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What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship? The Blurry Boundaries Between Commitment And Infidelity

What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship? The Blurry Boundaries Between Commitment And Infidelity

What Is Considered Cheating
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It’s 2024, and how we look at relationships has undergone multiple changes. Naturally, how we look at cheating has also changed. So, what is considered cheating in a relationship in 2024? 

Your partner steps out on their own, meets someone, and hooks up with them. It’s an open-and-shut case of infidelity, right? But what if it was just a momentary snogging session before your brain actually started working? Or was it an almost kiss? 

Moreover, what about the different situations that are just vague and blurry? Does kissing your friends on intoxicated nights count? Does flirting over text with a colleague count as cheating? Is it even cheating if you subscribe to your friend’s OnlyFans account? 

In a world dominated by polyamorous and open relationships, cheating is becoming increasingly common, and so is a growing interest in non-monogamy, with more and more people moving away from traditional relationships. It just feels like relationship boundaries are becoming blurier than ever!

Perhaps it gets easier to brush one drunken kiss under your bed than a too-cozy friendship with your ex-partner. Perhaps, like most guys you have heard of, you can operate on a ‘women don’t count’ rule with your heteroflexible/bicurious/bisexual girlfriend. 

Just because you think it is not infidelity, since you are romanticizing (or fetishizing) it, it doesn’t necessarily become true. 

Yes, the lines between a committed relationship and infidelity are certainly blurry. So, what exactly counts as cheating in 2024? Let’s dive in, shall we? 

What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship? How Blurry Is Too Blurry?

What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship

If you remember how Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City cheats on Aidan with Mr. Big, who is married to another woman at that point, you will know exactly which monologue we are just about to quote. 

“I think maybe there’s a cheating curve. That someone’s definition of what constitutes cheating is in direct proportion to how much they themselves want to cheat.” 

We have no option but to validate the thoughts of a fictional character from the 90s whose beliefs and actions, by most accounts, have aged badly. But she does have a point, doesn’t she? 

So, is cheating really in the eyes of the beholder? Is everything really fair in love and war? 

It is normal to not have fixed boundaries for what specific acts count as infidelity. Rather, it is more about whether you have crossed a boundary that you agreed not to cross previously. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a monogamous relationship or a non-monogamous one; for that matter, trust is essential. 

So, if you agree with your current partner, it’s cool for the two of you to have casual hookups, but then it won’t count as cheating. But up until that conversation, if you have casually hooked up with people without telling your partner, then that is cheating. 

The Second You Hide It From Your Partner, It Counts As Cheating:

The Second You Hide It From Your Partner, It Counts As Cheating

With heteronormative monogamy, there is an advantage of specific things being unspoken – these assumed boundaries include getting intimate with strangers. Without even discussing it, most people would consider it off-limits. 

However, is it actually an absurd assumption? Most people don’t actually set the explicit rules of being monogamous and exclusive – it’s kind of obvious. It is possible that you have been with someone for three years, and you both never had a conversation about such boundaries – because it is a given. 

When you are in a polyamorous situation or a relationship anarchy, for that matter, you cannot make the same assumptions. 

As a result, all boundaries become open to communication and negotiations in such a situation – it is a necessity if you want your situation to work out. However, it is better to understand that there are risks in being too loose as much as too rigid boundaries.

It does seem like instead of establishing hard and binding rules about what exactly counts as cheating and what doesn’t, more and more people are starting to look at infidelity as a broad concept defined by betrayal.

At the end of the day, cheating isn’t about a specific sexual or romantic thing. Rather, it’s basically the act of going behind your partner’s back and against their wishes. 

So, if you are in a polyamorous arrangement and you are having a fling, then you need to let your person know about the fling. 

Similarly, your fling should know about your partner – are they fine with your situation? That way, you can have a sex marathon, and your partner will be fine with it as long as you send them a heads-up over text. 

But the second you hide the whole thing from your partner, even in polyamory, it will count as cheating. 

Fidelity Expectations Determine What Counts As Cheating In A Relationship:

Typically, people in monogamous relationships are not fine with their partner hooking up with someone else. It doesn’t matter whether you tell your partner or hide it from them – it counts as cheating since it was given you won’t be physically intimate with anyone but your partner. 

Moreover, it is vital to assert that different relationships function differently. As a result, comparing fidelity expectations between a polyamorous couple and a monogamous couple is not a possibility. 

Apart from fidelity expectations in monogamy, however, there is also a generational element that comes into play. 

As per a 60-year-old, if you or your partner is even remotely interested in someone else, mentally or physically, then it counts as cheating. If you are in love with your partner, your lips won’t suddenly slip onto another person’s lips, nor will your messages slide into another person’s DM accidentally. 

But what does mentally cheating entail? Of course, you can daydream about celebrities. But if you are thinking about getting away with an affair or how it would feel on another person’s bed, then you might not be as happy as you thought. Moreover, to an extent, it does count as cheating. 

And with that, it seems like we are back on subjective and slippery territory. 

Exclusivity In Monogamy Is Equivalent To Commitment:

Fantasizing About Your Boss Instead Of Your Partner Doesn’t Really 

Saying that you are not happy in a romantic relationship just because you fantasize about other people seems to both deny certain essential facts about being a human being and entirely condemn non-monogamy. Is there anyone who can actually stop every twinge of desire? Does society expect monogamous people to try?

Fine, if you can’t stop contemplating getting away with doing your colleague Alan Rickman in Love Actually style, then it’s a bad move. 

But about all that tension with your boss – the lingering eye contact, the accidental touches, and the heavy desire. You both know that in a different lifetime, it would be so on! Or what about the ever-so-little flirting that you did for a little too long with a hottie at the bar?

Should you let your partner know about every fantasy and sex dream, or leave them inside your head since you might be thinking about what it feels like to do someone else, but you don’t have the intention to do so? That does feel like an impossibly high bar for a long-term monogamous relationship. 

Surely, it is very unhealthy for any romantic relationship to be frequently vigilant to such ‘thought crimes.

The question, ‘What is considered cheating?’ is so difficult to answer since it is not understood well what infidelity means for a monogamous relationship. 

We believe that it’s all basically wrapped up in the concept that exclusivity is equivalent to commitment. It means if you end your exclusivity, you are not committed, or maybe you didn’t love your partner in the first place. It’s almost like society teaches us to set tripwires – if our partners are caught in any wire, it means our love isn’t real. 

But aren’t tripwires irrational and unreasonable? 

Individual Actions Are Less Important Than Overall Behavioral Patterns

Today, the individual actions of your partner will carry less significance than their overall behavioral pattern. Of course, this doesn’t make all actions and behavior of your partner excusable. Rather, it makes you question the point of taking a single event out of context and subsequently using the same action to determine the entire relationship’s worth. 

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We think when people talk about cheating, they are talking about their partner’s actions, which instantly convinces them that their partner has no respect or love for them. 

In that case, it all comes back to trust and building safe relationships that refuse to function from a place of blame, suspicion, and fear. 

Moreover, you need to be brave to fight the status quo. But don’t worry, nobody is expected to get married to the first person they slept with anymore. So, it’s only normal to re-write the relationship rules – the same rules that were handed down from past generations. 

Perhaps, instead of figuring out how to follow such relationship rules, think about removing tripwires that play a vital role in making relationships fail. 

How To Deal With Infidelity In Relationships?

How To Deal With Infidelity In Relationships

What is considered cheating in a relationship can vary depending on the boundaries you and your partner establish for your relationship. 

If your partner cheats on you, it is vital not to make any impulsive decisions. Instead, take some time and process what exactly happened and what you actually want going forward. You can also get professional help to understand whether you want to work with your partner to fix your relationship. 

Moreover, it is completely normal to be ambivalent about leaving and staying in the initial stage after you find out about your partner’s infidelity. 

Also, when you deal with your partner’s betrayal, you might end up losing the trust over future partners. Whether you decide to go or stay, it is vital to pour your heart out to a friend you trust or seek professional help. You can also consider joining a support group if you don’t want to go through the whole mourning process on your own. 

Moreover, there are certain ways to rebuild your relationship if you choose to do so. On top of that, you can work towards re-establishing respect, trust, and commitment with your partner. To allow the pain and hurt to subside, find small things to do together. 

It is crucial to take things slow. After all, mourning is not a curriculum that it will only take a specific time. Instead, the feelings will come to you in waves. Just don’t be hard on yourself if you end up reaching out to your partner for comfort, solace, or even sex while you think of them as awful at other times. 

After all, your mind and body are going through a whole lot. So, have some compassion for yourself. 

If You Are Guilty Of Committing Infidelity:

It is imperative that you take accountability and responsibility if you are the one who has committed infidelity. You have caused your partner immense pain, but coming clean can, at the very least, soften the blow. 

There is a massive and dramatic difference between how hurtful infidelity is when your partner finds out from you compared to finding the truth on their own. After all, people do discover infidelity in the most unexpected ways. 

So, if you cheat on your partner, it is best to be honest and address the event. Facing this difficult patch together can be an opportunity to improve the quality of your relationship dramatically. But this can only work out if you are accountable, brave, sincere, honest, and open. 

You have to be additionally sensitive to the needs of your partner after you come out clean. 

Also, you should consider individual therapy sessions to determine why you compromised your relationship and betrayed your partner’s trust. Moreover, therapy can also help you figure out how to avoid doing the same in the future. 

And It’s A Wrap!

And that’s a wrap on what is considered cheating in a relationship. 

After any cheating incident, your relationship will change massively. It is often easier to move on from the relationship and start a new one with someone else. But in this new relationship, you have to put in the same level of effort and work to care for, respect, and learn about each other. 

However, if cheating is a pattern, then it’s a cycle that needs to be addressed and broken as soon as possible. Either way, you have to start investing in honest and healthy communication and subsequently reconnect with why you initially wanted to be with your partner.

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