Infidelity is infidelity, right? Well, technically! But in this day and age, who’s to say what cheating really is? Before the invention of the Internet—heck, even before the telephone—cheating meant catching a partner nestled up close to someone else.
Just like the movies, two people checking into a motel or hotel, having a cheeky kiss on the pavement, or witnessing someone having flirty conversations in public or private.
Today, however, the world has opened up to almost infinite ways to cheat. And when partners don’t clearly define what is and what isn’t cheating, how is it actually possible to conclude infidelity in a relationship?
Does location matter when it comes to flirting and talking with someone other than a partner?
Is having a dating profile cheating?
Is talking to an ex cheating?
Is subscribing to platforms like OnlyFans cheating?
At the end of the day, whether any of the above are, in fact, infidelity, comes down to how two partners feel, and what they, both together and individually, consider to be cheating.
But to add a bit of concrete data into the mix, Robert Weiss Ph.D and colleagues did a study on people who had been cheated on. They were asked whether they considered online cheating to be the same as real-life cheating.
The results? There is no difference between online and real-world betrayal. The participants agreed that being cheated on is equally as painful, whether it was in cyberspace or in an actual physical space.
And with that, they concluded that it wasn’t the nature of the cheating that hurt, it was the lying and secrets that caused distress and distrust.
With this data, Weiss created his own definition of infidelity to reflect the results:
“Infidelity (cheating) is the breaking of trust that occurs when you keep intimate, meaningful secrets from your primary romantic partner.”
He goes on to mention that, in his definition, it is not about specific sexual or emotional acts but merely the actions that lead partners to feel betrayed: the loss of trust. With that however…
Can Infidelity Be Defined?
Not really! Infidelity isn’t as black and white as catching your partner engaging in sexual activity with another person.
Each couple is unique. They have their own core values, history, and beliefs, and it is this that ultimately counts when it comes to interpreting whether one is cheating or not.
For some, knowing, allowing, or finding out that their partner is talking to an ex on WhatsApp, watching porn, subscribing to camming websites, or even using online dating sites is perfectly fine. For others, it’s a big no-no.
In other words, the best way to avoid feelings of mistrust and betrayal after something happens, is to actually talk to your partner beforehand. Discuss your boundaries, your idea of infidelity, and what you deem “okay” and “not okay” (and vice versa).
It would be wrong of us, or anyone, to tell you what infidelity is in the digital age. We do however encourage you to stand firm in your core values and beliefs, and to set boundaries that not only keep you mentally and emotionally healthy, but that will allow you to define infidelity (whatever it may mean to you) when it happens.