What Counts as Cheating?

Trust and loyalty are essential parts of any committed exclusive relationship. It has been said that marriage (or monogamy) is the oldest institution in the world, and as such, all faiths and societies have traditions and rules governing such relationships. But with such arrangements invariably come breaches of trust, commonly referred to as "cheating". No matter what term you use to describe such betrayal, opinions vary on what can be considered cheating.

Few would disagree that finding your significant other in the throes of passion or in bed with someone else is definitely cheating. There are some gray areas, however, when it comes to staying true to your love.

What is Cheating?

Consider these situations:
  • Going to a party and drinking with or socializing with other people.
  • Flirting with another.
  • Sending emails or text messages to other women.
  • Exchanging gifts.
  • Confiding in, or being close friends with another.
  • Denying being in a relationship, or failing to notify a close friend of the opposite sex that you are in a relationship.
  • Physical touch, dancing, or holding hands.
  • Intimate phone calls.
  • You find out he shared a kiss with another woman at a party.
  • Making arrangements to meet another person.
  • Sleeping with another person.

All of these things are considered cheating by some. Others, however, aren't that rigid in their interpretation of such scenarios. Many couples believe flirting is harmless. Some people encourage their significant other to have close friends outside the relationship.

How to establish boundaries?

Some couples don't allow their significant other to even socialize with other people of the opposite sex. Others go the opposite extreme, and allow their boyfriends or girlfriends to sleep with other people. When it comes to what behavior you will accept from your partner, there is an entire spectrum of possibilities, from one extreme to another. In determining where to draw a line to establish a boundary, you should consider 2 aspects for every behavior under consideration:

  1. What level of commitment and loyalty defines our relationship? If my partner engages in this behavior, will he be violating this essential aspect?
  2. How does it make me feel when my boyfriend does this? Am I upset because it makes me feel insecure or less valuable, or is it because it is a betrayal? You need to be very honest with yourself in this situation, as there are many occasions where insecurities result in magnified feelings of betrayal in the case of misunderstandings or when no wrongdoing has actually occurred.


When it happens, infidelity is like quicksand: You don't see it coming until you're already sinking in it. Often the guilty party may not agree that his/her actions were considered cheating. So what can you do to ensure your relationship doesn't fall into the infidelity trap?

  1. Communicate with your partner. Discuss what is and isn't allowed in a relationship. Set boundaries.
  2. Trust each other. If the relationship is valuable, neither of you will do anything to intentionally put it in jeopardy.
  3. Believe it or not, a couple can be crazy in love but still feel attracted to other people. If you have found yourself in a situation like that, one option is to explore alternatives like polyamory or an open relationship. There are many good people who have learned they can't get everything they want from one person. This is an increasingly common way to preserve relationships.

What you do when and if you discover your partner is cheating is up to you (see Is My Boyfriend Cheating for more info on this). Hopefully, though, you'll consider the many reasons and motivations people have for doing it. You'll be better able to make an informed decision on what action to take if you do.

See also, our article on Why Men Cheat.

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