The Cold, Hard Truth About Cheating in a Relationship

Cheating is an age-old concern, deeply rooted in our cultural narratives, yet it remains a poignant topic of discussion and introspection in today’s modern world. 

For those navigating the intricate corridors of love and trust, understanding the nuances of cheating becomes essential. So, let’s dive straight into the cold, hard truths about cheating in a relationship. 


What is the Definition of Cheating in a Relationship?

It is important to start with the basics – what is cheating? 

The act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one’s husband, wife, or partner

 Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Cheating generally refers to one partner in a relationship engaging in romantic or sexual activities outside the agreed-upon boundaries of the relationship. However, it is important to note that the exact definition can vary from relationship to relationship, as certain couples may have their own definition. 

This is why cheating can often be so harmful, as it is not always black and white.

What is Considered Cheating in a Relationship?

As mentioned above, the definition of cheating can differ, depending on the individual relationship. However, engaging in sexual activities or forming an emotional connection with someone outside of your own relationship would be considered cheating. 

Some people may also have an issue if their partner is communicating frequently with someone else, even if they have not had sex. 

For example, if your partner is constantly messaging a work colleague and not paying attention to you and the relationship, this could be considered cheating.


What are the Types of Cheating?

It is clear that cheating isn’t always clear-cut, so let’s dive into some of the different types of cheating. 

This section should give you a comprehensive overview of the different types of cheating and what they each mean in the context of a relationship.

Physical Cheating

Physical cheating in a relationship context refers to one partner engaging in intimate actions with someone outside of their committed partnership. These actions can range from seemingly innocent behaviours, such as holding hands or kissing, to more explicitly sexual activities. 

The distinction between physical cheating and other forms of infidelity lies in the corporeal nature of the transgression. 

While the specific boundaries of what constitutes physical cheating can vary within relationships, the underlying theme is sexual and intimate contact with someone other than one’s partner. 

Emotional Cheating

As the name suggests, emotional cheating (or emotional infidelity) occurs when one partner forms a deep, intimate bond with someone outside of their relationship

This could involve sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences they’d typically reserve for their significant other. 

Essentially, an emotional affair like having a second relationship without crossing into physical territory (although often it leads to this!). 

While there might not be any physical intimacy, the depth of the bond can still be as strong as felt through a physical relationship.


Cyber or Digital Cheating

In today’s digital age, infidelity isn’t just limited to physical spaces; it’s moved online. 

Cyber or digital cheating encompasses activities like sexting, forming romantic connections through social platforms, or maintaining active profiles on dating apps while in a committed relationship. 

The screens and pixels might make these actions feel distant, but the emotional impact on the relationship remains very real. 

Financial Cheating

Money can be a hot topic in relationships. Financial cheating happens when one partner hides, misuses, or lies about their finances – be it secret bank accounts, hidden debts, or undisclosed spending

This form of betrayal can shake the very foundation of trust, as finances are often intertwined with security and future planning in a relationship. 

British research by Money Advice Service from 2015 also found one in five people lied to their partner about their earnings and one in four lied about their debt.

 – The Guardian


Now, this type of cheating may be one that you haven’t heard of, as it is often considered to be the grey area of infidelity. It is about those seemingly small actions that aren’t quite full-blown cheating but still feel a little off. 

Think of it as flirting on the edge: liking an ex’s social media posts frequently, keeping small secrets, or holding onto feelings for another. 

While they might seem insignificant in isolation, these actions can and will pile up, creating doubts and mistrust. Micro-cheating might not be as blatant as physical cheating, but it’s infidelity nonetheless.


Is Cheating in a Relationship Ever Okay?

Again, this is somewhat of a grey area. While some people would say that cheating is always 100% wrong, others may disagree. 

It’s difficult to always know the intricacies of relationships, so you cannot judge every relationship the same. If you have ever been cheated on, then it’s likely you think cheating is wrong, but are there any circumstances when cheating is okay? 

This is what we will dive into in the next section, so buckle up!

Times When Cheating Might Be Okay

Cheating is a contentious topic, and its morality varies depending on personal and cultural perspectives. However, some argue that there are circumstances where cheating could be seen in a more nuanced light. 

Here are four instances, though they’re not universally accepted:

  1. Self-Preservation in Abusive Relationships: A cheating partner in abusive or controlling relationships may find it difficult or dangerous to leave. In some cases, they might form outside connections as a means of finding solace, emotional support, or even a way out. While not an exact solution to the problem, these connections might be lifelines in dire situations. 
  2. Mutual Understanding or Agreements: Some couples have an open relationship or even a polyamorous relationship, where outside connections are permitted. While this wouldn’t be classified as ‘cheating’ in the traditional sense, it still blurs the lines of infidelity. In this instance, ‘cheating’ would be okay as both partners have come to a prior agreement of consent and boundaries. 
  3. Medical or Physical Barriers: In instances where one partner has a medical condition that prevents intimacy or any form of physical relationship, the other partner might seek physical connections outside of the relationship. Ideally, this is done with the knowledge and understanding of the affected partner. 
  4. Emotional Neglect or Disconnect: Some believe that long periods of emotional neglect or lack of intimacy might drive a person to seek connections elsewhere. It can be argued that the root cause, the neglect, is as significant a betrayal as the act of cheating itself. 

Understanding Why People Cheat (& Why You Might Be Feeling This Way)

Cheating can be driven by many diverse factors that vary from individual to individual. At its core, infidelity often stems from unmet needs, be they emotional, physical, or psychological. 

When people feel underappreciated or undervalued in a monogamous relationship, an external connection might offer the validation and affirmation they crave, making them feel seen and understood. 

It could also be the case that your relationship has simply run its course. Over time, relationships can become stale and unpredictable, so the thrill of a new connection can be exciting. 

Whenever these feelings occur, it is always best to communicate with your partner first, as it could be something you can solve. 

However, if, after years of communicating, nothing has changed, it is easy to see why some people may cheat.

The Bottom Line

It is clear that infidelity is a minefield of intricacies and grey areas, which is why it can be difficult to unpack. 

As we attempt to navigate the maze of relationships, understanding the underlying causes and motivations for actions like cheating becomes paramount. Whether it is a symptom of unmet needs, a search for novelty, or the aftermath of past traumas, cheating often signals deeper issues that require attention. 

If you feel as if you’re stuck in a monotonous relationship or marriage where the spark has truly died out, sign up to Illicit Encounters. There are lots of other people who are feeling the same way, and you can explore your options to bring that happiness back.


What Does Cheating Say About a Person?

Cheating usually implies that someone is experiencing issues in their current relationships. Unless someone is cheating simply for the fun of it, infidelity usually stems from already present issues in someone’s life.

Is Cheating in a Relationship Normal?

While cheating is fairly common, it is difficult to classify it as ‘normal’ as that is too vague of a word. However, given the fact that married dating websites have become more popular over the years, it is clear that infidelity in relationships has evolved over time. 

How Serious is Cheating in a Relationship?

Cheating can be very serious in a relationship as it creates a breach of trust. As soon as you step out of your relationship and turn to someone else for comfort, it can be extremely damaging to the partner left behind. Communication should be your first course of action, but if you’re still stuck in your relationship, then it may be time to consider other options.

Why Do We Cheat on Someone We Love?

People cheat for a number of different reasons, but often, it is because they are not happy in their current relationship. Just because you love your partner, it doesn’t mean that they are fulfilling your needs, which is why some people cheat. 

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