April 3, 2010

What is Cheating, Exactly?

(Reprinted from http://www.truelovedirect.com/what-is-cheating-exactly)

Last month, we talked about why people cheat while in a committed relationship. Now, let's figure out: what exactly constitutes as cheating? Furthermore, is emotional cheating as detrimental as physical cheating?

The first thing to know about cheating is that men and women have wildly different ideas about it. In a forum populated exclusively by women, I asked, “What constitutes cheating?” The resounding response was subjective: “if he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of me or has to hide it from me, he’s cheating.” In other words, if your boyfriend won’t hold a woman’s hand in front of you, but will hold it while you’re not around, he’s cheating.

Furthermore, many women consider “sexting” (sending and receiving provocative text messages), cyber sex, and private dances from a stripper to also be cheating. Basically, anything that involves a one-on-one connection with another woman is cheating (or dangerously close to it). Strangely enough, however, some women that replied have drunkenly kissed another girl, yet neither they nor their significant others considered this to be cheating.

Meanwhile, men take on a more objective view about cheating. In a recent poll on AskMen.com, 54% said it becomes cheating only after a woman has kissed someone else. Another 20% said it’s only cheating if sex is involved. This means three-quarters of the responders think anything less than kissing is not cheating: hand-holding, dirty-dancing at the club, maybe even flashing one’s body parts are A-OK. While 80% of women (as recorded in another AskMen.com poll) consider cyber sex to be cheating, many men feel it is simply a form of entertainment.

Clearly, the definition of cheating varies from person to person. But one thing is generally agreed upon: emotional infidelity is much worse than sexual infidelity. Emotional cheating is defined as the intimate connection between two people outside of a relationship (and usually excluding any sexual contact). While a sexual relationship can oftentimes be fulfilled simply by physical contact, an emotional affair has a much stronger effect on all parties. The cheater feels more invested in a third-party, which makes his or her connection to the spouse diminish. These affairs are usually much harder to end.

In response to the question, “Which is worse: sexual or emotional cheating?”, one woman responded with this: “Emotional cheating is harder. I’d be more upset because it means we have disconnected somewhere along the way. Sex is just sex, but when strong emotions are involved, it means the end is near.” Moreover, it seems that it is only a matter of time—with emotional affairs—before sex becomes involved anyways. So while a sexual infidelity may stop at a “drunken one-night-stand,” an emotional affair will linger for months or even years.

There are many definitions for cheating and many different ideas on the types of infidelity. Nevertheless, the best way to define cheating is to discuss it with your partner. You may discover that you have very different definitions, which could get one of you in trouble in the future. It is better to get on the same page before anything happens…rather than trying to resolve it while emotions are heightened and a relationship is on the line.

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