see the meaning of infidelity differently. Let’s explore those details to gain a full understanding of what infidelity is by looking at different types of cheating, and how to minimize them from happening in your relationship.

Is He Really Cheating? How Bad Is Flirting?

Is He Just A Flirt?

Amica Graber, a relationship expert for TruthFinder, says that "flirting is considered micro-cheating, and some people do it instinctively.” If it’s a personality trait, it may be difficult to get your partner (or yourself) to change. Perhaps the best way to cope with this is to realize the intent behind the action. 

If your partner is doing the flirting, ask yourself the question: Are they truly trying to hurt you by their actions? They may not even realize what they are doing wrong. Talk to them about it. It may take time, but give them a chance to change their behavior.

A flirty personality can be much less hurtful than an intentional deceitful flirting relationship. 

How Hurtful Is His Flirting?

An example would be a spouse texting their ex many times a day - flirting back and forth with each other. This can be hurtful. First, they are taking time away from you to send romantic overtures to someone else. It’s hurtful when they could be spending that time flirting with you or thinking of you. You want their attention, and you certainly don’t want someone else to have it.

The second reason that flirting or micro-cheating is hurtful is the fact that you are being deceitful. With any type of cheating, the deceit usually stings worse than the action. This type of hurt is hard to let go of. It can break your heart. The fact that your partner did something behind your back can crush your trust, making the relationship suffer. 

Rebuilding that trust is a difficult thing to do, and can lead to divorce. Flirting takes the romance out of the relationship. Yes, it hurts that you are giving someone else the attention you should be giving your partner. Yes, you have hidden this behind their back. But, after all that flirting, what do you have left to give your partner? 

Is He Flirting Virtually?

With the online, virtual romantic world being as popular as ever, texting, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, Instagram, and so many more ways are available for partners just to “hop on” and chat with another person. It feels exciting to branch out, meet someone new, and have someone genuinely interested in you ask you questions about yourself, but how far are you taking it?

Making new friends is fine, but check with your partner or spouse, or let them know what decisions you are making so that there are no misunderstandings about anything you are doing. Make sure they support the choices you are making. There’s no shame in admitting to what may very well be fidelity in the eyes of your beloved.

Do you feel the same sense of excitement towards your partner as you do when you receive that text or chat room “ding” from that special someone you are bonding with? Some may not see flirting as cheating and say it’s just micro-cheating. But, any way you spin it, it’s hurtful, and you should avoid doing it if your significant other doesn’t share your viewpoint on the subject.

How Bad Is The Affair?

1. Is It An Emotional Affair?

Typically, emotional unfaithfulness in an affair is more hurtful than a physical affair because of the amount of intimacy that’s involved; intimacy brings a sense of closeness that builds a relationship. This infidelity can really harm a relationship.

Examples of emotional unfaithfulness may be:

  • Spending time with another person
  • Spending money on someone else
  • Going on dates with another person
  • Being intimate in your words and actions
  • Using a dating app to build a relationship
  • Texting/Sending dirty images to someone (sexting)
  • Having sex via the phone or by messages

How do you define cheating? What does it mean to your heart? What would hurt you the most? What do you consider to be emotional infidelity? You should review your cheating definition with your partner. Make sure you see things the same way. How do they define cheating? What is okay for you or your partner to do with another person emotionally? Discuss all of these things.

Communication is the key to avoiding infidelity in your relationship. Have a serious discussion with your partner, and be honest about your feelings. No one wants to be blindsided by emotional infidelity, especially when a frank talk could have avoided any misunderstandings!

2. How Serious Is The Emotional Affair?

Being emotionally unfaithful can happen easily. It can start as simple as meeting the right person online who has the same things in common as you. It may begin as a friendship, an innocent relationship that you never thought would bloom into a romance.

You may start with a simple Facebook connection or a mistaken text message. Before you know it, you find this stranger to be fascinating. Even more, they want to know everything about you - things your spouse hasn’t even asked you. You feel a connection; you think it’s innocent. You may even justify your actions as being secretive. “What he doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.”

3. How Can You Resolve An Emotional Affair?

The best way to stop an affair from happening out of seemingly innocent interactions is to share the facts with your mate. Keep yourself accountable to your relationship by being honest. You will feel better, and you will know how your spouse feels about what you are doing.

Having an affair that is emotional is a slippery slope to a physical one. According to Secure Forensic’s statistics on cheating and infidelity, 10% of affairs start online, and a whopping 40% of online affairs turn into physical acts of infidelity. There are just some things you can not undo - physical actions that can’t be erased from a person’s mind. 

4. Is It A Physical Affair?

Most people agree that sexual relations are cheating, but how far is too far? Many physical actions can be hurtful, and to some people, if it’s hurtful, it’s cheating. However, for most people, any form of sexual affairs constitutes an act of physical infidelity. So, what are the cheating physical behaviors? Review this list to see where you stand when it comes to physical actions:

  • Hand-holding
  • Excessive hugging
  • Kissing 
  • Making out
  • Holding each other
  • Dancing dirty
  • Oral sexual relations
  • Sex

5. What Have You And Your Partner Agreed to?

Is your partner on the same page as you? Just like you discussed the boundaries of emotional unfaithfulness, you need to talk to your special someone about the limits of physical actions when it comes to infidelity.

But, is that enough to stop you or your partner from being unfaithful? Probably not. It may help to know what is right from wrong, but if you’re motivated by something else, you’ll cheat even if you know your partner’s point of view.

6. Why Is He Cheating?

"Sex is not the primary reason people cheat," says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D. "The primary reason is that there's a deficiency in their life and specifically, in their ego. They feel incomplete."

So, how do you or your partner feel incomplete? Can you save the relationship, or is it time to part ways? The best you can do is to try to make your mate feel complete, and let them know when you aren’t feeling fulfilled anymore. Tell them what’s missing and what needs to happen.

Let’s look at a few reasons why people are unfaithful and what to do to prevent infidelity. These aren’t quick fixes. Rather, they are just some tips to try out if you think one of these reasons applies to your relationship.

Reasons People Cheat And What To Do

1. They Crave Variety.

Try new things. Experiment. Be open-minded. Talk about what they want and don’t want, and try to meet each other’s sexual needs.

If they need variety from another person and won’t stop sleeping around, it may be time to move on or see a marriage or couples counselor for further advice. Staying together may not be the right path if they refuse to be faithful.

2. They Feel Neglected.

Try to meet your partner’s needs on a regular basis. If you need to, make a plan as to when is the best time to make love. Have heart-to-heart discussions to meet his or her emotional needs. Get reconnected with your lover. 

Have mind-blowing conversations. Get to know each other again. Rediscover their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. This will let them know that you are there for them every day.

3. They Are Trying To Sabotage The Relationship.

If your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse is cheating as a way to end the relationship, it’s probably time to discuss the end of the relationship. Are they treating you poorly just to get out of the partnership? Instead, have an honest conversation about why they are trying to ruin the partnership.

If they are willing to end the relationship they have built with another person, it’s probably time to see a couple’s counselor. Figure out ways to improve your compatibility. Find things the two of you can do together joyfully. 

4. They Met A Person They Feel More Compatible With.

Many people get married for the wrong reasons; they wake up one day shocked at the person lying next to them. They expected that initial chemistry and compatibility to last forever, and it didn’t. Why did you choose your mate? What attracted you to them in the first place? Find those compatibility factors, and bring them back to life!

How To Save The Relationship

The Huffington Post explains the elements of compatibility very well. Their list includes the following:

  • Having a balanced conversation
  • Maintaining intimacy and satisfaction in your sex life
  • Being able to relax together and enjoy spending time with one another
  • Having an agreement on the amount of ambition each person plays in the relationship
  • Sharing the things that truly matter in life together
  • Sharing or respecting each other’s hobbies and interests
  • Maintaining mutual respect for each other

Since incompatibility is a major cause of infidelity, try connecting with one another by using an element of compatibility as listed above. You will have a greater chance of success if you do. Once a physical affair has happened, the spouse that was cheated upon often cannot get the images out of his or her head. 

He or she just keeps replaying the events that may have occurred, and the same fight happens over and over again in the relationship. This leads nowhere. Usually, without very proactive steps or marital or relational counseling, the relationship just cannot be repaired if one spouse is unable to forgive.

FAQs

What Defines Cheating?

According to Dr. Jeffrey Rubin, cheating is being “emotionally or physically unfaithful. There are degrees of cheating from sexual betrayal of a partner or spouse to affairs of the heart in which a member of a relationship has a secret, emotionally meaningful relationship outside of his or her primary one.”

Is Flirting Considered Cheating?

Cheating is often a subjective word, meaning each person defines it for themselves, but it’s important to understand as a couple what the word means to each of you. This way you are on the same page. So, would you consider flirting to be cheating? How does your spouse feel?

What Are The Different Types Of Cheating?

There are two basic types of cheating: Emotional and Physical. Emotional cheating is sometimes harder to recover from because of the intimacy involved in that affair. Physical cheating usually involves having sexual relations with another person outside of the primary relationship. Either form of cheating is hurtful.

Is Cheating In A Relationship Okay?

Cheating is never okay because of the deceit involved. Having sexual relations or intimacy with someone other than your significant other may be okay if agreed upon, but cheating means you are doing something behind their back or something they would not agree to. Most relationships can survive this, though.

Why Do People Cheat In A Relationship?

There are so many reasons why people consider cheating when they are in a committed relationship. They may feel neglected, resentful, mistreated, hurt, revengeful, ignored, mad, frustrated, lonely, disconnected, or disrespected. Really, those issues need resolution in order to create or restore a healthy relationship.

Ask Yourself...

Have you or your partner cheated? Can you save your relationship if cheating occurred? Many people can. Have an honest discussion about unfaithfulness with your partner. Could you relate to this article? Please discuss your experience in the comments, and share this article with another person who could benefit from it. 

Michele Kelsey
After decades of experience dating, I finally found my prince. It was not an easy road. I kissed plenty of frogs to find Mr. Right and learned a lot from my mistakes. I enjoy writing and feel especially lucky that I get to share my expertise on my favorite subject – love. I’ve been happily married for almost a decade now, but I love giving relationship advice.

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