Are you arguing with your spouse about what cheating actually is? Cheating men tend to have their own thoughts on what constitutes an affair, and even men who haven’t cheated may have a radically different definition than their wife’s.

Your spouse really might not know what defines cheating—because he or she isn’t able to admit that they are contemplating cheating, are in danger of cheating, or are actually engaged in the act of cheating or have cheated in the past.

In this blog, you will learn what infidelity is, so you aren’t left doubting yourself about your spouse’s behavior and why it feels hurtful to you.

Are the Lines of Cheating Really that Blurry?

So there you are, feeling like the accuser in a trial that’s testing the bonds of your marriage. A conversation about what makes cheating cheating may go something like this:

“Who was that on the phone?”

“Someone from the office.”

“Who is this “someone” calling on a Saturday?”

“Just someone from the project I’m working on, Jessica, about some work stuff.”

“Didn’t sound like you were talking about work. It sounded like a very personal call. Are you cheating on me?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not cheating just to talk to someone from work.”

“It is if it’s a Saturday and you’re not even talking about work!”

You can see how quickly such a conversation becomes a stalemate, with both spouses digging in behind their idea of what cheating is/isn’t. And cheating men become especially good at behaving confused, because they’re looking to justify their actions. This makes it challenging to actually have a meeting of the minds.

Your spouse is possibly in denial, especially if he or she is caught up in the rush of getting attention from someone outside of the marriage. That attention feels good if your spouse has been feeling “neglected” in the marriage, and naturally he or she won’t admit to being wrong when it comes to feeling good.

But feeling neglected is not an excuse or a validation for behaviors that threaten the marriage bond. The problem is that the spouse who is getting this attention is not addressing an issue in the marriage. He or she is not facing their feelings, emotions and needs head-on—with you.

How easy it is to think, “I haven’t touched Jessica (or Jeremy), so therefore, I am not cheating on my wife (husband).”

Being physical with a paramour is a very narrow definition of cheating. Let’s look at what cheating really is.

Defining Cheating in Your Relationship

If your husband or wife is having a personal relationship with some intensity, the relationship has probably crossed the line. It may not be physical—yet—but an emotional affair can be just as devastating.

When your husband or wife has an emotionally intimate connection with someone other than yourself, you are not getting the intimacy that rightfully belongs right there in your marriage. The spouse who is sharing his or her innermost thoughts with someone other than you is damaging the emotional connection between you. Your spouse’s behavior is causing a problem.

Here are a few questions to help you define whether or not a behavior or action constitutes cheating:

1)    Is the relationship with the other person open and transparent?

Is the extent of the side relationship concealed from you, or is your spouse very open about the conversations that are had between he/she and the other person?

At heart, most spouses know that if they are sharing intimate conversations with someone other than their spouse, their behavior is wrong. And when a husband or wife makes an effort to hide the truth, then it can be defined as cheating.

2)    Is your spouse becoming angry and defensive?

Is your spouse getting heated when you bring up the question? Or, is he or she starting arguments or acting out of character? This is a means for finding a rationale for cheating.

3)    Is your spouse willing to protect the other relationship—at the expense of your own?

Sure, your spouse may have no choice in who they work with or see in your social group. But if they seem to be choosing the other relationship—when it is clearly damaging their relationship with you—this could be defined as cheating. Your vows were with each other—not a third party, and the allegiance should be to the marriage, first and foremost.

In the next post, I’ll help you examine your relationship and identify ways to remove the allure of looking outside of the marriage.

I would like to hear from you about your conversations with your spouse over what is cheating and what’s not…

How have you and your spouse, as a couple, defined cheating?

Have you ever encountered this situation, like the example given above?

When asking your spouse about a relationship, have you encountered resistance? If so, how did your spouse respond when questioned?

Please share your experiences and thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment below.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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