Certain themes come up frequently around here and this is one of them.
What IS cheating? Where do you draw the line? Is it purely physical? Is it emotional? Can you be a cheater just for thinking about someone but never acting on it?
Many debate this but I don’t think it’s much of a debate.
Cheating is based on intention and interaction.
- Talking with a woman at a party. Not cheating.
- Asking for that same woman’s number? Cheating.
- Watching online porn. Not cheating.
- Communicating with a woman via live webcam. Cheating.
- Having lunch with your ex. Not cheating.
- Having sex with your ex. Cheating.
- Liking an Instagram model’s photo. Not cheating.
- Direct messaging the same Instagram model to sit on your face. Cheating.
There’s really not that much grey area, people.
That said, I’m only one man and reasonable people can disagree. Author Ty Tashiro is one of them: “Though micro-cheating does not involve physical contact with someone outside the committed relationship, it’s important to avoid the temptation to overemphasize the ‘micro’ part of the phrase and remember that ‘cheating’ is the operative word,” he says. “When one betrays a partner’s trust there are always emotional consequences for the partner’s well-being and the integrity of the relationship.”
That brings us back to what part is actually betraying a partner’s trust. To me, it requires the aforementioned action and intention – followed by lying about it.
“After all, solid relationships are based on trust– and micro-cheating isn’t exactly a trustworthy behavior if you’re keeping your interactions on the downlow “What is lost on many people who cheat is that their interpretation or rationalization of the cheating behavior does not matter, it’s the interpretation of their partner and their partner’s feelings that matter,” says Tashiro. “There’s an old saying in social psychology, ‘What’s perceived as real is real in its consequences,’ and that certainly applies to micro-cheating. When someone feels that there has been an infidelity, there is a sense that an agreed upon standard has been intentionally violated and it’s human to respond to deception with anger, distrust and loss of affection,” he says.
However, to play devil’s advocate here, what if a man is perfectly comfortable with the aforementioned behaviors – talking to a woman at a party, liking a photo online, masturbating in private, staying friends with an ex – and his partner is not?
He is then faced with two unpleasant choices: stop engaging in behavior that is clearly not cheating because his girlfriend is insecure or jealous, or lie to the girlfriend because she can’t handle the truth. Flip the genders and you’ve got the same exact story.
I’m not the lying type – I’d sooner to break up with someone who forbids me to be myself – but many men (and women) are not as direct and are more likely to hide their behavior.
Not because they are incorrigible liars who are trying to “betray” their partners, but because they are conflict-averse and they neither want to change their habits nor face the possibility of blowing up their relationship.
Being in a relationship does not mean you never notice anyone other than your partner
Personally, I think Dr. Robert Weiss has it right.
“It’s somewhat normal to find other people attractive within a committed relationship – just not to act on it. ‘Being in a relationship does not mean you never notice anyone other than your partner,” says Weiss. “It also doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it when someone flirts with you regardless of whether you respond in kind. Nor does this type of behavior automatically reflect poorly on the strength of your relationship or how attractive you find your partner or how good your sex life is” he says.
This is a nuanced view that doesn’t make either party “wrong.” If anything, it may just mean that two people who can’t see eye-to-eye on this are incompatible.
Your thoughts, both on microcheating and how you navigate this minefield, are greatly appreciated.