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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