5 Ways You Cheat Without Even Knowing


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I once received this email from a reader:

I love your insight and columns and use them as a guide for what I want in a man and to keep me focused on what is right and acceptable for me in a relationship.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me spread the word that sending “suggestive” emails and such when you are in a committed relationship is cheating and being unfaithful.  So many ex’s (and friends ex’s) I know see nothing wrong with it since no physical contact took place. Help out some of us girls please?

So, I began thinking about her request. There are likely men (and women) out there who all have different personal definitions of what “cheating” means. This can obviously cause some issues if someone thinks they’re being relatively innocent, but their partner is totally not okay with what’s unfolding.

Here are a few things that you might not feel fall under the cheating umbrella, but your partner very well may think otherwise.



Deleting text messages from other men or women.

This one is kind of shaky ground, because those texts might be totally innocent and that man or woman could be a completely platonic friend…but then, why are you deleting them?

Perhaps you’re with someone who is overly possessive and you’re not “allowed” to have friends of the opposite sex. With someone like this, obviously the definition of “cheating” will be much tighter, but it will be cheating in their eyes nonetheless. Now, whether or not you should be staying with someone who takes their distrust to that extreme is a whole other conversation.

The bottom line is that if you’re doing your best to bury your bones in the proverbial backyard, they’re probably not bones you should be playing with in the first place.


Sending those ‘suggestive emails’ we mentioned above.

Come on, really. Whether it’s emails or Facebook messages, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain in a tweet or a status about someone whose page says “In A Relationship” and they’ve got clear intentions with the messages they’re sending.

In the age of social media people will know if you’re available or not, and if you’re trying to meet up with someone else when you’re committed, you’ll probably get called out.

You’re not even blurring the line here, you’re just stepping right over it.


Being emotionally closer to someone else than you are to your partner.

No, cheating does not have to be physical. In fact, emotional cheating can be even worse (if that’s possible), because if something is strictly physical, it may not remove you emotionally from the relationship completely (Note: I don’t think any type of cheating is acceptable, physical or emotional). It’s perfectly normal to have friends of both genders in whom you can confide and talk about things with, both good and bad.

The issue begins to present itself when you are substituting this other person for your significant other. Do you feel closer to them? More connected? Would you rather talk to, or spend time with them? Are you texting them when you’re with the one you “love”? These are all questions to ask yourself.



Trading photos with someone.

This one should be obvious, because it basically classifies as sexting. A real stretch of an excuse could be that it’s the same as just looking at pornography because you’re not actually physically touching someone – but if it’s someone you’re literally talking to, building a connection with, and asking to get pictures from, in return for sending your own, you’re crossing the line. Especially if these pictures are R-Rated, or as a guideline, wouldn’t be something they would post on Facebook that you could have just downloaded.

That would be weird too, by the way. You’re better than that.


“Forgetting” to mention that you’re in a relationship.

If you’re out with friends and you meet someone new through casual conversation, I’m not saying to blurt out that “OH I’M IN A RELATIONSHIP” immediately, but the longer you go without finding a way to fit it into the conversation, the more out of your hands the trajectory of discussion could get.

There is no avoiding the impending awkwardness of this situation – either you’re going to end up exchanging numbers with someone you’ve got no intention of contacting (hopefully), or you’re going to bring up your boyfriend/girlfriend way after it made sense to in the first place, and someone will end up disappointed.


A relationship goes far beyond physicality. The only thing that separates a committed relationship from a “friends with benefits” scenario is the emotional bond you share with your partner.

This bond is present whether or not they are in the same room with you – and your actions when they’re not around should reflect the emotional commitment you’ve made.

To be safe, just ask yourself if you would be okay with your significant other hearing, seeing, or feeling what you are doing with someone else. If you wouldn’t do it in front of them, don’t do it behind their backs. If you’re going to – save everyone some heartache and just stay single.


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  1. Richard on June 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Very well said.

  2. lovelygirl on June 5, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Its great that you touched on a few issues related to emotional cheating! Some of them I didnt even know were on the list! Great post!

  3. insrq on June 5, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    For my wife and I, the definition of “cheating” really comes down to whatever the parties of the relationship decide it is. When we started dating we made a point to figure this out early so there wouldn’t be any surprises down the road. Finding common ground with your partner on this is key for a healthy relationship. Everyone is different and will have different boundaries and expectations. For some people, they will consider even speaking with someone of the opposite gender to be cheating. For others it will be spending a certain amount of time with another person regardless of gender. For many it comes down to intimacy and perceptions of love expressed through sex. Others, like my wife and I, are on the opposite extreme of that spectrum. We have an open marriage and for us sex outside the marriage just isn’t a big deal. It’s the emotional intimacy that is important to us. Most important is that this is a decision that we made together very early on in our relationship. We set our own definitions and boundaries as to what constitutes cheating in the context of our relationship. As long as you and your partner have determined and agreed to what those boundaries are you can have a wonderful committed relationship. If you and your partner have different expectations in this area, and especially if your partner expects a double standard (e.g. it’s okay for them to delete their texts all the time but they insist on regularly reading yours) then run for the hills. Ultimately it’s about trust. If you and your partner agree on what you believe is and is not acceptable in the relationship and one of you crosses that line and breaks the trust, it will be very hard to earn it back.

    • kristinacerm on June 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

      wow really? Great that you two agree on “boundries” but you’re going against all the rules of marriage. Marriage is for monogamy, what you just described is not.

      • mullentanya on June 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm

        Marriage is what two people define it to be and what works for them.

      • kristinac91 on June 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

        Adultery is a sin in any marriage no mater what the circumstances are.

  4. Jayme on June 6, 2014 at 5:17 am

    You definitely hit the nail in the head James! If you have to hide it or delete it, it’s cheating imo. Fab article!

    • kristinacerm on June 6, 2014 at 11:36 am

      wow really? Great that you two agree on “boundries” but you’re going against all the rules of marriage. Marriage is for monogamy, what you just described is not.

      • insrq on June 6, 2014 at 11:25 pm

        The rules of relationships (marriage included) are defined by the people involved in them. For you and many others monogamy is implied, but for my wife and I it is not. As I said, it is something that we mutually agreed upon very early on (on the second date, actually). It’s not something that a lot of people are comfortable with and that’s okay. Our boundaries are just in a different place from where most people’s are. Every relationship is different. The important thing is that you and your partner agree on where that line is and what activities or feelings constitute cheating within the context of your relationship. Clear communication is critical. Even though we are unconventional, we dated for four years and have been happily married for about four years as a result of being open, clear, and honest with each other about everything.

      • kristinac91 on June 8, 2014 at 10:26 pm

        It’s still adultery, whether you both decide to do it or not.
        God meant for two people to be married, not to share each other with everyone else. If this was something you guys felt like doing, you probably shouldn’t have said vows to each other. But everyone has their opinions.

        Based on the expert on the matter…The expert on sin is the one who explains what sin is, God. All you have to do is ask him. The answer is in the Bible.

        Is adultery a sin in an open marriage?
        The answer (look them up in your own Bible, which ever version you have):

        (Malachi 3:5) 5 “And I will come near to YOU people for the judgment, and I will become a speedy witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those swearing falsely, and against those acting fraudulently with the wages of a wage worker, with [the] widow and with [the] fatherless boy, and those turning away the alien resident, while they have not feared me,” Jehovah of armies has said.

        (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) 9 What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.
        (Hebrews 13:4) 4 Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

        (Proverbs 6:32-35) 32 Anyone committing adultery with a woman is in want of heart; he that does it is bringing his own soul to ruin. 33 A plague and dishonor he will find, and his reproach itself will not be wiped out. 34 For the rage of an able-bodied man is jealousy, and he will not show compassion in the day of vengeance. 35 He will have no consideration for any sort of ransom, neither will he show willingness, no matter how large you make the present.

        Don’t be mislead, only God can answer with the truth, listen to him…

        but you clearly do not believe in Him.

      • Johnny on August 4, 2014 at 8:40 pm

        YOUR opinion. You have ZERO right to tell anyone else what THEIR marriage is or should be, especially based upon your personal insecurities. We too are polyamorous and have outside relationships that we see as adding to our lives. We don’t fret over ridiculous notions of monogamy. Just because YOU find it vital and important doesn’t mean everyone must. And I would wager our marriage is stronger and we are closer than 99% of monogamous people!

      • kristinac91 on August 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

        yeah you’re right. power to ya

  5. kristinacerm on June 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

    that was to @insrq

  6. yolandadballard on June 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I like this. My opinion is, if it has to be a secret, and/or you’re uncomfortable with me “finding out” about it, it’s the equivalent of cheating.

  7. Cori on June 6, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Great article! I’m so glad someone finally understand that cheating can be so much more than physical!

  8. blnagac on June 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Hell yeah, I did all these things. So I cheated.

  9. blnagac on June 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Hell yeah, I did all these things. So I cheated.

  10. r rodgers on June 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    been thru all that….i was wearing his ring, and he was doing all that claiming that he didnt actually meet anyone …all he was doing was stayin on the ranch….but he met me on line…funny thing is- all us women found out bout each other thru facebook….” where he kept his harem”….if hes hiding his friends list, thats a clue also…especially when women u dont know were leaving their ph#s on his page….and found out 4 of us were involved….was telling all us the same story…love you, move in with me, your the love of my life, and exchange of personal pics ( which i didnt do)…but seen pics of “others” privates he showed me in his phone, then he denied he knew these women….hmmmmm…..LIER!….and to say he got busted…big time-women talk!

  11. Louise on June 9, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Totally agree – I finished with a guy last year because he constantly spoke to women online/email/text and some of them were sexually orientated. His response to my annoyance was that I shouldn’t have read his Facebook/emails/text messages…(I agreed with this) the problem was that i only came across one message by accident and then after 30 mins of research i found all of his social media was a flirt forum! He though it was ok because it was online……I thought he was an idiot and left him.

  12. Fello Jello on June 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Reblogged this on Once upon a fello time,.

  13. shirlgurl on March 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Very well said. However, one should think if he or she would be happy with his or her partner doing the same thing. If the answer is no, then don’t do it.

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