You Asked: What Do I Consider Cheating?

There’s an old saying, “A man never introduces his wife to his mistress,” or vice versa. Last night’s episode of Boston Legal made for good breakfast fare this morning, and the closing line was that.

It reminded me of an email from a reader, to whom I’ve yet to respond (sorry about that, you), inquiring as to my opinion on what “cheating” means today. That email is excerpted here:

At what point do you consider someone to be cheating on another?

I’ve been poking a few friends with this one and been getting back some interesting answers, but outside of my older brother’s girlfriend, I’m getting generally 20-something’s answers. So I figure I should get an older woman’s view too :)

In case you’re curious this whole thing got started because a female friend (that’s an oxymoron when you’re a guy isn’t it?) was doing one of those Myspace surveys and the question, “Have you ever cheated on someone?” came up. And I just saw her freeze up for a second and give it some serious thought. So now I’m just randomly poking people for their opinions :)

Well, apart from the ass-kickin’ I wanna lay on this boy for calling me an “older woman” at the sweet age of 32, I found it an interesting question.

When this question came in nearly two weeks ago, I didn’t hesitate to bring it up with the Guy. It’s a great conversation for every couple to have, and soon. What is YOUR perception of cheating?

Does it matter only if it includes Bill Clinton’s definition of “sexual relations” or is it something more intrinsic, maybe even innocuous, than that?

Fidelity is a complicated web. Some women feel betrayed if their guy eyes an ass wiggling down the street. Some men feel betrayed if their girlfriend only watches sports and drinks beers with her best guy friend and never him. Who’s to say where the line is?

Every couple needs to set parameters. I’m in an interesting situation here, since I write this sex blog and about sexuality in general. That puts my man in a very interesting situation since he is constantly learning new things about my perspectives on relationships, sex, and everything else under the sun. It also means we’re often in the situation where we’re talking about things other new couples might be deliberately not discussing for a while, since there’s the chance of making it all seem more serious than things really are.

There’s that whole theory of push/pull when it comes to relationships. One partner becomes needier and pulls the other in closer than they should, sooner than they should, and the needed partner then becomes spooked and pulls back. Like rocking a boat, regaining balance (and FAST) is a major challenge, and if not met, the relationship will then be doomed. I did my “pulling” on this blog, and the Guy patiently let me.

In that time, we’ve talked about a great deal of “serious” issues, and nothing’s really spooked either of us, since we’ve confronted it. Cheating is just one of the many topics we’ve broached, but out of all of them, finding his stance on this topic was the thing that made me feel most comfortable about where we stood.

His response was that anything that smacked of intimacy (ie: beyond flirting) could be construed as “cheating,” with the stipulation being that you’ve declared “exclusivity” with your partner. I brought up the point that I occasionally receive sexual emails and I have been known to do semi-extreme flirting in one or two cases with correspondents, and I said that my role in those emails stopped as soon as I began seeing him, since I started to feel as though I would be betraying a trust.

I know my views on “cheating” are fairly old-fashioned; it’s anything that makes me feel like I should be saying or doing that with my Guy, not that other person. I have high standards for what I expect of friends, for what I expect of lovers, and even what I expect of myself. This time, we’re on the same page.

In this day and age of cyber worlds and information highways, “cheating” can take on a million different looks. You can engage in cybersex, have a long-distance literary love affair while still involved with a lover, you can ignore your sexual obligations in a relationship and spend all your time digesting porn and masturbating instead, or you can simply do the old-fashioned stalk-and-hunt of an extramarital lover via internet dating. It doesn’t matter. To me, if you’re in a relationship where you’ve vowed to be exclusive, there are things you unequivocally should not do – such as kissing someone else, exchanging love notes, or an afternoon rendezvous in a $49.99 motel. And you must, without a doubt, seek to have a strong and passionate sex life with your partner. It’s not called “roommates,” people.

But there are fine lines to what may or may not be construed as cheating, and the only way you’ll ever know what your lover would feel is a betrayal is if you ask.

Oh, and if you need to stop and deliberate as to whether the action could be construed as cheating? It’s cheating. I mean, use your fucking brain. Really. If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it, baby.

But enough about me.
What do YOU think constitutes “cheating”?