What constitutes cheating?
That question might seem like a simple one, but in reality, the issue is far more complex.
Is an emotional affair cheating? A kiss? Flirtations via text or email that never amount to any in-person interaction?
The answers to these questions are subjective. If you’re in a relationship, especially in the age of social media, it’s worth communicating with your partner to set ground rules. What are acceptable interactions with others, and what isn’t? How do you both define cheating and unfaithful behavior?
Brittany Horowitz, one of my Sexuality and Social Media students, has been exploring whether social media and the Internet has changed how people define infidelity. She writes in this post about anonymity:
With the Internet being used as an outlet for sexual activity, it is interesting to look at the behavior taking place and decide if it can be considered infidelity. With cybersex, actual sexual behavior is not taking place in person. People are not physically touching one another, rather they are describing sexual acts to one another. However, some might argue that cybersex and other sexual behavior online can be considered detrimental to a relationship because it can qualify as emotional infidelity.
She also cites a study regarding online infidelity, in which authors Henline, Lamke and Howard state:
“Participants in this study included chatting with random people, keeping secrets from your partner, showing yourself to the online contact, and betraying the confidence of your partner in their descriptions of what should be considered unfaithful behaviors in a committed relationship” (123).
I was surprised to read that infidelity is no longer the number one cause for divorce. Why do people stay after one partner’s unfaithful behavior has been exposed?
According to Jill Brooke, people stay because of “[a] fear of loneliness. A fear of change. A dread of dismantling a family that you spent a lifetime constructing and having your children ping pong between two residences during holidays. There’s also a comfort in the rhythm of family life, the carpooling, the grocery shopping for more than one, the weekday nights eating at the oak table with your old wedding china.”
Read more of Brittany’s findings on the subject here.
How do you define cheating? Would you stay – or have you stayed — if a partner cheated on you?