Every couple is different as far as what counts as cheating. For some, a partner simply being good friends with someone of their preferred gender is too close for comfort. For others, having casual sex with multiple other people is no big deal. All couples have defined boundaries they know not to violate, but there are always situations in life that can leave you wondering whether what you’re doing is cheating vs good clean fun.
So how exactly is anyone supposed to know when they’re crossing a dangerous line with someone they’re attracted to? When does it stop being harmless flirting and start being something to worry about? Here are a few tips for figuring it out.
When Are Harmless Fantasies Not So Harmless?
You’re in a relationship, not a convent. It’s the most human thing in the world to notice other people and to like what you see. It’s healthy to feel attraction to other people, as well as to entertain the occasion fantasy about someone else. You can rest easy in the knowledge that your partner does it as well and there’s nothing wrong with it on either end.
Fantasizing about something and doing it are two different things entirely. However, it’s possible for someone’s fantasy life to become obsessive and to perhaps be an indicator that things aren’t as they should be in their relationship. Occasionally fantasizing about Ryan Gosling while you enjoy a private romp with your vibrator is innocent enough. If you have trouble enjoying sex with your partner without imagining you’re with your hot coworker instead though, you might want to ask yourself why.
That said, fantasizing isn’t cheating. It’s healthy, clean fun, and can even be something couples learn to enjoy sharing. However, it shouldn’t consume you to the point where it’s getting in the way of your relationship or any other aspect of your life. If it does, ask yourself what the people in your fantasies have that your partner doesn’t. If you can identify what’s missing, you can open a discussion with your partner that might lead to a healthy solution.
What Is Micro-Cheating and Are You Doing It?
Even if certain things haven’t been expressly defined as cheating in words between you and your partner, you’re aware that doing them would cause trouble. Micro-cheating is not about those big things or even the grey-area things that make you wonder whether you should be doing whatever it is. Micro-cheating is the subtle stuff that seems harmless on paper, but that you know would probably upset your partner if they knew about it. The following are a few common examples:
- Telling someone else you’re single when you’re not, especially if it’s so you can experience a bit of the single life again instead of simply fantasizing about it.
- Going out of your way to text or instant message someone you find attractive, especially someone you could see yourself dating if you were single. Double especially if you hide it from your partner or know they would be upset but it if they found out.
- Establishing or maintaining a deep emotional bond with someone else – a bond similar to the type you would have with a romantic partner.
- Letting flirty moments that might otherwise be innocent go way too far. Sometimes people have zero intention of cheating but enjoy pushing interactions up to that point before backing off.
- Making passes at strangers or otherwise making the first move in a flirty exchange with someone you don’t know. Being a bestie’s wing-woman is fine, but not if you’re using it as an excuse to get up close and personal with other people.
- Being on a dating app for any reason, even if you’re just there to chat or are simply curious about who else might be out there. People in healthy relationships don’t generally feel the need to maintain accounts on Tinder or OKCupid.
Many actions like the above aren’t necessarily cheating in and of themselves, but they could be a sign that something’s lacking in your relationship. They could also eventually lead to the temptation to cheat if you’re not careful. Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t want your partner to find out about it, it’s probably micro-cheating. If you’re left actively questioning your motives for doing whatever it was, it’s a sign you shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place.
At the end of the day, cheating vs good clean fun isn’t about what your friends or the rest of society would say crosses a line. It’s something that either crosses the boundaries you’ve set within your relationship or otherwise breaks the trust you know your partner has in you. It’s not about having fantasies, noticing someone on the street, or having sexy dreams about someone else. How do you and your partner define it?