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For as long as there have been relationships, there has been infidelity. And for as long as there have been infidelity, romantic partners have squabbled over what, exactly, counts as cheating. Is watching porn cheating? When does a close friendship cross the boundary into being considered emotional infidelity?
How much of cheating is in the eye of the beholder? If you happen to be in an open relationship, what does cheating look like? But to seek some answers, we spoke with a range of experts — including a psychologist, relationship advisor, polyamorist, and divorce lawyer — to gain a deeper understanding of what defines fidelity, infidelity, and cheating , how partners can draw boundaries responsibly, and how they can resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. So, what is cheating?
Generally, infidelity is considered to be an act involving a third party that violates the standards or boundaries of a relationship between romantic partners. More specifically, I would define infidelity as a unilateral decision by one romantic partner to become involved with a third party that is motivated by a perceived or real limitation in the romantic partnership. Agreements about relationship boundaries can best be approached as an opportunity to learn together; namely, to explore desires, values, and limitations.
Perhaps more important than discussing what a partner can or cannot do is to open a dialogue about what a partner may be hesitant to express. Shame and the fear of shame inhibit couples from expressing what they want, need, or desire from a partner or keep them from divulging what they feel is lacking in their relationship. The only way to move forward is to understand what inhibits communication and find ways to have a healthy dialogue. This obscures the myriad of issues that should have been addressed in the first place that might have been a way for the couple to learn their way further into the relationship.
It is too late when people cannot look at the shame they felt in their relationship both before and after their broken bond. Lamia , Ph. I think what really counts as cheating in a relationship depends on what the couple decides for their relationship. What may be considered as cheating for one person, may be an act of betrayal for the next. For instance, some partners may see watching porn as no big deal, and may even partake in watching it together. However, for others that can be a major offense to the relationship.
Others may look at cheating as purely physical, where some may feel even more betrayed by emotional cheating. I think a great rule of thumb for if it is cheating, is if it is a secret or not. Would you share what you are doing with your partner, or are you keeping it from them?
Everything from coming out of the closet to career changes. My role is to coach them to break through fears, make bold moves and live life without apology. I help them define infidelity for themselves. This is a tricky arena where society has created a definition of infidelity, yet, I believe it is a personal definition. For some, infidelity could be watching porn; for others it could be having an emotional intimate relationship with someone outside the bounds of their spouse or ificant other.
Of course then for others it is the sexual infidelity. I help clients find their truth for themselves and define it, and then determine how they want to be in that, own it, and make amends for it, for themselves and their partners. One of the hardest struggles for many clients is realizing that the infidelity came from a space of being misaligned in their own values. Most people assume infidelity is physical, but the truth is that all infidelity starts with emotion.
Spending more time with the positive person is a respite from the negative emotions we feel from our partner. Usually, emotional infidelity starts with a harmless crush. But once we start to flirt and spend more time with someone we have our eye on, a relationship can develop that has romantic potential. Eventually, this opens the door to physical infidelity. What went wrong here? We made the decision to grow closer to that other person and form a personally intimate bond. How to prevent this situation altogether? Communication is key here. I define fidelity as remaining faithful to the existing terms of the relationship.
But if we had t finances, were raising kids together, or had different terms of the relationship, I would consider it an infidelity if my partner took on debt , made a huge purchase, or changed his financial situation without consulting me. But other things, like manipulation, cruel language, plain old unhappiness, sexual incompatibility, etc. It is entirely possible for monogamous people to work out their terms of the relationship and not rely on assumptions about fidelity. However, monogamy makes it possible to let these assumptions go unexamined. You can be in a monogamous relationship based on existing societal terms.
In our modern culture we tend to assume fidelity is the whole deal: sexual, emotional, relational, planning-for-the-future-together fidelity. We get these stories from the ways we were raised—some may have been explicit, like advice from elders or peers, or it may be we picked up things implied by the media we consume.
Or it could be culturally dictated. But maybe your partner is also attracted to women, and knowing that might change how you feel about her emotionally invested friendships. Ultimately, the parameters of fidelity have to be defined by the people in the relationship. I think the healthiest way to look at it is: being in integrity with the explicit agreements you make together.
People in polyamory, and other kind of honest non-monogamous relationships, are still capable of breaking promises, bending their agreements, and cheating. But, as someone who has seen a lot of relationships collapse, it all starts when one partner starts giving someone or something else more time than the other partner can handle. On the other hand, the law still has some strong opinions when it comes to money. This is because money is easy to quantify, unlike the precise amount of pissed off your ex-friend might be.
What both these things have in common is betrayal. Someone feels betrayed, that their trust has been broken. Women know what I mean. Sometimes I have to explain to the guys. Has she ever thrown out your old letter jacket? How far you can go varies with every relationship, but once it gets to court, only the lawyers really win.
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