What Is Considered Cheating? Tips on What It Is and Isn’t

A couple lying together in bed even though they're with other people wondering what is considered cheating.

Cheating is very difficult to define, because it means different things to all of us. We all have our own expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate, and if someone violates these, we can feel betrayed.

It’s difficult for me, or anyone else, to tell you what those boundaries and expectations should be, because it’s your relationship and entirely your choice. That being said, there are a few situations we can all identify with, and can generally say whether this should or shouldn’t be tolerated.

Being attracted to other people of your preferred sex.
We are human beings, and it’s totally normal for us to be attracted to people other than our boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. It doesn’t become cheating until you act on said attraction.

However, if you’re someone who makes a point of voicing those attractions often, especially in front of your partner, it might not count as cheating, but it does make you pretty mean.

Having a close friendship with someone of your preferred sex.
As humans, we have self-control, and we can choose what we do and do not do. That means that we can have completely platonic relationships with people who are drop dead gorgeous, and not end up in bed with them. Usually when we become friends with someone, we don’t even notice how attractive they really are, because we’re more interested in all their other amazing qualities.

If the person you’re dating feels threatened or jealous about your platonic friendships, it’s probably because they’re insecure, and you need to re-think whether you should even be dating them.

Flirting.
It’s healthy to have attention from someone other than your partner now and then, because it helps you see yourself as an individual and can give you a little confidence boost too.

Some of us are naturally flirty people, and it might seem like we’re flirting with every person we cross paths with, but that’s just our friendly and charming personality coming out.

Flirting is usually harmless—when there are no ulterior motives. But if you’re out with your partner and they prefer to ignore you while flirting with a bunch of strangers, there might be more to it.

Remaining friendly with an ex.
Some people maintain healthy, non-sexual relationships with their exes. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you’re open and honest about it from the beginning.

Your partner should be secure enough to be okay with you being on friendly terms with someone you used to date, knowing that is now history, and not a threat to your current relationship.

Having an online dating profile.
This one really depends on how long you’ve been dating someone, and whether or not you’ve had the “are we/aren’t we” exclusivity chat. If you’ve committed to date one person and nobody else, you’re essentially agreeing to delete your dating apps and profiles, because you have no reason to still be looking for someone.

If you’re actively using a dating profile to flirt with people other than your partner who you’ve committed to, then yes, it’s cheating. You can’t argue that it’s just friendly and innocent, because why be on a dating site if you’re looking for friends?

Kissing someone once.
The truth is, you’re probably gonna have some kind of insane chemistry with someone at some point who isn’t your partner. This might end up leading to a passionate, in the moment kiss, which never goes any further than that.

This is definitely one of those grey areas, and it depends on whether that violates your expectations of your partner or not. But chances are, it didn’t mean a whole lot to either of those people.

Sleeping in the same bed with someone of your preferred sex.
Again, one of those super grey areas. If you’re drunk and nothing happens, there’s no touching or cuddling or kissing of any kind, it’s not cheating. But you’re best off letting your partner know that it happened. And if you’ve got nothing to hide, why wouldn’t you?

If you’re doing it regularly, and there’s not any kind of alcohol involved, it gets weird real quick.

Getting a dance at a strip club.
Some women are totally okay with this, and others are definitely not. If you’re worried about potentially offending or hurting your partner in any way, you’re better off letting her know of your plans before you go and do something like this.

If you are getting turned on by a naked stranger who’s dancing erotically in front of you, or sitting on your lap, this can be seen as disrespectful to your partner, even though it’s not exactly cheating.

Anything sexual that happens when you’re drunk.
So many people use alcohol as an excuse for doing things they are too scared to do when they’re sober, but really want to.

If your partner claims they blacked out or don’t remember sleeping with that stranger they met in the club, they’re not willing to take responsibility for their actions, and therefore aren’t ready to be in a healthy and committed relationship.

You don’t need me to tell you that this totally counts as cheating, even if they claim to not remember it.

People are all different. Some couples choose to have open relationships, where they can have sex with whoever they want, while others would be really hurt by their partner flirting with someone else. Most couples don’t have this chat with each other where they make their expectations clear, which often leads to one person being betrayed or rejected, because they don’t see eye-to-eye on various issues.

Be upfront at the beginning of your relationship, and make your expectations clear so you avoid getting hurt in the long run.

Shani Jay

Bestselling Author and Empowerment Coach

Shani is a bestselling author, empowerment coach for women, and self-love advocate. She is the author of Bloom, The Babe Bible, Glow Getter, and Light Up Your Life; and her writing has been featured on many internationally recognized platforms including The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and Teen Vogue.

​In 2016 Shani founded The Glow Getter Tribe – a self-love & kindness movement which helps young girls & women worldwide feel happy, confident and beautiful starting from the inside, out.

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