What Is Considered Cheating (From a Man's and a Woman's Point of View)
Cheating: The Ch- Word
Cheating has always been a big subject. Chances are you've been exposed to it somehow—either through someone you know or through personal experience. It doesn't matter what your nationality is or where you're from: Cheating is a part of life.
The interesting thing is that it's not always clear where the line is between harmless fun and cheating. Men, women, and people from different backgrounds all have their own perception of what cheating is. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their belief, but it is important to make sure you're on the same page with your long-term partner about what that means.
I was interested in this topic, so I wrote this article with the help of some internet research and my fiancé (who is a man) to get some clarity on what is considered cheating from men’s and women's perspectives.
What Is Considered Cheating?
A 2013 study from the University of Michigan addressed this very topic by asking a pool of undergraduates to rate 27 different behaviors (sexual, erotic, and financial) on a scale of 1-100.
A score of one indicated that they didn't think the behavior was cheating if their partner did it with someone else, while a score of 100 indicated that they definitely thought it would be cheating.
What you'll find is that there is no direct "definition" of cheating, with the possible exception of sex. It's on a sliding scale, with some people believing some behaviors are more damaging than others.
Here are the behaviors and their rating:
- Penile-vaginal intercourse—97.7
- Oral sex—96.8
- Taking a shower together—96.2
- Kissing on the lips—88.7
- E-mailing pictures of themselves naked—88.2
- Texting erotic messages—82.6
- Watching a pornographic movie together—75.1
- Sleeping in the same bed—68.4
- Holding hands—63.2
- Staying in the same hotel room—52.7
- Forming a deep emotional bond—52.4
- Spending lots of time together—52.2
- Sitting in the other person's lap—52.2
- Accompanying to a formal event—43.3
- Going out to dinner—41.4
- Talking on the phone several times a week—40.1
- Giving $500 to the other person—37.6
- Kissing on the cheek—36.9
- Sharing secrets—36.5
- Supporting the other person financially—35.8
- Hugging for more than 10 seconds—34.5
- Calling when upset about their relationship partner—33.0
- Taking a road trip out of the state—32.6
- Telling dirty jokes—25.9
- Calling when upset about work—19.2
- Hugging briefly (less than 10 seconds)—12.2
- Giving $5 to the other person—8.1
Other Behaviors That Many Consider to Be Cheating
Here are some other behaviors, beyond those discussed in the Michigan study, that cause people to accuse others of cheating:
- Friends with benefits (where a person insists his or her sex partner is “just a friend”)
- Touching and grabbing inappropriate areas
- Hiring escorts or prostitutes (for sexual needs, company, or dinner dates)
- Buying gifts, paying bills, or going to dinner with someone other than your partner
- Texting in the wee hours
- Going on a date with someone other than your partner
- Going to internet chat rooms with the intention of exchanging phone numbers or to meet up
- Meeting up with your ex’s
- Phone sex with someone other than your partner
- Watching or buying porn
- Clubbing e.g. bumping and grinding with someone other than your partner
- Exchanging phone numbers with someone other than your partner
- Flirting and teasing with someone else
What Does All This Mean?
There are many different things that can be considered cheating, some of which you may not have thought about.
In general, most people consider sex and other intimate physical contact to be cheating. Other friendly acts, like lap-sitting or going to dinner together, may or may not be called “cheating” depending on who is talking.
How Anxiety or Anti-Attachment Issues Can Affect Cheating
As you can see from the above information, there is a wide range of behaviors that are somewhere in between cheating and not-cheating, like spending lots of time with another person, or forming a deep emotional bond with someone other than your partner.
How a person views something their partner does depends on where they are at emotionally. If they are feeling anxious or insecure in the relationship, they're more likely to view what their partner does as a sign of cheating.
On the other hand, if a person does not want to be in a monogamous or committed relationship, he or she is less likely to consider even oral or vaginal sex as cheating.
How Men and Women Differ on What They Consider Cheating
According to a 2014 survey by Victoria Milan, an online dating site for people who are in relationships, there are some clear distinctions between how men and women view cheating.
Here's what they discovered:
- 72 percent of men said sexual affairs were worse than emotional affairs.
- 69 percent of women said emotional affairs were worse than sexual affairs.
- 76 percent of women would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair
- Only 35 percent of men would forgive their partner for a strictly sexual affair.
- 80 percent of men said they would forgive an emotional affair.
- Only 30 percent of women would forgive an emotional affair.
Women Care More About Emotional Cheating
In general, women are more likely to define actions as cheating that indicate emotional attachment with another person.
Holding hands also falls in this category, because it's something that a couple would do, as opposed to a pair just hooking up.
In general, women would be more forgiving of physical cheating, so long as the man was not in love with the other person.
Men Care More About Physical Cheating
Men tend to be more sensitive to physical cheating and are less likely to forgive their partner for having sex with another person.
At the same time, they are less likely to view some of the more emotional behaviors as problematic, like spending lots of time with another person.
Why Men and Women Cheat on Their Partners
Many articles from different sources, including AshleyMadison.com and VictoriaMilan.com (dating websites that are exclusive to cheating spouses), say men and women both cheat for similar reasons: they crave affection.
In his book The Truth About Cheating, marriage counsellor M. Gary Neuman found that 92% of men said that cheating wasn't about sex. The reasons men cheated on their spouses were often emotional, such as feeling disconnected from or under-appreciated by their spouse.
Most people think that people cheat because the sex has gone bad in a relationship or because they have fallen out of love with their partner but the majority (not all) of the participants in the surveys on these sites reported that they still loved their partner but didn't feel cared for.
How to Know If You're Cheating
The only way to be certain about what you and your partner consider cheating is to have an honest and thorough discussion about it, ideally before it becomes a problem.
What kinds of behaviors and relationships are okay? Is it okay to sext someone else? What about watching porn with them, even if you don't touch? Is it okay to go to strip clubs or to have long phone conversations with another person at night?
The more open and honest you are, the better chance your relationship has of surviving.
What To Do If You've Cheated
Maybe you're not certain if what you did was cheating. Even if that's the case, the fact you're looking up articles about it means that there is some kind of guilt going on.
It could be time to come clean.
This is the chance for you to open up to your partner and trust that they love you enough to work through this with you, no matter what it is.
In another study on married couples from UCLA and the University of Washington, couples who cheated and then told their spouse were more likely to remain married than couples who didn't. After five years, the couples that had been "unfaithful" were just as happy as couples that hadn't.
Cheating doesn't have to be the end of a relationship and it's certainly not the end of the world, but it's up to you to do something about the situation. Everyone makes mistakes; it's what you do about them that makes you a better person.
That said, another study showed that 55% of people never told their partner about their infidelity. If you do keep quiet, you're not alone.
What to Do if You Think Your Partner Is Cheating on You
Maybe your partner has been acting suspicious or doing things that you consider cheating. If you think they might be cheating on you, now is the time to have a conversation about your concerns.
Anxiety will only continue to build if you don't talk with your partner about how you're feeling.
It's possible that your partner doesn't know that what they're doing is hurting you. And just because someone cheats does not mean they don't love you or want to stay in a relationship with you.
Be honest and brave, and have a conversation with them.
Women and men can experience their lowest moments in life when they find out they've been cheated, but until you talk to your partner about it, you'll never know what could have been.
If you are in an abusive relationship or one where this seems to be a recurring problem, it could be time to get professional help and think about how to get out of it. No one deserves to be hurt or feel unloved in a relationship.