When it comes to the subject of cheating, opinions about “what counts” are all over the place. Something that might seem harmless to some might be downright deal-breaking to others. So how can you know what’s “safe” to do?
The short answer is, if you’re worried about your partner finding out about it, you probably shouldn’t be involved with it – but of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Sex with someone of the same gender as your partner
For many people, this is considered “the ultimate offense”. The idea is that someone who is the same gender as your partner cannot possibly offer anything that your partner can’t – but sometimes that’s not really the case. Generally speaking, unless you and your partner have explicitly discussed it, this is out of the question – but that applies to pretty much anything that could be considered cheating.
When you have sex with someone who is the same gender as your partner, you are (at least in part) invalidating your commitment to your partner. This can make your partner feel that she is inadequate, and that sex with her is not enough for you. Where you might be tempted by alcohol, drugs, or simply excessive temptation, your partner will (most likely) see only the indiscretion and betrayal.
Of course, for as many people who consider this “worse”, there are others who think it’s “not as bad” as cheating with someone who isn’t similar to their partner. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with gender or sexuality or anything else – it’s a matter of personal opinion, and opinions are, by definition, different to everyone.
Sex with someone of a different gender than your partner
For many lesbians, the idea of their partner cheating with a man is considered a slap in the face. It makes us question the sexuality of our partner (which isn’t entirely fair, because sexuality is rarely black and white). Meanwhile, many men do not consider their girlfriend having sex with a woman to be “cheating” – why is this?
There is a school of thought that pretty much says that cheating only “counts” if it’s something that you could go to your partner for, and there is an opposite school of thought that thinks that there’s an implied sexism if someone thinks that cheating with a woman “isn’t really cheating”. Essentially, these two ideas aren’t really that far off; in both cases, people are extending a definition of cheating that doesn’t necessarily apply to the people involved, but rather to the people observing.
Naturally, if you’re not sure where your partner stands on this one, it’s best if you resist the temptation. Often you may run the risk of betraying your partner’s trust by assuming you know what he or she would be okay with, and if you care about this person, you shouldn’t want to risk it.
Sexting – with anyone
Sexting is still a relatively new concept, although the idea has been around for longer than text messaging has. Once upon a time in the early days of the internet, cybersex was the quintessential “nerd love” thing to do. Now that everyone is typing more than they’re talking, it’s become even more common – but that doesn’t mean people’s feathers don’t still get ruffled by it.
When you’re sexting with someone, you’re putting a fair amount of thought into what you say to them, and often it involves things that your partner would be pretty upset to find out about. If you’re not sure if she’d be mad, it’s safest to assume she would.
There are some women who do not consider sexting cheating, as it doesn’t require any emotion or physical contact, but it’s presumed that these women are in the minority. Cheating is a spectrum, after all, with most of the “offenses” being centered toward the middle. Make sure you know where your partner stands before engaging in any activities she might not approve of.
Talking to an ex – in private
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have to hide it from your partner, you shouldn’t be doing it. This is (of course) a highly generalized statement, but the need to be secretive is, in many ways, a subtle admission of guilt.
Many people choose to stay in contact with their exes, for a variety of reasons, and it’s not usually anything to be concerned about. But the fact remains that hiding it means that you feel guilty, whether there is a legitimate reason to feel guilty or not. If you care about your partner, you should be able to be honest with her – no matter what the situation.
Talking to an ex – openly
If you are talking to an ex (or anyone, really) while you are in a relationship, you should be able to tell your partner about it. The truth is that some will still have a problem with this – and, to some extent, you should be able to accommodate her for these problems.
This isn’t to say that you should automatically say goodbye to everyone your partner feels jealous over. Sometimes jealousy is coming from a place of insecurity, and these insecurities may need to be dealt with – if they are the actual root of the problem.
If, on the other hand, your partner is jealous because you’re admittedly flirting with the people you’re talking to, or you still have feelings for, your love for your partner should be enough to stop you from these types of interactions. If they’re not, then your partner deserves to be with someone who can give her their full attention.
So how do you know what’s ok?
The easiest way to know what’s off limits to your partner is to ask! Communication is key, even in open relationships, and without honesty and trust there isn’t much of a relationship to start with. Your partner should be free to express herself, and you should understand that her anger (while it may seem unjustified) is her right. People react to different scenarios differently, and you can’t always predict how a situation will affect you, even if you have explicitly discussed it.