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What Is Considered Cheating (Men's and Women's Points of View)

I enjoy giving relationship advice in regards to infidelity.

Men and women share different opinions on what is considered cheating in a relationship.

Men and women share different opinions on what is considered cheating in a relationship.

What Counts as Cheating? The "Ch" Word Defined

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 perceptions 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 Cheating?

Broadly, cheating can be defined as being emotionally or sexually unfaithful to your partner who you are in a closed relationship with. Having intimate physical or emotional contact with another person is typically considered cheating.

What Is Emotional Cheating?

Emotional cheating is defined by someone channeling emotional time, energy, and attention to someone else outside of the relationship. The partner in the relationship who does this then spends less time with their significant other, leading to feelings of neglect.

What Is Physical Cheating?

Physical cheating is defined by one person in the relationship becoming sexually involved with someone else. Typically, physical cheating also covers simple physical acts of intimacy such as holding hands and kissing.

What Constitutes Cheating?

A 2013 study from the University of Michigan addressed this very topic by asking a pool of undergraduates to rate 27 different behaviors 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.

The study showed 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.

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:

  • Touching and grabbing inappropriate areas
  • Buying gifts, paying bills, or going to dinner with someone other than your partner
  • Texting in the wee hours
  • Sending explict texts
  • 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 exes
  • 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 Is Micro-Cheating?

Micro cheating refers to a set of behaviors that tow the line between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. While different people have different definitions of micro-cheating, using a dating app, frequent texting, and flirting tend to fall into this category.

While micro-cheating may not be all that bad in and of itself, it can be a slippery slope that can quickly lead to full-blown cheating. What starts as harmless flirting or an innocent friendship can quickly escalate into something 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 types of 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.

Video: Why Do People Have Affairs?

Is Flirting Cheating?

For most, the act of just flirting is not considered cheating, though some may think that flirting behind your partner's back is cheating. If the flirting is just harmless and it does not get out of hand, it can hardly be considered cheating. However, if flirting is a symptom of neglect in a relationship, it can very quickly get out of control and lead to something more significant.

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, they are less likely to consider intimate physical relations with another person 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 that indicate emotional attachment with another person as cheating.

Holding hands also falls into 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 and (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 counselor 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.

Video: What Is the Science Behind Cheating?

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 in which someone 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.

Signs of Cheating in a Relationship

Here are some obvious and subtle signs that your significant other may be cheating on you. Keep in mind that none of these prove infidelity, but they can be a strong indicator that they are cheating on you.

  • They confide in you less: Your partner may be confiding more in someone else, so they talk to you less and less about personal topics. They may also appear to be emotionally unavailable to you on a more frequent basis.
  • They start picking up new hobbies randomly: If they suddenly start having new interests and hobbies, it may be due to the influence of someone else. This can be particularly telling if your significant other starts doing uncharacteristic things that they said they would never do.
  • They care about their appearance way more: While looking good and dressing well are both positive things, it can be a sign of cheating if your partner suddenly decides to start obsessing about their appearance. This is particularly true if you have been together for a while and they suddenly start caring more about their looks.
  • They keep constant tabs on your location: If your partner keeps asking you where you are going to be and when you are coming home from work, that could be a clue that they are out with someone else while you are away. It can also signal that they are having someone else over while you are out.
  • They're always going out: In addition to spending less time with you, they are also going out on their own all the time. If this is something they have always done, it is probably not a big deal; however if this behavior just started out of nowhere, it could be a sign that they are spending time with someone else.

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 on, 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 the situation. No one deserves to be hurt or feel unloved in a relationship.

If you feel trapped in a relationship or your partner is abusive and you need confidential help, call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2012 kanisemeekstdiva