In my practice I meet with couples who are struggling to have the happy, healthy relationship they dreamed of when they said, “I do.” Often times each partner has a different expectation and they aren’t meeting in the middle. When it comes to infidelity, I often get asked, “what’s considered cheating?”
Is it a lap dance at a bachelor party? A visit to a porn site? A flirty text, phone call, or facebook message with an old boyfriend? Do you have to have sex for it to be considered cheating?
These questions often arise in my work with couples, and as much as I’d love to give a definitive answer on each, that’s not my place, and my answer is always the same – it depends.
Depending on your background and history with cheating, your feeling of security in the relationship, and feeling of connectedness with your partner, your answers will likely be different than the next persons, and may even be different than your partner’s.
The most important thing is for you to talk with your partner about your expectations, what makes you feel insecure, and what’s definitely crossing the line. Having these conversations early on can be extremely helpful as you navigate the hills and valleys of life with your partner.
Of course this is best-case scenario, and I know not everyone reading this is in the beginning stages of their relationship. So what if that line’s already been crossed? The most important piece in working through infidelity – whatever the form, is recognizing what was occurring for each of you leading up to the act.
Each partner has a contribution. And I know if you’ve been cheated on by your partner, you may be saying, WTF?? It’s often difficult to see your contribution to an affair, and I totally understand that this may sound crazy if you haven’t crossed that line yourself, but stay with me.
Partners who don’t cheat, but are distant in some other way can also cause damage to the relationship without realizing it. By no means am I condoning an affair, and it’s not about one partner “deserving it,” but it’s about recognizing habits that can cause distance and a need to search elsewhere.
Getting to the point where each partner is able to see their contribution can feel like going through hell and back. But once it’s done, it can be an amazing starting-off point for creating a new relationship where each partner is clear on what they want in the relationship, and how they need to relate to one another in order to keep an infidelity from happening again.
People cheat for many different reasons, but in most cases they are looking for something they aren’t feeling. It isn’t always about the act itself. If you’re teetering on crossing that line, ask yourself what you’re looking for that you’re not getting from your relationship, and have a conversation with your partner about it.