11 Things You Didn’t Know Amount To Cheating In A Relationship

Affair and Cheating | | , Editor-in-Chief
Updated On: October 5, 2023
Cheating In A Relationship

When it comes to cheating in a relationship, sleeping with someone other than one’s partner or getting involved in a full-blown affair are commonly considered as crossing the line of faithfulness. However, betraying a partner’s trust cannot be compartmentalized into black and white so easily.

There are a lot of gray areas where an act may be considered cheating on someone from one person’s perspective and be interpreted as completely normal from another’s. These gray areas can also serve as an opportunity for one partner to betray the other’s trust without landing in the dock for their actions. These ambiguities over what counts as cheating in a relationship can often become a bone of contention between couples. Even more so, in cases where both partners have divergent views of the things they consider as cheating.

For instance, is lying considered an example of cheating in a relationship? That depends on the different relationship dynamics of people. You going out for an innocent cup of coffee with a friend and not telling your over-possessive spouse about this is justifiable. So what counts as cheating on someone? Seeing your ex over and over again, especially when you still secretly have feelings for them is definitely a good example of cheating.

There is no one way to draw a line and declare that crossing it will be considered cheating in a relationship. According to a research paper published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, a person’s motivation behind cheating on their partner is far more complicated. They have reported many reasons such as anger, lack of love, toxicity in the relationship, or stress.

Have you and your partner been arguing and bickering over what amounts to being unfaithful in a relationship? Have you ever taken the time to define to the other the different ways of cheating according to you? Understanding what is considered cheating in a relationship can help you gain clarity on how to address this sore point tactfully. It’s best to lay down your definition of cheating in a relationship so that there is no ambiguity over this issue later on.

What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship?

Broadly put, cheating in a relationship can be defined as betraying the trust of your romantic partner by establishing a sexual or emotional relationship with someone else. In that sense, developing different types of intimacy with a third person constitutes cheating on someone. This is the primary example of cheating in a relationship.

Physical cheating means becoming sexually involved with someone other than your partner while being in a monogamous relationship. The Institute for Family Studies mentions in one of their articles on demographics of infidelity in America that married men are more prone to sexual cheating than their female counterparts. Data from a General Social Survey reflects the percentage is 20% for men while 13% for women.

This includes both one-night stands as well as long-term extramarital affairs. But what about non-sexual forms of physical contact such as holding hands or hugging? Is it considered cheating? This is one such gray area that can be interpreted differently, depending on a person’s perception.

Among other obvious forms of cheating in a relationship is emotional infidelity. What is emotional cheating, you may ask. It is when a person develops a deep connection with someone outside their primary relationship. When a partner starts relying on someone else to have their emotional needs met, neglect takes hold in the main relationship. So is it considered cheating, you wonder. Well, since you’re catering to your needs at the cost of your relationship, it definitely constitutes as things considered cheating.

Related Reading: When My Wife Cheated On Me, I Decided To Show More Love

As you can see, there are varying degrees and levels of cheating. While not all betrayals are created equal, they do cause some degrees of hurt and leave a dent in a couple’s bond. Curiously enough, people’s views on what is considered cheating in a relationship can vary depending on their backgrounds, gender, cultural references, ethnicity, life experience, and so on. Ironically enough, the definition of cheating in a relationship actually varies from relationship to relationship. After all, no two people are alike. Everybody is who they are thanks to their own unique experiences and therefore, perceptions.

To address this ambiguity, the University of Michigan carried out a study, Was that Cheating? Perceptions Vary by Sex, Attachment Anxiety, and Behavior, where undergrad students were asked to rate 27 behaviors as indicators of cheating on a scale of 1 to 100. As per the result, from touching inappropriate areas to sending explicit texts and meeting an ex, 10 such behaviors were classified as types of cheating in a relationship.

For a clearer understanding of where to draw the line of fidelity and how far you can push the limits, we delve deeper into what is cheating in a relationship and what are the different ways of cheating.

11 Things You Didn’t Know Amount To Cheating In A Relationship

Of course, you know that in a monogamous relationship, being sexually involved with someone other than your partner qualifies as cheating. But what about spending a night in someone’s bed, even if no intimate connection was established? Does that count as an example of cheating? If done without your partner’s knowledge or consent, most definitely yes.

But a person who was involved in this situation may not view it that way. They may argue that since technically they were not crossing the line, it was a harmless act. There are many other such examples of cheating in a relationship where one partner’s betrayal of trust can be up for debate. To help you identify the thin line between harmless fun and acts of transgression, here is a rundown on 11 things that you may not know amount to cheating in a relationship:

Related Reading: 15 Shocking Things Cheaters Say When Confronted

1. Being too close to a friend

types of cheating
Emotional cheating in a relationship

What is emotional cheating? A monogamous relationship is built for two people. Adding a third wheel is bound to throw it off balance. That’s why being too close to a friend can amount to emotional cheating in a relationship, especially if this friend is of the gender you’re oriented toward. If you’re attracted to this friend, it is an obvious red flag that you’re crossing the line of fidelity.

Even if you share a platonic love for each other, prioritizing your friend over your partner all the time falls in the gray area that amounts to cheating. It’s more about the emotional dependency you have on this person. You feel you cannot reach out to your partner for this level of emotional intimacy.

If you keep secrets from your partner and confide in your friend, turn to them for emotional support, you are inching closer to an emotional affair, which is one of the biggest things considered cheating. It’s crucial to know what counts as cheating in a relationship vis-à-vis friendship so that you can balance both the equations in a healthy manner and no one gets hurt.

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2. Venting about your partner to someone

Of the different forms of cheating in a relationship, this is certainly an important one. Criticizing a partner and sharing their flaws with someone you’re attracted to is the oldest trick in the cheater’s playbook. So, if you’re guilty of venting about how awful your partner is to someone you’re emotionally attached to or have a crush on, you’re cheating in a relationship.

Why, you ask? Because when you are highlighting the flaws of your partner to someone, subconsciously, you are trying to lead them on. Basically, you are giving them the idea that you are not happy in your current relationship and they should make the first move now.

Infographic on cheating in relationship
Lesser-known forms of cheating in a relationship

In the levels of cheating, this one is often the first step toward crossing the line of faithfulness, and that’s why it may seem harmless. But consider the situation with roles reversed. Your partner is telling someone they’re close to all about how insufferable you are. Wouldn’t you feel devastated and betrayed? Yes? Well, you have your answer on why this seemingly harmless action is one of the types of cheating in a relationship.

Related Reading: 18 Complications Of Having An Affair With A Married Man

3. Flirting online is considered cheating on social media

What is considered cheating on social media? Addressing this question becomes vital when talking about different forms of cheating in a relationship, as a lot of affairs today take hold in the virtual realm – through social media platforms to be precise. Besides, online affairs are a lot easier to sustain than their real-life counterparts. That doesn’t make it a good thing, though. Cheating is cheating.

If you’re wondering, “What is considered cheating in a marriage?”, count virtual cheating as one of the most dangerous manifestations of it. People often get sucked in too deep into such affairs and establish an intense level of intimacy because there is a comparatively low risk of getting caught. It’s just talking, flirting, and flattering the other person without the responsibilities and obligations that come with a real relationship, which can make the prospect alluring.

Pretty soon the harmless chatting shifts into sexting and before you know it, you have broken the trust of your loved one. Since all you need to pull this off is your phone and internet connectivity, falling into the trap of flirting online with multiple people while being in a monogamous relationship is easy.

Be that as it may, this flirting is rarely innocuous. In fact, it is among the classic examples of cheating in a relationship in the times we live in. You’re investing your emotions, time, and effort in another person while keeping your partner in the dark. That is the very definition of cheating in a relationship.

4. Erotic text conversations are a form of cheating in a relationship

Is texting cheating in a relationship? This question gets asked a lot, especially in the context of reconnecting with an ex through text messages or taking the spark with a coworker to the next level virtually. You may be sharing your fantasies or experiences with a ‘special’ friend and telling yourself that it’s all good since you’re not actually crossing a line. Heck, you’re not even sexting with this person, just sharing your thoughts and desires. So how is it considered cheating?

Erotic texting with a person is no different than virtual cheating. Here you are literally fantasizing about someone who is not your partner. Although, in many relationships, when two partners are strongly bonded and are quite sure of their intention, they may not be bothered by each other’s sexual fantasies.

But, you have to ask yourself, do these conversations turn you on, even if just a little bit? Will you be comfortable letting your partner read these chats? Do you find yourself deleting these messages to keep your SO from chancing upon them? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, you, my friend, are guilty of cheating.

Related Reading: 18 Definite Signs Of A Cheating Boyfriend

5. Being in a relationship with your phone

When you think about what counts as cheating in a relationship, you invariably factor a third person into a couple’s equation. However, cheating in a relationship doesn’t always necessarily mean a sexual or emotional connection with someone other than your partner. You can also cheat with inanimate objects. One such object is your phone.

Do you bury your head in your phone while your partner is trying to have a conversation with you? How often do you spend your evenings watching videos on YouTube with earphones plugged in rather than spending quality time with your SO? Is your phone the last thing you interact with before going to bed and the first thing you reach for in the morning? If yes, then say hello to one of the modern types of cheating in a relationship.

You have no idea how frustrating it can be. You are sitting beside your partner for hours hoping to have a conversation with them or a bit of intimacy. And they’re not even looking at you. You will go crazy for their attention. In this case, a device has become the third wheel in the relationship. While not many may see it as a form of cheating, this kind of emotional neglect does amount to a transgression.

6. Lying about someone’s presence in your life

Say, you’re out for lunch with a ‘special friend’ and your partner calls or texts. You instinctively lie about hanging out with this other person. You may tell yourself that you’re ‘just friends’. The fact that you have to conceal your connection with this person from your partner is proof that there is more to this friendship than you’re letting on or acknowledging.

By lying to your partner about it, you’re resorting to one of the different types of cheating. While it’s possible that there is nothing brewing between you and this person yet, the fact that you’re not comfortable being transparent about this connection with your SO indicates that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Perhaps, you’re concealing being with them from your partner because they’re not comfortable with this friendship. Why is that? Is there a history there? Does your partner suspect your friend of having feelings for you or you for them? Whatever be the reason for lying, the bottom line is that you’re being unfaithful in a relationship by hiding the truth from them.

7. A secret friendship amounts to cheating in a relationship

Is lying considered cheating in a relationship? We are not talking about the little, white lies here but hiding things that could stir up a storm in your relationship. What’s your take on such lies? Do you consider it an act of cheating? If yes, then a secret friendship definitely borders on cheating too. For the same reasons as lying about someone’s presence in your life. They are both different way of cheating.

When you have a friend whose existence is unknown to your partner, it’s hardly innocent. It’s okay if it slipped your mind or you never get the chance to talk about this friend. But in case you are deliberately skipping their name in conversations with your partner, there is definitely something fishy going on. If you have nothing to hide or no underlying feelings for this person, you wouldn’t hesitate in making them meet your partner.

But the fact that you’re talking to, meeting, and spending time with someone that your SO has no inkling about makes you unfaithful in your relationship. This is one of the examples of cheating in a relationship that often doesn’t get recognized for what it is. You may justify keeping the friendship from your partner in the name of privacy or personal space, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re being untruthful to them.

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8. Lying about your relationship status

So what’s cheating? What exactly is considered cheating in a relationship? Well, lying about your relationship status certainly counts. Say, you’re out clubbing with your friends and you meet a cute girl at a bar. She asks for your number and you hand it to her without thinking twice. That, in itself, sends a signal that you’re interested and available.

Now, just to be sure, she asks if you’re single and you say yes! By denying the existence of your relationship or marriage, you’re definitely showing signs of a cheating partner. If you’re already exclusive and in a monogamous relationship, negating your partner’s presence amounts to betrayal. This also holds for not being open about your relationship status on social media even after you’ve been together for a significant time. These things are considered cheating in this day and age.

Yes, not updating your relationship status or not featuring your partner in your posts is considered cheating on social media (unless, of course, you have a legitimate reason to keep things under wraps, and your partner is aware and on board with it).

9. Imagining a relationship with someone else

cheating on someone
Consistently imagining what it’d be like to be romantically involved with someone you’re close to

Well, we all have our share of secret fantasies that we enjoy reveling in from time to time. A guilty pleasure, if you will. Something that we’d never say out loud or act upon. There is no need to panic and worry about the future of your relationship just because you had a wet dream involving Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone.

But if you’re consistently dreaming about or imagining what it’d be like to sleep or be romantically involved with someone you’re close to, make no mistake, you’re deeply attracted to this person. You may even be inching close to a full-blown affair. So, as you ask, “What counts as cheating on someone?”, be careful about the passionate fantasies of your mind. Especially, when an old crush appears in your head time and time again. And if it’s someone who you see every day…well, your relationship status may soon change to complicated. You may not have crossed that line yet but the act of drifting into the fantasy land, in itself, qualifies as cheating on someone. For instance, if you have been fantasizing about this other person during sex with your partner, you can count it among the examples of cheating in a relationship.

Related Reading: I Am Attracted To Another Man And I Don’t Regret It

10. What is considered cheating in a relationship? Financial infidelity

According to a poll, 60% of the respondents were of the view that financial infidelity is as serious a breach of trust as physical or emotional cheating. So, if you have been lying to your partner about your earnings, spending habits, assets, and liabilities, it amounts to one of the different types of cheating.

When these financial secrets tumble out of the closet, they destroy the trust between a couple. This can threaten the future of your relationship. To anyone wondering what is considered cheating in a relationship, we want to reiterate that infidelity doesn’t always involve another person or isn’t always sexual or emotional in nature.

Secrets also amount to being unfaithful in a relationship, and secrets about money, which can have long-term and serious repercussions on the financial stability of your partner, definitely fit the bill of cheating. What is considered cheating in a marriage? If you’re looking for an answer to that question with the hope of cheat-proofing your marriage, definitely add financial infidelity to the list of red flags to watch out for. Sometimes, a hidden credit card debt is all it takes to hamper your financial stability and your future as a couple.

11. Planning a hypothetical future with someone

Say, you have developed feelings for someone other than your partner. They too feel the same way. Or you’ve reconnected with an ex and realized that you both still have feelings for each other. You may hold yourself back from acting on your feelings because you’re in a relationship.

But then, while speaking to them, you start talking about a future in ‘what ifs’. “What if we hadn’t broken up? Would we be married today?” Or “What if we had met when I was single? Would you have asked me out?” This is an absolute betrayal and definitely amounts to cheating in a relationship. You’re imagining life scenarios where your current relationship doesn’t exist because you’ve started viewing it as a hurdle in getting what your heart truly desires.

Cheating in a relationship can occur in various forms. Whenever you’re in doubt about which side of the fidelity line an action falls, one of the psychological facts about cheating that can act as your moral compass is – if you feel the need to hide it from your partner, it’s cheating. And that’s that.


1. What is considered cheating in a relationship?

Broadly put, cheating in a relationship can be defined as betraying the trust of your romantic partner.

2. Can you be in love with someone and cheat on them?

Yes. You may tell yourself that you’re in love with the person you’re cheating on. But in reality, when you’re in love with someone, there is no room for a third person or distractions of any kind in a monogamous setup.

3. Why do people cheat on people they love?

Often, unresolved feelings from the past or underlying issues in the current relationship are the reason people cheat on those they love.

4. Can a cheating relationship work?

For a relationship to work after a breach of trust, first and foremost, the cheating has to stop. Even then, it is a long road to recovery. Making the relationship work will require a consistent effort from both partners for the long haul.

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