Everyone has a different opinion on what is considered “cheating” in a relationship. Some partners consider themselves open and nothing is “wrong” as long as everyone knows the situation. Some couples are much stricter on their definition, and consider kissing to be cheating, even if no sex happens.
It’s important to understand how your partner feels about the situation – because, truthfully, their opinion is the one that should matter to you.
Even if you aren’t being physically intimate with someone other than your partner, there are lines that might be crossed that can give you a sign that you’re headed down the path of unfaithfulness.
After all, in its simplest definition, your loyalty to your partner means that you put their desires at least on the same level you put your own. If the things you’re doing would make your girlfriend upset if she knew, you probably shouldn’t be doing them.
Even in a polyamorous relationship, one of the main factors in the happiness of the couple is honesty. If you feel the need to be dishonest with your partner, it’s coming from a place of guilt. Sometimes this guilt is unfounded – for example, one may feel guilty when they look at someone of their preferred gender who isn’t their partner. However, their partner might not care. But, even if your partner doesn’t really care – your dishonesty shows that you did it without regarding your partner’s feelings.
There are many levels of dishonesty, ranging from “leaving something out” (a simple lie of omission) to “masking” (hiding the evidence of the indiscretion), all the way to flat-out lying. Of course there are some types of dishonesty that are “worse” than others, but if you want your relationship to be healthy and happy, you should avoid keeping secrets.
Maybe you’re not dishonest with your partner, but you do things behind your partner’s back, or intentionally plan things around when she’s not available. The reason could be as simple as needing some time apart – which there’s nothing wrong with. However, you should be able to tell your partner that you need some time to yourself. You shouldn’t have to take it forcibly.
It’s also important to evaluate whether you’re sneaking around because you need some time apart, or if it’s because your partner wouldn’t approve of the activity. For example, if you sneak off to a strip club, even if you have no intention of touching – if you have to keep it from her, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Hitting on other people
It should be understood that “flirting” and “hitting on” are two entirely different concepts. Many women are okay with the idea of their partner harmlessly flirting with another woman. But if you’re talking dirty to someone or making passes at her, this is usually not so okay.
The obvious exception here is for those in open relationships. Often, those who participate in open relationships will have a different definition of “cheating” – for example, their partner may sleep with whomever they like, but they can only spend the night with each other, or something along those lines. As I mentioned before, it will be different from woman to woman, and it’s important that you ask.
I do strongly feel that you shouldn’t tell your partner about harmless flirting from other women, as long as you are certain that it’s harmless. This can lead to unnecessary jealousy, which can cause her agony when she attempts to reassure herself that you wouldn’t actually stray. If it’s just a waitress angling for a better tip or some random stranger at the gas station who checked out your butt – let it be your own little ego boost.
Being emotionally attracted to someone else
This can be a particularly tricky spot if you’re entering a new relationship before you’ve fully healed from your previous one. Some women are okay with being a “second choice”, but for many others, they would be quite offended if they knew you were having romantic thoughts about someone else.
This is extra difficult because we can’t always control who we’re attracted to. However, if you still have feelings for your ex (or if you begin to have feelings for someone new), it’s important that you and your partner be on the same page to avoid any possible heartbreak.
That’s not to say you should tell your partner about every little crush. Just like as it pertains to flirting, there’s not really a risk here if you find yourself attracted to someone unattainable. It’s only a real problem if it’s someone you could be with – she has the right to know if your relationship is in jeopardy.
Sexting anyone who isn’t her
This is something that really wasn’t a problem until the last few years. Once upon a time, it was mostly nerds who had sex through a screen, but nowadays it’s almost more common than people who have real sex. There are even places you can get body-part emojis to send to your boo, and places that let you chat anonymously with other horny internet goers.
Unless you specifically know that your girlfriend would be okay with it (hint: it’s difficult to bring up tactfully), you really shouldn’t be seeking sexual attention from anyone who isn’t your girlfriend. This is exactly what makes the difference between “watching porn” and “watching sex cams”. If you’re watching a live nude cam, you actually have the ability to chat with the person on the other end. It’s an interactive experience, and in some ways you have control in the situation (aside from pausing and stopping).
There are some girls who don’t mind it, but most would consider this “interactive sexual experience” to be just as bad as having sex with the person. You’re pouring out details of what you want this other woman to do, and she’s doing them. When you think about it this way, it’s obvious that the only real difference is whether you can touch her or not.
As mentioned previously, this isn’t the same thing as porn – unless the porn is homemade, and not with her. If you’ve still got old sex videos of you and your ex, or naked pictures of her, you should be deleting them when you break up. It’s just a courtesy to everyone involved in the situation. It gives your ex the respect of guaranteeing the videos won’t be shared, and it gives your new lady the respect of knowing you won’t be tempted to go back to your ex.