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What Is Considered Cheating? 7 Types Of Relationship Infidelity

What Is Considered Cheating? 7 Types Of Relationship Infidelity

Here’s one of the most controversial questions of modern dating: What is considered cheating? Is only physical infidelity considered cheating or there is more to it?

Well, things aren’t that simple, and yes, there is TOTALLY more to it. As the quality of our lifestyle has evolved, so have the cheating standards.

Flirting, emotional infidelity, physical infidelity, social media cheating… Wait, what? Social media cheating? Does that even exist?

Oh yes, it does. We live in the era of social media, which makes us slaves to our impulsive decisions because everything is just one click away. In other words, infidelity has never been more available to us. It is just one click away. Hilarious, right?

But, it’s true. There are different types of cheating from innocent flirting with a coworker to sexual affairs, but not every single one of us perceives it the same way.

Some people define infidelity as purely physical while others define cheating as emotional or both emotional and physical infidelity. And, no one is wrong or right here.

However, there are some universal actions that are considered cheating, and there are main types of infidelity in a relationship, so you have every right to be picky about which ones you’ll consider as cheating.

We’ll go through all that below, and we’ll also talk about texting cheating, cheating in a marriage, social media cheating, and micro-cheating. I hope you’re ready!

What Actions Are Considered Cheating?

Is watching porn cheating? What about innocent flirting with no intention of “doing anything stupid”? What counts as cheating?

Here are some of the activities that are considered cheating (if you’re doing them outside of your relationship):

  • Oversharing private and personal information
  • Sexting
  • Touching inappropriate areas
  • Buying gifts, paying bills for someone other than your partner
  • Texting in small hours
  • Sending explicit content
  • Sexual contact with someone other than your partner (unless you practice polyamory)
  • Meeting up with your ex-partner
  • Flirting and teasing
  • Providing emotional support and admiration
  • Going on a date with someone other than your partner
  • Discussing things of a sexual nature

As you can see, there are things that count as cheating, even though they’re not physical. Cheating can be physical, emotional, or cyber-based. Sexual contact is still seen as the ultimate act of betrayal, even though emotional cheating causes more harm.

Well, there can be a mix of physical-emotional cheating, so things aren’t really black and white. Every couple has to define their own cheating standards in a relationship so that they know where they stand.

What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship?

Given that every couple (and person) has their own idea of cheating in a relationship, this should be perceived as an individual thing. Some couples don’t see watching porn as an act of cheating, while others do.

Some couples don’t see flirting and teasing as an act of cheating, while others do. Some people see emotional cheating as being more destructive, while others see cheating as purely physical.

So, what is considered cheating in a relationship?

There is one universal rule according to which you can tell instantly if it is cheating or not. That rule encompasses asking yourself the following question: Would I share what I’m doing with my partner, or would I keep it from them?

If you feel the urge to keep it a secret from them, then you know you’re doing something that you shouldn’t. Why? Because you know they would see it as unacceptable, and that’s the main reason why you don’t want to share it with them in the first place. A great rule, right?

So, whenever you’re in doubt as to whether your actions are considered cheating, just ask yourself that one question and you’ll know for sure.

Is Texting Cheating In a Relationship?

Yes, texting can be considered cheating in a relationship if you wouldn’t want to share the texting content with your partner. It’s really simple.

Just saying Hi to some random person is not necessarily considered cheating because that would be absurd, but what matters most is your opinion and your feelings about that one person (if there are any).

Now, we’re entering the emotional affair territory. There’s actually a name for it: emotional affairs and texting.

It’s when you find comfort in that one person, and you start confiding in them. You start oversharing things because you feel like they understand you better than your partner.

Then, on the other spectrum, we have the physical aspect of cheating in texting. It’s when you engage in sexting and sending explicit content to that one person (or more).

As I already said, the most important thing of all is how you are feeling about all that. Do you feel like you’re doing something behind your partner’s back? Something that you wouldn’t want to share with them? If yes, then it’s cheating.

7 Main Types Of Infidelity In A Relationship

It’s time to get specific and talk about the main types of cheating. Note that some couples may be okay with some of the types below (or all of them), while others won’t.

So, let’s see:

Emotional affair

Emotional cheating is an emotional attachment between a person and someone who isn’t their significant other. Physical cheating is not necessarily a part of the emotional affair, but it can be included.

A person develops romantic feelings for someone outside their relationship (a member of the opposite sex) and they make a deep emotional connection with them. This could be a coworker, a random stranger, a friend, you name it.

Emotional affairs are based on communicating on a deep, intimate, and personal level.

It’s when a person no longer relies on his or her partner, and shares personal things and relationship things with the other person.

There will be lots of texting (especially in small hours) and hanging out with the other person. Lies and excuses are included as well.

Some people think that emotional relationships aren’t a big deal, even though this type of infidelity is more serious, because it’s not based on an impulsive decision like physical cheating.

It’s an affair of the heart that can make a person’s partner feel betrayed and rejected. Prioritizing another person more than your current partner can destroy even the strongest of relationships.

Cyber affair

What do you call an emotional connection developed online? A cyber affair. As I said in the introduction, cyber affairs are only one click away (or should I say, one text away).

Are such affairs considered less serious because everything is happening in a virtual world? Maybe, and maybe not.

It’s true that there are no real-life hangouts, but we have to consider one fact as well: An emotional connection created online can be equally powerful as the one created in the real world.

Cyber affairs are mostly popular in unhappy relationships because the person doesn’t feel like they’re cheating on their partner as it is all happening online.

Truth be told, cheating on the phone can happen unintentionally, and sometimes it’s really hard to decide if an online relationship with someone else instead of your partner is considered an affair.

However, here are a few indicators that it might be a cyber affair after all:

  • Your partner is trying to keep it a secret.
  • There’s a lot of flirting.
  • They confide in them for emotional support rather than you.
  • There’s an emotional and sexual undertone.

Object affair

Chances are you haven’t heard of this cheating type before. The object affair happens when a partner becomes obsessed with something outside their relationship.

That something could be their hobby, watching porn, an obsessive idea, you name it. It’s considered cheating because it consumes the person and results in neglecting their partner.

The object of their obsession becomes their main priority, and they no longer pay the slightest attention to their partner and problems in their relationship.

They never have time to do activities for couples or talk to their partner openly and honestly because they are highly focused on that one thing they are obsessing over.

If the person is obsessing over porn, they might experience an inability to have normal sexual intercourse with their partner because they’re no longer aroused by it.

Believe it or not, an object affair is the reason why I broke up with my ex-boyfriend. He was a hardcore gamer at that time, and he no longer paid attention to me.

I started feeling neglected because all he did was gaming or talking about video games. His used-to-be hobby turned into a serious obsession. I tried talking to him about it, but he was indifferent.

So, I walked away only to teach him a lesson and, of course, save myself. After that, he told me that he deleted all of his games and begged me to come back to him.

Do you know what I did? I didn’t come back because I knew that he had only paused his obsession temporarily, and it was just a matter of time when it would strike again.

You know what they say: “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” There’s actually a term for it, and it’s called ‘a serial cheater‘.

Physical affair

We’re certainly all familiar with this type of affair. It’s one of the most popular types of cheating in both movies and in real life.

But, what you didn’t know or didn’t pay attention to is that a physical affair doesn’t mean only sexual intercourse with someone who is not your partner. It also means kissing, holding hands, and all kinds of things that are considered physical.

The most important thing here is intent. How is the person feeling when doing any of these physical things with someone outside their relationship? What was their intention in the first place?

After being caught in a physical affair, some people say that it didn’t mean anything to them and they did it on impulse, while other cheaters admit that they are also emotionally attached to them. So, physical affairs can range from unintentional ones to serious ones.

Additionally, the physical affair is differently defined in monogamy and polygamy. In (most) monogamous relationships, the physical affair is considered cheating, whereas those in polyamorous and open relationships have their own rules of cheating.


Contrary to physical cheating, micro-cheating is a type of cheating that is common among those who are not ready to commit to their partner.

What is micro-cheating?

It’s something that many people do without even knowing. It’s a small act of emotional infidelity that happens through texting or other types of online interactions.

As with every other cheating type, this is not something that all of us consider as cheating. Some people see these micro-cheating things as harmless fun.

Some examples of micro-cheating include:

  • Your partner is still active on dating apps.
  • They are flirting with random people on social media.
  • They constantly communicate with their ex.
  • They are subtly flirting with everyone around them.
  • They go to events with a member of the opposite sex.

So, it’s up to you, dear reader, whether you’ll see these things as a cheating act or something trivial. As always, if you aren’t comfortable with your partner’s behaviors, it’s best to be honest with yourself and talk to them.

Financial infidelity

Yup, financial cheating is a thing. It happens when couples with shared finances decide to lie to one another about their financial situation. For example, one partner may keep their debts a secret, so the other partner is unaware of that.

Or, one partner secretly spends more money than they should (or agreed upon with their partner), so this instantly affects their partner and the quality of their relationship.

Of course, such financial infidelity cannot last for long because sooner or later, the other partner will start suspecting that something is off.

The reasons for financial cheating can be personal or professional. Whatever the reason is, it still affects both partners.

When a person is making financial moves behind their partner’s back, it endangers their financial future, trust, and communication in a relationship.


Is flirting cheating? Well, some people consider it cheating, while others don’t.

Every individual has a different definition of cheating. There are a lot of grey areas here, and relationship experts can’t really help you with this one. Some people don’t see flirting with others as a red flag, while others see it as an act of betrayal.

Flirting is a playful behavior (usually) without serious intentions.

A person flirting with anyone outside their committed relationship can greatly affect their partner’s trust. Things could get even more serious if their partner is jealous by nature.

Flirting basically means showing interest in someone else. When a person is prone to hiding their flirty behavior from their partner, then it can be called cheating.

What Is Considered Cheating In A Marriage?

There are two most common forms of cheating in a marriage, and they are emotional affairs and physical affairs. Physical affairs include one-night stands, long-term affairs, revenge cheating, and online affairs.

Emotional affairs don’t have to include physical infidelity. Sometimes, it’s only about the feelings that have crossed the line into emotional intimacy. We’re talking about a person oversharing things and treating the other person (instead of their current partner) as their safe haven.

Physical affairs include sexual contact of all types (touching of intimate areas, having sex, etc.). It’s true that emotional affairs can sometimes be more hurtful than physical affairs.

If you suspect that your spouse is cheating on you, here are some common signs of infidelity in marriage:

  • Emotional distance
  • Overly critical spouse
  • Secretive behavior (especially being protective of their phone)
  • Working “overtime” (and mostly “out of town”)
  • Spending more time on their appearance (new clothes, going to the gym, etc.)
  • Lack of sexual intercourse

If you notice any of the above things (and your spouse is acting weirder than usual), then you have every right to question their fidelity and your married life as well. You have every right to assume that your partner doesn’t love you anymore.

What Is Considered Cheating On Social Media?

If you ask me, social media is one of the biggest destroyers of all relationships. Posting one photo of you and your partner can turn into a nightmare if some other person sees it as a challenge (tries to ruin your happiness).

Liking an attractive person’s photo (or a few of them) can also backfire if your partner sees it as a threat. There is also complimenting a beautiful person’s picture.

Some partners don’t get insulted by it, while others see it as a red flag. It all depends on their type of personality, and, well, the strength of trust in a relationship (or lack thereof).

So, what is considered cheating on social media? If your actions are contradicting your partner’s point of view, then it’s cheating.

Here are a few things that are considered cheating on social media (some of them are classified as ‘micro-cheating):

  • Reaching out to an ex.
  • Communicating with others using a code name.
  • Flirty texting with random people.
  • Sending explicit content to someone who is not your partner.
  • Pretending to be single on social media.
  • Oversharing private and personal information.
  • Deleting your search history.

Remember, if you’re doing any of these things behind your partner’s back and you fear that they might find out about it, then it is considered cheating.

Why Do People Cheat In A Relationship Instead Of Ending It First?

This is a great question.

Why do people decide to do something behind their partner’s back when they know it will hurt them once they find out about their secret mission(s)? Why do people cheat in a relationship instead of just ending it and moving on with their life?

In most cases, it’s because they aren’t ready to give up what they have (their current partner), but they also want something more (or, should I say, something different).

Actually, the keyword here is DIFFERENT. People don’t cheat just because they’re interested in someone better, stronger, or mightier. They do it because they feel either stuck in a rut or there’s something that their relationship lacks.

So, instead of dealing with that issue, they decide to find that missing ingredient somewhere else. This could be emotional support, physical pleasure, etc.

Ending a relationship means losing something (their current partner), which creates fear, especially if they aren’t sure about ending things in the first place. That’s how some individuals end up in physical affairs, emotional affairs, cyber affairs, micro-cheating, you name it.

Another reason why people cheat in a relationship instead of just ending it is that they don’t realize the seriousness of their actions. They don’t think about how their partner might feel, so they choose to do whatever they want (or whatever their impulses are telling them to do).

Actually, every person has their own reason why they don’t break up with their partner before cheating on them, and these are all just assumptions that can be applied to the majority of cases. And, remember that cheating is a choice; not a mistake.

Is Cheating A Dealbreaker In A Relationship?

No, cheating is not always a relationship dealbreaker. It all depends on the seriousness of the situation.

For example, if we’re talking about emotional cheating or physical cheating, these two types of cheating are harder to digest and recover from.

Again, it all depends on what partners consider cheating in the first place. If we’re talking about micro-cheating (things like flirting with others and texting), this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker unless it gradually turns into something more.

You see, every healthy relationship is based on trust. Building trust takes some time, and it can be easily broken in a relationship, even by micro-cheating.

If the cheated partner is unable to get rid of trust issues caused by their partner’s betrayal, then this could be the end of their relationship.

Also, if both partners are willing to work on their relationship and deal with any unresolved issues, their relationship will still have the chance to thrive.

The Bottom Line

What is considered cheating? We’ve learned today that there are many types of cheating, from emotional affairs to cyber affairs, and every individual has their own standards when it comes to infidelity.

Cheating can be a dealbreaker in a relationship, but it’s not exclusive. It all depends on the level of trust in a relationship, and if the involved partners are willing to make things work.

If you’re interested in a cheater’s personality, then I have something for you: What Does Cheating Say About A Person? 12 Things No One Tells You.