All the different ways someone can cheat.
Ask 10 people what “counts” as cheating and you’d probably get 100 different answers. “Infidelity is a gray area because different individuals have their own boundaries and ideals for romantic relationships,” says Dana Weiser, Ph.D., assistant professor at Texas Tech University.
BEING PHYSICALLY INTIMATE OUTSIDE YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Physical infidelity is pretty self-explanatory. “It’s typically construed as any type of touching, kissing, or sexual behavior with a person who is not your exclusive partner,” says Weiser. But physical infidelity isn’t just about being monogamous. “A lot of people assume there's no such thing as cheating in a non-monogamous relationship, but of course that's not so,” says Matt Lundquist, LCSW, a relationship therapist in New York. “Some couples have restrictions on gender or restrict sex with someone their partner knows (or doesn't know).”
HARBORING 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 sexual 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 cheating comes into play when those relationships aren’t respectful of your partner, says Lundquist.
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 sex with your partner is normal—you might even suggest exploring a threesome.
HIDING YOUR MONEY HABITS
Since cheating 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 Amazon binges, you’re cheating 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 sexual. 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 behaviors all fall into the gray area of social media cheating.
The other form of social media infidelity can be thought of as cheating 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.