With social media, shifts in societal norms, and a growing population of people who have an unhealthy relationship with pornography, it leaves many modern couples asking themselves where to draw the line when it comes to what they consider “cheating.” 

For most people in a monogamous relationship, cheating would constitute as anything physical. But how do we navigate these rules in a world where almost every aspect of our lives is digital? If your significant other texts, direct messages, or chats with someone online nearly every day, is that cheating—even though they have no physical contact with the other person? 

If you have a significant other who shows unhealthy patterns when it comes to watching SEM, does that count as cheating? Sure, the chances of them ever meeting these people in real life are slim to none, but when that becomes their escape, is that the same as sneaking off to engage in a sexual relationship with someone that’s not you? 

Not to mention that SEM has become so much more than just a one-way transaction. With cam models and streaming sites, your significant other could not only be watching SEM, but also communicating with the person on the other end of the screen, sending smileys, comments, and cash. Maybe you don’t mind if your partner is looking at videos of people having sex, but chatting is definitely out!  Have you and your partner discussed this?

As our world gets bigger, different forms of infidelity will ebb & flow and interweave, making it more difficult for us to help our clients understand what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. 

Physical Infidelity

This is the most obvious form of infidelity, and it can be defined as anything from kissing, sexual intercourse, and intimacy to holding hands, caressing, or massaging. Physical boundaries are the easiest to set, especially considering that our traditional notion of monogamy often outlaws any kind of physical contact with someone who is not a partner. 

Emotional Infidelity  

Emotional infidelity is much harder to define. In any healthy relationship, the partners should be able to have friends of the opposite sex. But when do those relationships cross the line? 
Have you ever heard women joke about their “work husband?” We spend most of our day at the office, so naturally, we end up growing close to the people we work with. This term is often referred to as a close friend who acts as a “husband” throughout the work day—someone you can confide in, chat with, and laugh with while on the job. When do these kinds of relationships start to become problematic? 

Whether it’s texting, social media updates, or Facetime, most of us are addicted to our phones. But when does harmless communication become something so much more? 

Financial Infidelity 

This one is tricky because it doesn’t always have to involve one of the partners in a relationship engaging in activities with someone else. Financial infidelity could be as simple as hiding credit cards, bank accounts, or cash—or opening credit cards and incurring debt without the other person knowing about it. While there is no physical intimacy, there is that element of secrecy and deceit.

In the end, it all comes down to communication and boundaries. For some couples cheating is anything that alters the primary relationship. For other people, cheating starts as soon as there is secrecy. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. 

If you’re working with a couple who is trying to navigate these tumultuous waters, you might want to start with their boundaries. As soon as the couple has a clear understanding of what’s acceptable for their journey, there’s no gray area.

Cybersex is going to continue to be an increasing issue for our society. Is it an addiction, a compulsion, or something else? If you want to help your clients understand how to manage sexual behavior that feels out of control, you'll want to enroll in a four-part online course led by me! 

The purpose of this course is to gain a better understanding of the problematic internet behavior commonly known as sex addiction. Click here for more information! 
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