We all know that cheating is not black and white. Infidelity can take many forms and just because you’re not sticking your junk in your neighbour’s wife, does not mean you are not a cheater.
So I was really intrigued when Esther Perell’s new book, The State of Affairs came out. The book looks at the different behaviours that might be considered cheating, including modern phenomenon like sexting and online relationships. I will not review the book in detail here, but it did lead me to have some interesting conversations with friends about what might – and might not – be considered infidelity.
A few things I heard
- emotional infidelity can be worse than physical infidelity…but not for everyone. I have a friend whose wife had a 4 year affair on him, which he discovered only recently. During that 4 years, they were very emotionally involved but out of a huge sense of guilt, they only had sex three times. She felt awful about it and fully owned up to the cheating. As they unpacked things, they both agreed that the worst betrayal was the long term emotional infidelity. But – and this surprised both of them, and me – as they tried to reconcile, the thing that he could simply not forgive was the physical infidelity. Even though she was emotionally unfaithful hundred of times and only physical three times as he tried to forgive her it was the act of sex he could not exorcize from his mind.
- online and sexting is a very grey area. When I discussed this with friends, there was a real split over whether things like flirting with strangers online, or even sexting, would be considered cheating. No one questioned that it was a bit of an asshole move, but most stopped short at calling it cheating
- and finally – and this floored me a bit – a number of people I spoke with said that being overly involved in Facebook and Instagram was a form fo cheating. They said it pulls them emotionally away from their spouse and is cheating. Nothing sexual, nothing intimately emotional.. just sending a lot of time on the social media feeds.
In reading Perell’s book, and speaking with others about their views on infidelity, you are left with one overwhelming conclusions… no one agrees on what cheating is. What is says for me is that clarity in your own situation is really important. Make sure you and your partner agree on what is within and outside the terms of your own fidelity. You may be surprised at what you hear.