It registers in nearly every TV series as a plot line worthy of exploration, and when it comes to reality television, shows have based their entire popularity on scandals regarding unfaithful partners and cheaters. Even so, cheating continues to baffle most of us. For those that enter into monogamous relationships, faithfulness and trust becomes the touchstone: you simply can’t make a romantic relationship work without their presence. And yet it seems inevitable, at a time where online dating and apps have made it easier than ever to engage with others with a swipe of the thumb, that thoughts around cheating will crop up at some point. But as a recent study illustrates, just what constitutes cheating is far from being a universal answer.
For some, simply gazing at another with lustful eyes is cause for alarm, while others deem cheating to be the act itself: passionate kissing and anything that continues from there. The idea of cheating might garner a universal reaction of shame, disgust, anger, and emotion, but it seems we’re far from a concrete answer as to what it actually is. In a Let’s Talk About Sex report, 5,701 UK adults were surveyed by Relate and Relationships Scotland. It was found that 19 per cent of men don’t consider passionately kissing someone else to be cheating, which was a far cry from the 45 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 who considered just flirting to be an act of betrayal.
7 Things (Other Than Sex) Women Count as Cheating
According to the expertise of Relate counsellor Barbara Bloomfield, a lot of the distrust we harbour towards relationships stems from social media. “Social media has added a host of new ways to break the trust of the person you’re in a relationship with. Sexting, cyber sex and porn all may or may not be cheating, depending on who you ask,” she explains. As one study revealed, between 18 and 25 per cent of Tinder users are in a committed relationship while using the app, leading many to wonder if they’d be OK with such a thing were they to find out their partner did the same.
But with so many definitions of what it means to be in a relationship these days, and all of them being unique to the individuals in question, it’s hard to come to terms with one singular definition of cheating we can all agree with. Part of this is a result of the fact that our idea of right and wrong is learned at a young age, and our moral benchmark is merely us trying to replicate what we are taught or rebel against it.
As Bloomfield explains, every couple needs to have a conversation surrounding their definition of cheating and come up with something of a “no-go” list. “Part of the problem is that people don’t work out what their boundaries are. Come up with a list of boundaries that work for you both, and revisit them regularly,” she insists. When you consider the fact that 70 per cent of people haven’t discussed with their partner what counts as cheating, this conversation becomes incredibly important.