What Is Considered Cheating (From a Man's and a Woman's Point of View)

Updated on January 6, 2015

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:

  1. Penile-vaginal intercourse—97.7
  2. Oral sex—96.8
  3. Taking a shower together—96.2
  4. Kissing on the lips—88.7
  5. E-mailing pictures of themselves naked—88.2
  6. Texting erotic messages—82.6
  7. Watching a pornographic movie together—75.1
  8. Sleeping in the same bed—68.4
  9. Holding hands—63.2
  10. Staying in the same hotel room—52.7
  11. Forming a deep emotional bond—52.4
  12. Spending lots of time together—52.2
  13. Sitting in the other person's lap—52.2
  14. Accompanying to a formal event—43.3
  15. Going out to dinner—41.4
  16. Talking on the phone several times a week—40.1
  17. Giving $500 to the other person—37.6
  18. Kissing on the cheek—36.9
  19. Sharing secrets—36.5
  20. Supporting the other person financially—35.8
  21. Hugging for more than 10 seconds—34.5
  22. Calling when upset about their relationship partner—33.0
  23. Taking a road trip out of the state—32.6
  24. Telling dirty jokes—25.9
  25. Calling when upset about work—19.2
  26. Hugging briefly (less than 10 seconds)—12.2
  27. 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
  • Sexting
  • 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.


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    • profile image

      GettingHurt 3 weeks ago

      Okay so my bf has an obsession with anime, sadly. I just recently found out that he had an account for role playing with other people who love anime. I noticed that on that account, he had an anime characters name of a girl and then some random girls Instagram account in his bio with heart emjois and all kinds of stuff. Then I noticed he put my Instagram up there that said taken in rl. But I saw that he likes everyone of her posts and comments. and tags her in his posts. I confronted him about all of it and he said that it's just made up and it doesn't matter. He said that he hasn't been role playing for awhile now. He said he would stop commenting and tagging her in them. I noticed that his name was in her bio and hers was still in his and I just feel really butt hurt about it because you would think he would only have his mind on me rather than some other person or character or whatever. I asked him about his bio once again and he said he would talk with her about it and see what happens...what's that suppose to mean? I really like this guy and I feel like he really likes me but I'm at a standstill and idk what to do. If you could help please do so cause idk anymore...I hope this all made since, plz give some advice if able. Thanks!

    • profile image

      A nony mouse 5 weeks ago


      sadly trust is something very easy to lose and not so easy to regain. If the shoe was on the other foot, think how you would feel seeing your guy kiss another girl. Unless you are in an explicitly polyamorous relationship, then you have betrayed this guy's trust.

      Good relationships mean that we need good, but flexible boundaries. When our boundaries are transgressed and we do not enforce them, we are telling the other person(s) that we are a walk over and that it is OK to treat us badly. As you are quite young you might find it helpful to look at some of Betty Martin's work around consent and what is termed the wheel of consent on youtube.

      Good luck

    • profile image

      Honey 5 weeks ago

      Read this blog about Italian married man married with a Filippino woman and had an affair with a Singaporean woman


    • profile image

      6 weeks ago

      i was in a high school relationship and kissed some other guy. he found out and broke up with me :( how do i fix us if he cant even look at me.???

    • profile image

      A nony mouse 7 weeks ago

      Dear Emma,

      it seems that you have laid out the boundaries of your relationship, the danger is that if he loves you as he claims, he may become too invested in the relationship and this could not only damage the relationship with his wife, but ultimately destroy it. It might be prudent to head any chance of this off by putting a stop to this. At the very least you need to have a very serious conversation about what YOU do and do not want.

      It might help to start by pointing out that we all need a realistic view of ourselves and others as fallible human beings, that applies to everyone in this situation. That affairs tend to exist in a bubble, it is very easy to appear to be perfect in an affair where we are only seeing each other for short periods of time, with limited responsibilities. Affairs are in that sense a bit like holidays, they are so attractive to people because they are not real life. This is often the reason why affairs that transition into full-time relationships often do not survive, because when the grind of daily life kicks in, it is no longer so good. That and the fact that the relationship has started out due to the deceptions and betrayals that have been part of the relationship. The security, trust and respect that are the foundations of a good relationship are severely damaged from the start. Your FWB needs to know this.

      For many people, physical contact activates the release of oxytocin, the action of this chemical is complex but it is involved heavily in pair bonding. So the more physical contact you have with a person, the more chance you have of them falling in love with you. If you want to ethically have none attached relationships, it might be worthwhile looking at some of the polyamory and tantra type communities out there.Everyone knows the score in those communities and you have a lot less chance of inadvertently breaking up someone else's family and causing a whole lot of unhappiness for yourself and others.

      Good luck

    • profile image

      Emma 7 weeks ago

      Im 24, me and my childhood friend (28) agreed to have friends with benefits relationship although he is already married and has 1 daughter. I agreed to this relationship because I'm a very busy person (too much study and work) so I don't have time for a serious relationship which could involve into marriage and I don't want to get married now. I also have the guarantee that he won't tell anyone about us at all. I don't want him to leave his family for me even though he claims to love me and I already warn him that I will end our affairs when I meet someone I love. Am I a bad person?

    • profile image

      4 months ago

      If you have a girlfriend and go on vacation and sleep with another girl but have nothing more than that is it cheating?

    • profile image

      8 months ago

      What should be on this list as considered cheating is still having your ex boyfriends and ex fiancées numbers still in your phone or part of your Facebook Friends list as well as Instagram.

      The only ex you should be in contact with is the one you share a child with and even that's thin with its boundaries set into place of what's appropriate behavior.

    • profile image

      Jane Doe 9 months ago

      Is it considered cheating:

      Me and this guy knew each other in high school and we agreed to have a FWB (friends with benefits) nothing more, it been going on for a year or so till we drifted apart, after I started seeing my boyfriend going on 3 years now and that guy from my high school messaged me on Facebook saying he wanted to do sexual things to me and I have told him that I have a boyfriend who I love, and he was sending me pictures of himself, I didn't ask for the pictures and I didn't send any in return, but would it be considered cheating if I looked at the pictures and liked what I saw (I'm not talking about pictures of his face) and I kept looking at them, I feel bad but I didn't do anything further (didn't send or ask for more pictures or done anything to myself with the pictures, I just looked at them) I got tingling feelings down there.....

    • profile image

      Daniella 13 months ago

      I don't get these women who would have an affair with married men. I see them as unhappy leaches who try to suck the happiness out of my life just because their lives are miserable. I see them as they are and make sure I don't get trapped into their web (fb, I'd never want to go to my apartment first..) they screw anything that moves pretty much and I don't want it to be my problem.

    • profile image

      miesha 19 months ago

      Hello everyone!I had seen so many recommendations about blackhathacker@tuta.io,so I contacted him to help spy on my spouse cell phone. He was really efficient and now I have access to everything including hacking into phones and intercepting text messages,getting mail passwords,and and I get to see all this from my phone without him knowing.Contact:blackhathacker@tuta.io

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 21 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Very well said, Dashing Scorpio.

      This was a good article. I think it is important for couples to be clear with each other on what they will and won't tolerate in a relationship.

      What he thinks is acceptable may not be okay with her.

      Have a conversation and be honest.

      Thanks for writing.


    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 23 months ago

      I saw an episode of Dr. Phil a long time ago in which he described cheating as "Cheating is any activity you would NOT do if your mate were sitting right next to you!"

      The two common traits of cheating are "secrecy" and "lying/deception".

      What cheaters often do is give themselves permission to start down the road. "Just because I'm married doesn't mean I can't friends of the opposite sex!", "We just (hang out) together! It's not like anything is (happening) between us." Until one day they're telling their mate:

      "We never meant for this to happen...."

      That's like opening a refrigerator and not planning to eat anything!

      Secret friendships, going out to lunch together, confiding in one another about issues in each other's relationship or marriage, routinely complimenting and flirting with one another, sharing one's dreams and hopes for their life.....etc It would be a shock if an affair didn't happen!

      A "mistake" is turning left when you meant to turn right, forgetting to dot an (i) or cross a (t). People need to stop calling cheating a mistake.

      Unless this other person looks exactly like you, lives in a house that looks like yours, and has your exact same personality....etc Odds are if your mate cheated on you it wasn't by "mistake". It was intentional!

      I have had sex with a lot of women in my life and not once did it ever happen by "accident". Cheating is a "choice" not a "mistake".

      The goal of most cheaters is to hold onto all that is "good" in their primary relationship while addressing their other "needs" on the side. Essentially their goal is to (compliment) what they already have.

      Very few cheaters are looking to replace one relationship with another. Some people cheat in order to STAY or Tolerate unhappy marriages.

      For example a married man with three children whose wife has no interest in having sex anymore has basically three options.

      1. Accept the fact his sex life is over with.

      2. Run down to the courthouse, file for divorce, move out of his home into a one bedroom apartment, become a weekend dad, pay child support and possibly alimony, along with dividing up family & friends who choose sides.

      3. Find a woman who is attracted to him and wants to have sex with him!

      No surprise: Lots of men in that position go with option #3.

    • profile image

      Daff001 2 years ago

      I have a few questions, and I hope someone could help me.

      I've been dating a guy for +/- 7 months. The sex was often and amazing in the first 3 months..but recently he started watching porn probably 6 - 7 times a day..

      He even watched it infront of me without even noticing me..

      He downloads penis pictures of huge black men.. He shared his fantasies with me regarding interracial group sex but things are getting out of hand. He searched for escorts on the internet.. Im not sure how to handle this. He never wants to have sex..he said that he was use to my vagina and that it doesnt excite him as much as it did before. This was a huge red flag for me.. I dont want to be cheated om. Ive been trought that and its heart breaking...Any advice??

      My home language is Afrikaans so my English is a bit rusty..

    • profile image

      Adam 3 years ago

      Being a guy I consider it cheating if Anything happened between either party and someone else within the last two weeks for anything sexual and within the last week for anything else like kissing.

    • profile image

      What? 3 years ago

      This article was very confusing I suggest editing it

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Good article, however, grammar and spell check please!