When Is It Cheating?



I need your help for an article and a potential book. I'm looking for a variety of perspectives--single people, single and dating, engaged, and married.

What constitutes cheating? I think we can all agree that becoming intimately involved with another person while your married is cheating. But how involved? (Please don't be graphic or inappropriate.) And what about when you're dating? Or when you're engaged? Is that cheating or is it making sure you're with the right one?

Please tell me what you think and if you have an experience to back it up, I'd love to hear it (again, no graphic descriptions, name calling or inappropriate language. Let's discuss it with class!)

20 comments:

Mindy said...

When you're married, I think anything that you're sharing with another man that should be shared with your husband is cheating... it might be emotional intimacy...discussing things that are close to your heart... I think anything beyond very light public friendliness is too much. (If what you're doing needs privacy... you're cheating.) Of course more than that is definitely cheating. I know I have a very strict view of what constitutes cheating, but I take marriage very seriously.

When you're dating it's a different story... I don't think there's anything wrong with meeting and getting to know other people. If you're engaged and wanting to spend a lot of time with a different man, I think it would be time to really evaluate what you're doing... it might not be the right person, or the right time, if you're not ready for that commitment.

Overall, though, once you're married, in my eyes, you have CHOSEN that one... you have committed, and anything with another man that could hurt your spouse, your relationship, and damage your bond is cheating.

I read an article once in Family Circle (what a farce of a name) that suggested it was a good idea to go see a movie with another man, or go to dinner with another man if your husband wasn't interested in that particular movie or activity. They said there was nothing wrong with that, and if anything would make you more "frisky" for your spouse when you got back. I wrote them a letter, which they didn't choose to publish, of course, telling them that I thought their ideas were all sorts of wrong, and a recipe for ruining a marriage. I don't understand at all how that would be acceptable to anyone who had any desire of keeping their spouse.

I have been married 15 1/2 years. We have 3 kids... and my husband is still my everything. :)

Tasha said...

I believe that any type of physical relationship with another man/woman when married is cheating. Even if you are just flirting around a little. I also believe that looking at any type of pornography while married is a way of cheating.
The dating scenario is definitely a different situation. I think that if you are in a serious relationship, there are definitely lines you don't pass. But while you are dating you are looking for that one person that you want to spend forever with,so flirting is more acceptable.
I don't have any first hand experience with this, but I know some people who are very close to me, and it is horrible what it does to the couple and the family members.
I have been married for 5 years, and going strong. We also have two awesome kids!

Lisa said...

i think this is a subject that might make some uncomfortable. there is a lot of gray area out there that people should actually TALK about with their spouse so that both parties know what is appropriate/acceptable and what isn't. i know that some of my good friends actually text male friends or acquaintances and i think this is shaky ground. with technology the way it is, everyone is accesible to everyone at all times of the day & night and so people are finding themselves in gray area and many, eventually then quickly cross into that point of no return area. i agree with mindy that anything that has to be private is probably cheating...even seemingly-harmless flirting or joking. i know good people who discuss their marital problems with friends-even male-friends. and i think it is problematic. we really have to decide before a scenario presents itself what is appropriate for us, because there will always be someone who is willing to cross the line with us.

lisa

*happily married for 13 years and hoping for a many more years of fidelity and happiness.

Anonymous said...

i don't agree that it isn't okay to have male friends, and even text them. it is a FRIEND. that is all. and naturally i should be able to discuss problems with my friends-even men. my husband has women that he works with who he is friends with...even going to lunch with them. so if that is okay, then why can't i have my friends? that is not cheating in my opinion. what about TRUST? if you can't trust each other, then what do you really anyway?

Hope said...

well i know that for me, the cheating line is very clear. i remember once after i got married, i went to lunch with a male coworker friend. i was so uncomfortable the entire time and was just screaming inside to let it end quickly. also, i do not like it when friends' husbands say inappropriate things or get a bit flirty. i thinkg it is important to be very clear in your relationship about what is okay with you and what isn't. cause there will always be unhappy, thoughtless women waiting in the wings to prey on our good husbands. SO WATCH OUT 'ANONYMOUS'!!!!

Karen said...

Fidelity is not a random behavior. It exists in friendships, marriage, between parent and child, in business. Anything that may damage that relationship might be considered "cheating" in many respects. In a male-female relationship that is not a commitment and where each party is dating others, I don't think cheating exists. However many think you should "date" one person at a time. If that is the case then the one who suddenly has a desire to date someone else has to go through all the emotion of "breaking up" in order to explore further relationships. If they don't "break up" they probably are considered cheating. So it makes a lot more sense to have open relationships and to date lots of people BEFORE you decide to settle down to divine whether or not the ONE has come along.

In the case of engagement to be married, I believe that you should NOT date others; you have made a tentative commitment to marry and should focus on that relationship. If someone else comes along to tweak the emotions, then the engagement should be cancelled in order to explore another relationship.

Total fidelity in marriage is an absolute. NO relationships ought to be developed where the spouse would not be welcome to sit in on ANY association. We all make friends of the opposite sex. The smart thing to do is to make friends with BOTH the husband and the wife so that you keep all activities, intents, purposes and relationships in the open and clear of any emotional entanglement.

It is also true that sometimes we develop a fondness, while married, to another of the opposite sex. The temptation is great to explore that relationship. There are ALWAYS little twinges of guilt that tell us we are moving down a dangerous path. Pay attention to those signals and turn toward your own companion for attention, and to use your energies to serve him or her even more fully. Find out what is missing in your relationship that seems to be answered in that "other person" and work to develop acquiring the same qualities with your spouse.

Most of the time we discover that it is not something quantifiable that we are seeking, but only a feeling that has been lost. Some sizzle, some pzazzzz is missing from our relationship that USED to be there. If it was there once it can be again. Just work at it.

The danger in "cheating" is that it destroy trust, the hardest thing in the world to get back. Which brings me back to fidelity. We are trusted by those to whom we are faithful. If we cheat, we lose.

Brent's Mom said...

Cheating has so many faces - it reminds me of the scripture:

"And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." (Mosiah 4:29-30)

I want throw this out there for consideration. Cheating can be anything that keeps you emotionally or physically separated from your spouse. It can be a hobby, a job, children or even a church calling. If there is something else in your life more important to you than your spouse it can be considered cheating. You are definitely cheating each other out of becoming "one" if you let anything come between you.

We have recently moved to a new phase in our lives; "empty nesters." My husband and I were thrown into this situation rather dramatically because we had to move from our home for a job. All of our children were old enough to choose to come with us or not. Everyone decided to stay so now my husband and I are on our own for the first time in 32 years.

Maybe it is because it happened all at once, but this has been more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. There have been some awkward moments. It has been sometime difficult to fill the silence or find common ground that doesn't involve our children. There have been some very wonderful and sweet moments too. And like I said it has been an adjustment as we navigate this new life phase together.

My husband and I always were careful not to spend too much time outside our family. We faithful went out on "date night" and we spent time talking with each other at the days end. Prayer and scripture study were a part of our normal routine. We did everything we could to make each other and our family a priority and yet this time is still harder than I thought it would be. It has me thinking what it must be like for couples who let themselves drift away from each other?

Consider this, if you come to the end of your lives together and find you have nothing in common, have you been cheated? I can't imagine anything worse than to invest a lifetime in a spouse only to find it was not enough.

I know this is an unusual way to look at cheating, but that is why I bring it up. There are so many ways we can cheat on our spouse, some deliberate and some unintentional, that we must always be diligent and careful to put them first in every way. This is the only way to be sure that you don't come to the end of life's road together and find that you have been cheated.

Samantha Rose said...

As a perpetually single person it's hard for me to give personal experiences but I have become a sort-of outpost for my friends relationship troubles and have talked many through tough and awkward times. It has been my experience that flirtation (especially in a college/young adult setting) can easily be misconstrued and taken more seriously than is intended so I have come to the conclusion that while in the worldly sense cheating starts at a physical relationship, in a moral sense it starts with becoming too friendly with a member of the opposite sex, especially when your significant other is unaware of the "seemingly harmless" relationship. It is too easy for friends to become something more. I'm not saying that when you get married or enter into a serious relationship it is necessary to drop all friends of the opposite sex, however I do believe that one should either make the "relationship status" obvious or keep your significant other close when around these friends. A friend of mine became close to a young woman, I knew their relationship was likely to become marriage so I made a point of befriending his girlfriend, now wife, while they were dating. I gained an awesome gal-pal and still got to keep my good friend awkwardness-free. On the other side of the spectrum a roommate of mine had a friend whom she had known since childhood and for her the friendship tuned into love, he on the other hand met a girl and married her. My roommate was unaware of this his fiance for some time and only found out about her after she professed love for him and he rejected her by saying he was getting engaged. A few months after that, having not spoken for that time, he was married and decided he wanted to get back in contact with her. He seemed a little unhappy in his marriage and I suggested to her that it was inappropriate for her to write back. After a few emails back and fourth she came to the same conclusion and as far as I know hasn't had contact with him sense. I believe his going behind his wife's back was a form of emotional cheating at the least. It is too easy for something that seems innocent to become something more! It is my belief that couples should make a point of befriending each others companions or decided to make other couple friends and keep the lines of communication open so as not to even tempt each other with the idea of adultery of any kind.

Samantha Rose said...

As a perpetually single person it's hard for me to give personal experiences but I have become a sort-of outpost for my friends relationship troubles and have talked many through tough and awkward times. It has been my experience that flirtation (especially in a college/young adult setting) can easily be misconstrued and taken more seriously than is intended so I have come to the conclusion that while in the worldly sense cheating starts at a physical relationship, in a moral sense it starts with becoming too friendly with a member of the opposite sex, especially when your significant other is unaware of the "seemingly harmless" relationship. It is too easy for friends to become something more. I'm not saying that when you get married or enter into a serious relationship it is necessary to drop all friends of the opposite sex, however I do believe that one should either make the "relationship status" obvious or keep your significant other close when around these friends. A friend of mine became close to a young woman, I knew their relationship was likely to become marriage so I made a point of befriending his girlfriend, now wife, while they were dating. I gained an awesome gal-pal and still got to keep my good friend awkwardness-free.

Samantha Rose said...

my comment was too long so I had to make two, I hope that's ok...

On the other side of the spectrum a roommate of mine had a friend whom she had known since childhood and for her the friendship tuned into love, he on the other hand met a girl and married her. My roommate was unaware of this his fiance for some time and only found out about her after she professed love for him and he rejected her by saying he was getting engaged. A few months after that, having not spoken for that time, he was married and decided he wanted to get back in contact with her. He seemed a little unhappy in his marriage and I suggested to her that it was inappropriate for her to write back. After a few emails back and fourth she came to the same conclusion and as far as I know hasn't had contact with him sense. I believe his going behind his wife's back was a form of emotional cheating at the least. It is too easy for something that seems innocent to become something more! It is my belief that couples should make a point of befriending each others companions or decided to make other couple friends and keep the lines of communication open so as not to even tempt each other with the idea of adultery of any kind.

Jessie said...

I agree with all of the above. I am reading a book about raising moral children. In the sense of deciding whether something is moral or immoral, we should teach our children to evaluate each situation (and often before a situation even happens)and determine whether their action will hurt the other person and others or themselves, or will it help them. When dealing with cheating, we must evaluate with honesty and maybe with a discussion with our spouse, what will hurt. Being totally unselfish in making this decision is a hard thing these days. But the advise given in the previous blogs is very good. Complete fidelity in marriage should always be the choice.

Anonymous said...

Come on, people. Is this for real? So you're saying no friendships, no communication, no casual flirting, nothing unless you have permission from your significant other?

What about a little independence? What about each of you being allowed to be who you are without having to get permission to talk to a friend of the opposite sex?

I think in marriage, friendships of both sexes should be developed and encouraged. Maybe a good friendship with a member of the opposite sex will help you understand your spouse better. Maybe a little flirting will make you feel better about yourself.

And as far as cheating before you're married. I don't think there's any such thing. If you haven't put a ring on it, all's fair. I think most of you need to lighten up a little. It's like you're living in fear. If you don't trust yourself or your spouse at all, why are you with them?

Dana K. said...

I agree with Anonymous to a point. Singles are free to be with whoever they want and should be up front with whoever they are dating whether their relationship is "exclusive" or not. If it is, don't see anyone else, or you will undoubtedly hurt the other person. Just think about how you would feel. Engagement is a commitment so if my fiance shared intimacy with someone else I would consider it cheating.

Marriage is based on trust. I don't think you have to cut all ties with the opposite sex. Be open with your spouse about who you are friends with and respect each other to stay faithful. Flirting can be dangerous and lead to other things, but in of itself is not cheating. Once feelings are mutually shared though, and of course any kind of physical intimacy, it's cheating.

I give a lot of credit to people that might develop thoughts or feelings about another person but resist the temptation to act on it.

Karen Perron said...

Cheating ... we were talking in a small group just a while back about the epidemic of cheating and the results it is having on the social network of even our own little corner of the world. We find ourselves watching families, good families; deal with the fall out of weak choices associated with cheating. Then see the whole family deal with the consequences that follows these choices.

I found myself noticing and remembering a class I had taken in school that dealt with the changes in society and the family in particular. It started with families being more patriarch led in history. Then as time evolved so did the family, being equally led by the father and mother. It focused on the different role the woman now played in the house. We as women became more self sufficient. We are now equals in jobs, pay, duties and responsibilities. With this change, the family changed. More women on a whole no longer tolerated marital offences, such as cheating, and felt that they could stand up, leave, and support themselves or their family independently of their spouse. They no longer stayed because of fear of financial dependence. Secondly, they became more aware of their legal rights; laws were changed to recognize the role of wife and/or mother and financially rewarded them as equals to men, whether they worked outside of the house or not. Cheating was now not a tolerated family secret. Also note that men were the main cheaters back then. Why was that?

More married women still stayed at home, some did work, but the women in the work field were on average speaking, single. Married men being out in the work field had the opportunity to mingle with the public. They were more accessible for infidelity.

With the influx of women in the work field, the percentages of married women cheating also went up. Was it simply the result of equal opportunity? As the role of man and women becomes transversal, apparently so does unflattering characteristics and faults once associated more with the man. Cheating is no longer a male offence, or primarily initiated by a sexually aggressive male.

The opportunity factor is also fueled by the inundation of internet affairs. So now you don’t even need to leave your home to be introduced to the ‘opportunity’, it comes to you. Working husband, working wife or stay at home spouse, opportunity is there equally for all. Whether you solicit it or not the enticing ads, and reconnecting web sites are right at your finger tips. Further mottling the line of what is cheating, and what is appropriate married behavior.

But I will close with a guide line I use in my house for many infractions. This works for many bad choices… swearing, hitting, name-calling, etc. However it would defiantly work for moral infractions, such as cheating or pornography use if they ever arise. It comes into play when the response is “I didn’t think you would mind” or “I didn’t know it was wrong”. It simply asks the question, “Would you have done it, if I was standing right there?” If the answer is ‘no’, then the difference between right and wrong is evident. If you wouldn’t do it in front of me, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. It is a self check, and also an admittance of guilt and wrong doing.
Hope this helps?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting that cheating by women rose more when women entered the workforce. I wonder if that statistic is part of the reason women have been encouraged to stay at home whenever possible.

Tmeyerhoeffer said...

As I contemplated the prompts Karey gave, I actually discussed it with my husband. He said that he believes cheating to be any interpersonal contact between you and another person that you would feel uncomfortable talking about with your spouse.

I agree, but after reading a lesson in a church magazine this week, I think cheating may also be defined as anything between two people that weakens or could weaken his/her or both of their families.

I know of a man who had an affair that ultimately led to divorce. I don't think it was the ultimate act that constituted the affair; it was all of the small decisions along the way, so that by the time the actual act was committed, it was only another small decision.

When I was younger, I think I would have considered someone who was supposed to be in an exclusive relationship with someone to be cheating if he dated another person. Now, I would just say he/she probably isn't a very courageous person so he/she is scared to be "up-front" about it.

Although I don't consider it cheating, I would be concerned about someone who isn't very courageous as a person who lacks courage often isn't mature enough to be in an exclusive relationship. Perhaps that might change, but I wouldn't want to bet a marriage on it. There is an old saying I believe, "When people show you who they are, believe them."

Bewildered Jack said...

Sorry this is late.

I think the question is tricky because “cheating” can be interpreted in so many ways. To me it implies a physical act of some sort, anything from flirting to fornicating, but damage may have been done long before that. And I think one can be untrue without doing anything that could be called cheating.

Being untrue begins in the heart. If a person feels weird or guilty about his feelings for someone, if he would want to keep those feelings secret from his spouse, then he is probably being untrue.

One might ask oneself questions like these: What is the appeal of the relationship for me? Is the time and energy spent on the other person undermining my relationship with my spouse? Are my natural affections being alienated? Would I want my spouse to behave the way I am behaving with this other person? Am I trying to fill a void in my life? Do I long for the other person?

Leslie said...

in my humble opinion, i think that it could be considered cheating whether you are married or not. if you are married, then it is for obvious reasons... if you are not married, then it would be if you are in an 'exclusive' relationship; if there is an understanding that you are in an exclusive relationship... although if you are not married, then cheating is less severe and has less horrible consequences.

as far as whether or not you should be phoning, texting, or hanging out with a friend of the opposite sex while you are married... in my opinion, you should not be hanging out without spouses present. as far as texting or phoning, i guess it would depend on the purpose for the call or the text, but definitely not on a regular basis.
before i ever got married, i thought for sure it would be harmless to keep up my friendships with the guys i used to hang out with after i got married... but once i got married, it just didn't feel right to me... unless they were married and we could hang out as couples. it had NOTHING to do with the fact that i didn't trust myself or my husband... it just had to do with BEING CAREFUL and CAUTIOUS. no one knows with 100% certainty that nothing would ever happen. i can say that i know i would never cheat, but i will also never find that out because i will never put myself in situations where it would be possible.

i know too many people PERSONALLY who let themselves continue friendships or develop new ones with members of the opposite sex and then ... all of a sudden ... after what seemed like harmless chit chat, then harmless flirting, then harmless calls, then harmless lunches... then all of a sudden they were in way deeper than they had planned on. and not only had they been having an emotional affair (cheating) along the way, but then they did the physical act that they could never take back... (cheating).

it is not about distrusting yourself of your spouse... it is all about being careful and not letting your affections and / or your time be divided into areas where they shouldn't be.

p.s. most of the people i know personally who have had affairs have been with people they met at work. it is a dangerous place to let your guard down.

those are some of my thoughts.

LL said...

this was very interesting to read!
I found myself SOOO agreeing with KAREN. Loved her insight and agreed with her comment.
I'm so looking forward to reading more of your blog!
You were always the beautiful older sister...I thought you were SO cool. ALways admired you, and can tell, by what I've read, I still look up to you.

Melissa Rowe Boehnke said...

Marriage, I feel, is a sacred bond, both physically and emotionally, even spiritually. Your spouse should be your best friend, your confidante and your dream all rolled into one. Cheating can break the bond on so many levels. Everyone sees that good-looking member of the opposite sex, and frequently, appreciates the view. God made us all unique. The problem lies in what happens beyond the eyes. Anything more than an appreciation of God's handiwork could be considered cheating.
Cheating could be simply a fantasy created with someone other than your spouse/mate. It could be a flirtation with unstated implications. Of course, the utmost form is physical cheating and infidelity.
My motto is "If you can't tell your spouse what's in your mind and heart, if it makes you feel guilty or your spouse jealous, it probably doesn't need to be thought, let alone acted upon".