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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


You might be cheating on your partner without even knowing it…

Can being naughty with someone else, without doing the deed between the sheets, be considered cheating on your partner?


Cheating, the mere word can send shivers down the spine of anyone committed to a monogamous relationship.

Infidelity is not rare, but what is it, and is cheating simply about getting it on in bed or on the backseat, or can it be something else completely?

Cheating defined

Sex educator Lisa Welsh says the lines can be blurry sometimes.

“Cheating is traditionally associated with individuals who have romantic or sexual relationships outside of their committed partnerships,” Welsh explains.

“However, a more inclusive definition is gaining acceptance: breaking of trust. This refers to the act of withholding intimate and meaningful secrets from your primary partner, which often translates into feelings of betrayal.”

It can be anything from a side-chick or toyboy through to something as simple as an online relationship, even with someone you have never met before.

ALSO SEE: Does the ‘only have sex after three dates’ rule still apply?

What is micro-cheating?

The term ‘micro-cheating’ has recently become more prominent, defining those small behaviours that straddle the thin line between fidelity and unfaithfulness. Examples range from casual flirting to having private conversations on social media, often seen as innocent actions that could slowly erode trust within a relationship.

“Perception of these behaviours varies widely and is influenced by individual and cultural norms,” Welsh says.

“For instance, in certain cultures, casual flirting is perceived as harmless banter, while in others, it’s taken very seriously.”

The digital age has added a new dimension to this scenario, making the exploration of emotional and sexual boundaries more accessible. Social media platforms provide an expansive reach to near unlimited people, enabling individuals to connect and engage privately. These are the building blocks of micro-cheating.

Porn, massages with happy endings and office flirtations

But there can be another, dangerous angle that straying partners could embrace, and be convinced of its ‘somewhat’ innocence.

It is the grey area of physical intimacy without emotional involvement, and this can include paid for service like a trip to the massage parlour for a massage with a ‘happy ending’ or similar activities.

“For a considerable number of people, a massage with a happy ending would definitely be seen as cheating,” Welsh says.

“Some might even feel uncomfortable with their partner receiving a normal massage from someone of the opposite sex.”

The workplace, a common setting for flirtations and fantasies involving colleagues could be just as dangerously tempting.

Welsh says that while fantasies can be a rich and healthy part of an individual’s sexual repertoire, you should be careful not to obsess over a single, real-life individual.

“Being self-aware, assessing your feelings and actions, and having open conversations with your partner are crucial.”

Pornography is a stickler. Opinions differ dramatically.

“Some people consider watching porn as a betrayal. Especially when it involves being secretive about its usage, it can be perceived as a form of cheating,” explains Welsh.

But the role of social media in facilitating ‘cheating without cheating’ behaviours cannot be underestimated. Engaging in flirtatious conversations without physical contact, all while committed to a partner, is not as innocent as people would like themselves to believe.

“Many individuals feel that flirtatious conversations kept secret from their partners can be considered as cheating,” Welsh explains.

“Even if it never comes to light, it still constitutes an erosion of trust and can be a barrier to building intimacy.”

Some couples, however, might find an element of thrill in this chase and desire from others, integrating it into their relationship in a positive manner. But Welsh warns that this behaviour is a step too far for many.

She says it is important for couples to communicate openly about their comfort zones and to respect these boundaries.

“Every couple is unique, but tread carefully because you never know when you’re going to hurt somebody else just to fulfil your desires,” Welsh concludes.

NOW READ: What is ethical non-monogamy and is it the right relationship move for you?

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