Cheating definition

The cheating definition: what does infidelity mean?

by Eharmony Editorial Team - November 7, 2017

Modern infidelity takes many forms, from physical cheating to digital and emotional affairs. But what really counts as cheating and what doesn’t cross that line? We tackle the cheating definition

Everyone has a personal cheating definition. It’s the reason why infidelity is so difficult to define. There are no hard and fast rules, and individual opinions are often driven by emotional response rather than logic.

Cheating also takes various forms, especially in the digital age. The rise of casual dating has led to ambiguous relationship statuses and infidelity can be just as messy. The general rule is that any behaviour that causes feelings of betrayal and rejection in a partner is defined as cheating.

Even so, boundaries often remain unclear as couples are reluctant to discuss what cheating means to them. It’s easy for us to assume that our partner shares our views without ever asking those all-important questions, which can lead to confusion and heartbreak.

To help you define what the word cheat means to you, we’ve compiled a list of the most common forms of infidelity and where lines can be drawn.

Physical cheating definition

Physical cheating is the most clear-cut form of infidelity. Most couples would consider one partner engaging in sex or sexual contact with someone else cheating. But there are grey areas. Is kissing defined as cheating? Would you be comfortable with your significant other sharing a bed with someone of the opposite sex, even if ‘nothing’ happened? Does it make a difference if it was a long-term affair or one-off mistake?

You may already know where you stand on these issues – or they may be things you wouldn’t consider until they happened. The most important thing is that you and your partner share the same definition. As the most easily defined form of cheating, it’s one of the more straightforward conversations to have with your partner and expectations should be put in place as soon as you make things exclusive.

Emotional cheating definition

An emotional affair can be just as damaging as physical betrayal – although much harder to define. There’s no reason why men and women can’t be friends, spend time alone together, and exchange messages. These relationships only cross the line into infidelity when there’s an element that goes beyond friendship.

If your emotional attachment to someone outside of your relationship is leading to interactions that you feel you need to hide or lie to your partner about then you’re cheating. Sharing intimate details of your life or your relationship problems with someone you have an attachment or attraction to would certainly blur boundaries too. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with your partner reading your messages or tagging along to drinks, then you subconsciously know that you’re having an emotional affair.

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Cyber cheating definition

It’s never been easier to connect with people online. Whether it’s through social media, WhatsApp messages, email, or online dating. And when it’s this easy to connect, it’s easy to cheat. Everyone’s cyber cheating definition is different, especially as it’s a relatively new phenomenon. Some may have no problem with a little Instagram flirting (deep liking, anyone?) but would draw the line at exchanging Facebook messages, for example.

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Cyber infidelity is particularly relevant to those who met their partners online. The etiquette can be unclear. If you’re in the early stages of an exclusive relationship, you might expect your partner to delete all dating apps from their phone, but should they go the extra step and delete their profile entirely? Or would you be comfortable with them keeping an online presence – but not checking their messages – until the end of their subscription?

When it comes to determining a cheating definition, there’s no one size fits all. Every relationship is different, and every individual will have their own boundaries. Take time to define what yours are and share them with your partner early on in your relationship. It doesn’t have to be a confrontational conversation, just honest. Consider physical infidelity, emotional affairs and cyber cheating and make your definitions clear. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. And it’ll help you to avoid unnecessary heartbreak in the long-run.