All Cheat!ng is not created equal…
Ask 10 people what “counts” as Cheat!ng and you’d probably get 100 different answers. While you might consider texting an ex to be crossing a line, other partners might not consider something Cheat!ng until intercourse is involved.
Despite all that grey, there are certain categories infidelity can fall into — whether you’re monogamous, non-monogamous, straight or queer.
Cheat!ng typically involves at least one of these three elements: secrecy, emotional involvement and cexual alchemy, relationship expert Dr Esther Perel writes in her book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. In fact, Cheat!ng is usually defined less by a specific behavior and more by the element of deceit.
Since instances of infidelity are as unique as individual couples, we asked the experts about the different types of Cheat!ng and what they can look like in-real life relationships.
BEING PHYSICALLY INTIMATE OUTSIDE YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Physical infidelity is pretty self-explanatory. “It’s typically construed as any type of touching, kissing or cexual behavior with a person who is not your exclusive partner,”.
But physical infidelity isn’t just about being monogamous. “A lot of people assume there’s no such thing as Cheat!ng in a non-monogamous relationship, but of course that’s not so,” says relationship therapist Matt Lundquist. “Some couples have restrictions on gender or restrict cex with someone their partner knows (or doesn’t know).”
The key, Lundquist says, is “talking explicitly about what’s kosher and not kosher around cex and intimate relationships of all sorts.”
HARBOURING FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Emotional infidelity is a different form of crossing the line. “It can refer to liking, love or romantic feelings for a person who is not your exclusive partner,” explains Weiser.
Just like limits need to be discussed around what cexual behaviors are considered cool in your relationship, emotional connections should be discussed, too. “With all sorts of couples there’s an important conversation around transparency,” Lundquist says. “Having a close relationship with someone your partner doesn’t know or who doesn’t know your partner (or that you have a partner) can be a no-no.”
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having emotionally intimate relationships with people other than your partner. The question of Cheat!ng comes into play when those relationships aren’t respectful of your partner, says Lundquist.
In other words, if you’re having heart to hearts with someone else behind your partner’s back – something you know could be hurtful – that enters emotional infidelity territory.
FANTASIZING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE
Having a robust fantasy life – even when you’re in a relationship – is totally normal. When it’s shared with your partner, that is, says Lundquist.
Here’s an example: Say you identify as straight and are in a heterosexual relationship but have always been curious about being with a woman. Fantasizing about being with a chick when you’re having cex with your partner is normal –you might even suggest exploring a threesome.
Healthy fantasies enter infidelity territory when they could lead to “unsafe or dishonest behavior,” says Lundquist. If your bisexual fantasy is more of a temptation to see what it would be like to make out with that hot girl at the bar and less of a spark for your IRL cexual relationship, that could be an issue.
HIDING YOUR MONEY HABITS
Since Cheat!ng is so heavily rooted in secrecy, “failing to inform a partner about financial matters or decisions that affect both parties,” can be a kind of infidelity, says Lundquist. Yep, you can cheat financially.
If you and your S.O. agreed to save for a wedding, but you’re blowing your half on late night Spree binges, you’re Cheat!ng on your agreement.
HAVING SECRET SOCIAL MEDIA HABITS
“Infidelity either through social media or facilitated by social media is becoming very common,” Weiser says.
Social media infidelity can have two forms. First, the overtly cexual. If you’re lusting after an influencer you follow, liking an ex’s suggestive posts, or even checking in on your old Bumble profile, those behaviours all fall into the grey area of social media Cheat!ng.
The other form of social media infidelity can be thought of as Cheat!ng on your partner with your phone. “Looking at your phone and social media when you should be connecting with your partner,” suggests you’re having a deeper relationship with Instagram than you are with your actual significant other, says Lundquist.
The bottom line: Because Cheat!ng can mean different things to different people, “it is important to openly discuss what your boundaries are and what you consider infidelity,” says Weiser.