Cheating in a relationship is often viewed as physical infidelity, but that's not always the case. There are other ways people can hurt their partners through sharing of feelings or secrets with someone else. This type of emotional infidelity occurs when a level of intimacy has been compromised and/or is shared outside the relationship with a third person. But does this equal cheating?

Where Does That Cheating Line Get Drawn?

People have different perspectives on cheating. Some view it as strictly a physical betrayal, others say developing an emotional connection with a person outside of the relationship is cheating. Whatever the situation, if one partner is left out of this interaction and kept sheltered from the exchanges between his or her partner and a third person, this can be hurtful.

While there are some cheating acts no one would argue, there are also some areas which might be viewed as gray and considered to be cheating or perceived as walking a fine line. In its purest sense, infidelity can be perceived as anything personal a person shares with someone else who is not his or her partner.

Cross the line
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Where does the line get drawn between friendship and cheating? Is it a physical affair, an emotional connection or a cyber affair? Is it all three?

Is Communicating Online Outside the Marriage Cheating?

The parameters of what constitutes cheating have become fuzzy because what is considered to be cheating means different things to different people. Some people would argue that a private exchange where two people speak with high familiarly but never get together in person is not cheating. Others say any kind of intimate exchange is indeed a level of betrayal and is an online affair. Even if it isn't sexual in nature.

For some people, emotional cheating may not be as serious as a physical relationship would be, but for others, it can be more hurtful. Even though a physical component is absent from the extra-marital affair (or committed relationship), it can be far more damaging to a relationship than a brief physical affair due to the nature of emotional "connections". 

Many instances of emotional cheating start off as innocent friendships. If a partner is inclined to keep interactions private and exclude their partner from having knowledge of the secondary relationship, this is a level of shared intimacy outside the marriage which can lead to full-blown cheating. The fact that a relationship, conversation, meeting, chat or any other kind of exchange is kept hidden from a partner is a strong sign there is a level of inappropriateness present. 

Online dating
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Technology has provided many different ways for people to connect which makes it easier to hide getting caught cheating. Both offline and online.

Times are a Changin'

Since cheating traditionally was defined as a physical infidelity or other intimate sharing, how has technology impacted cheating? Is it still cheating if there is no physical or other tangible interaction outside of text-based and electronic exchanges?

Cyber affairs where two people never plan to meet or talk on the phone can hurt a partner too. As times evolve and technology progresses, the traditional definition of cheating has transformed. This has occurred due to the many ways people today can connect with one another via digital technologies. This has blurred the black and white lines of what is considered to be cheating in a relationship and what is not.  Is an online affair the same as a physical one? Some would say yes, others no.

The effect technology has had on relationships is both complementary and disastrous. In some cases tech helps long-distance relationships survive but, on the other hand, it can destroy committed relationships. Thanks to the many electronic ways people connect nowadays, people who want to seek any sort of comfort from outside the relationship can find it so easily. Before the Internet, people who were unhappy in their relationship either concentrated their efforts on working things out with their partner or, if they were inclined to cheat, they had to physically leave their house and meet their affair partner(s), creating high risk of getting caught. This is not the case anymore.

The Internet and, more recently, mobile technology has changed these dynamics. Nowadays people can connect online to develop or continue ongoing relationships outside the marriage with ease. Initially, this began to occur through chat rooms but, as technology grew with instant messaging, online dating sites (even some dedicated to meeting other cheaters), social networking (Facebook is often cited as playing a role in infidelity), and a number of other ways people connect with other people emerged. Mobile hasn't necessarily changed the cheating playground per se, but it has increased the ability to be more secretive - anytime and anyplace.

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Shhh! Technology has also enhanced the ability for people to add a layer of secrecy to relationships outside of a marriage or committed relationship. Of course, digital footprints are almost always left, but if someone doesn't suspect or have a reason to look...

If the exchanges with another person outside the relationship are kept secret from the partner, then it's probably a level of cheating. If the relationship is hidden from a committed partner, this is also a strong sign of unfaithfulness, at least at some level. Especially if the person is actively lying about it.

If a person is committed to the person he or she is with, any relationships which occur outside the relationship should be out in the open, shouldn't they? If there is nothing to hide, then why hide? Additionally, if any exchange or act makes one partner feel uncomfortable, whether on the giving or receiving end, then something may not right. In this case, any relationship with a third person should be carefully reevaluated to avoid causing problems in the primary relationship if both partners want their relationship to last.

How do you define cheating?