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What Actually Qualifies as Cheating?

What Actually Qualifies as Cheating? Experts Weigh in on the Tricky Situations

When it comes to the concept of cheating on your SO, the lines can be a bit blurred. It's tough to say what really qualifies as "cheating." It can take on many forms, both physical and emotional, and certain, flirty actions might be seen differently depending on the person you're in a relationship with.

Your best bet is to first define what cheating means: talk with your partner and set the rules on boundaries. If your partner doesn't truly know where you stand, it's hard to say whether or not he or she was in the wrong. Yet, once that conversation is finished, you should both be on the same page. Here are seven scenarios where cheating can occur, so discuss what cheating means to the two of you before things get too heated.

Keeping a Dating Profile

Having a dating profile could be considered cheating because there really is no reason to have a dating profile, unless you are looking to date. "However, it's possible that the profile is old, and still showing up and not in use (some dating apps like Bumble, for example, seem to keep long inactive profiles active)," relationship expert and certified counselor David Bennett, with Double Trust Dating, told POPSUGAR.

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"Also, some dating apps like Bumble have a meeting friends and business networking components, so the apps could be used for other purposes," he said. Basically, don't get too freaked out. Just tell your partner if you'd like him or her to delete the apps if it bothers you.

Following an Ex on Social Media

"This is such a frequent occurrence, that many people would be seen as cheaters who do not have the intent to cheat on a partner," said Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator to POPSUGAR. "I would term this as inappropriate boundary crossing and as a potential step towards cheating as it sets the stage for something to happen, even if clear intent is not there at the beginning," she said. It's a red flag, but not cheating, though. Perhaps your partner just didn't care enough to delete social contacts. If it's bothersome, discuss it openly.

Watching Porn Without Your Partner

"Watching porn without your partner can certainly be unhealthy for a relationship, but I don't think it classifies as cheating, unless it virtually replaces intimacy in a relationship. If it has that effect, it could be considered a type of cheating," said Bennett. "Also, if your partner considers it cheating, I would strongly consider asking yourself if porn is worth giving up a real life person for," he added. It's mostly about the openness around the habit. "If a person is using pornography regularly and hiding this from their partner, it's a serious red flag and though not technically cheating, it is lying and could lead to cheating," said Coleman. Instead, try watching together if your partner is on board. It could maybe even enhance your sex life!

Having an Emotional Connection Elsewhere

"Having an emotional connection can be cheating if that connection replaces the connection you should have with your partner, and/or the motivation is at least partially romantic. However, in other instances, a strong emotional connection could just be friendship," said Bennett. It's not necessarily healthy to have an emotional connection only with your partner, so forming an emotional connection with someone else may not be cheating. Keep those boundaries, and check with your partner to see how he or she feels about it.

Sending Flirty Texts

"For those who consider it cheating, there are really no good reasons to be sending flirty texts to someone other than your partner. The excuse 'I'm just a flirt' really doesn't make sense, because flirting is by its very nature romantic and sexual," said Bennett. Put the phone away and focus your flirty energy on your partner, instead. "However, some people are truly just fun, which could be interpreted as flirtatious, when in reality, the person doing the flirting doesn't even have a romantic motivation," said Bennett. If this happens often, chat with your partner to understand his or her intentions, and maybe have him or her speak to the recipient and explain that it's solely a friendship.

Going to Dinner With Someone You're Attracted To

"If this is a once or twice thing, there is an attraction, but no flirting or flirtatious suggestions or behavior, it is wading into potentially dangerous waters, but not cheating yet. If it is concealed from one's partner, it suggests a desire to cheat," said Coleman. Yet, if there is mutual attraction and sexual tension, uh-oh. "In this case, a few extra drinks and one partner suggesting something could easily turn an 'innocent' dinner meeting into something that is clearly cheating," said Bennett.

Going to a Strip Club

"Going to strip clubs could be considered cheating if it is done as a replacement for intimacy with your partner," said Bennett, so it's worth discussing with your partner to see if he or she considers it cheating or not. "If they do, I suggest not pushing it by going," he said. "On the other hand, for many people, a strip club is just a form of fun, sexually charged entertainment," he said. It may just be another "night out" and have no romantic or sexual overtones at all. Try inviting your partner and see if there's interest. It could actually spice things up for the two of you.

Image Source: Unsplash / Mahkeo
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