Marriage Mondays: What Constitutes Cheating

Last week, A.P. and I went over to my brother's house to hang out. While there, he told us a story about his friend who was arguing with his wife. Apparently, his friend, who we'll call Chester (stole that idea from here, btw, because when I was looking for funny boy's names, I came across this site and was all PERFECT!) was sexting/text flirting (I'm not sure what specifically was said) with a girl who'll call Random Broad. Chester's wife, who we'll call, Precious Angel (again, got it from here because I almost peed my pants at the thought of a real couple named Chester and Precious Angel) found said texts and understandably so, threw a fit. Either she slept somewhere else for a while or he did, but either way, she was pissed enough to temporarily separate. My brother proceeded to tell my other brother that if you're going to do something like that, you should at least be smart enough to password protect your phone. Meanwhile, I sat there in disbelief as my brother said such an asinine thing.

I didn't say anything. I figured arguing with my brother wasn't worth it. But A.P. and I talked about it later. We both agreed that what Chester did to Precious Angel was pretty freaking lame, plus it was disrespectful to Precious Angel and his relationship with her. The question is, did he cheat?

Years ago, my other brother and I had a discussion about cheating. He confessed he'd cheated on a girlfriend of his that I had particularly liked. I couldn't understand why and he didn't seem to be very remorseful of his behavior. He told me that the relationship was basically over anyway and that things hadn't been working out, so he'd cheated. But then he asked me an interesting question and one I've never forgotten: Does it count as cheating if you never get caught? He phrased it under the same guise as the proverbial tree falling in the woods. If no one is there to catch you before, during, or after the act of cheating, is it really cheating? My answer was an emphatic yes, because, I asserted, every person has a conscious and in the end, you'd have to live with the fact that what you did was potentially incredibly hurtful to your significant other. He, of course, argued that it might technically be defined as cheating, but that the reality is that that behavior is only being unfaithful if you get caught.

The argument infuriated me and has stayed with me ever since. However, the older I get, the more I sort of see what he's saying. Let's be clear, I am in NO WAY advocating cheating (don't use me as your scapegoat, people. I don't dig it. Not at all.), but I think that the complications and subtlety of being an adult in a very sexual world (where flirting sometimes gets you everywhere) make this argument a little more convincing.

Let's go back to Chester and Precious Angel for some clarification. Let's say all Chester sent was a flirty text. Let's assume there was nothing sexual about it, just some flirty banter between Random Broad and old Chester. Was Chester cheating? I'd argue no, even though I'd probably be bothered by it. But it certainly wouldn't fall into the category of cheating, in my opinion. So, if Precious Angel hadn't found it, no harm no foul. But she did, considered it a form of cheating and an argument ensued. See? I don't agree with my brother's position, but now, as an adult, I get it.

What really makes his argument both true and irksome is that practically the same scenario works out if the texts were more than just flirty banter. If Chester had said something provocative and sexual to Random Broad and Precious Angel never finds out (and Chester never physically cheats), again, no harm no foul. It's neither fair to Precious Angel, nor is it right, but technically speaking, she goes on living in ignorant bliss and the text-cheating (or whatever you'd call it) disappears when he reaches his text limit and deletes them. Therein lies the rub.

Obviously, Chester has to live with what he did, but let's be honest. Men and women's definitions of cheating are often not aligned and Chester probably didn't think what he was doing was so bad. So, the question becomes what constitutes cheating? Obviously, if you have any kind of sex with someone else, you've cheated. I think we'd also all agree we wouldn't want our peep's lips on anybody else's, either. So, barring either of those two scenarios, what is considered cheating? Is what Chester did cheating in either scenario? Do you buy my brother's theory on cheating? And let's be clear, you don't have to agree with it; I certainly don't. You just have to, sort of, philosophically understand it. Chime in in the comments section!

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  1. In my book, if you are expressing repeated and verbalized romantic interest in someone else, you are cheating, because you are (even if temporarily) WANTING to be with someone else. So if that chick in the next office over is brutally hot and you bring up a threesome, that's pretty close to the line. If you start texting her to tell her you're thinking about a threesome with her, that is over the line in my book. However, I know I have VERY strict standards that not everyone agrees are realistic. But I would be VERY upset to find out my love was sending someone dirty texts.

  2. Such a complicated question! I disagree with the fact that there's no cheating if you don't get caught, I however understand that not being caught and not confessing means your partner won't be hurt. And honestly, people who confess just to get rid of the guilty feeling just bring sadness and misery to their partner and I don't thing that's good, but I digress.
    I think the biggest question here is: where does cheating begin. I have a couple of male friends who are married but flirt with me occasionally. I think it's nothing but an ego boost for them and for me, as long as in the end, they don't have feelings for me and they share the things in their life with their wives, not with me. As Jennie said, next to the deeds, the romantic interest is key. If you fall in love with someone else and think about cheating, or fantasize about the other person when being intimate with your partner, is that ok because you didn't act towards the other person? I don't think so. (Now I'm very much aware we don't always have control over those things). If you feel the need to hide things from your partner, then something is wrong.

    Those situations can happen, but it's the way we react that makes the difference. If we follow our so-called heart and forget about our brain, we wil eventually be in trouble. Feeling attraction is not our fault, doing a bit of flirting is harmless, what makes a difference if wether or not we chose our partner again, every day, and accept that all the other fishes in the sea aren't a possibility anymore. Since I'm not in a relationship right now, I'm gonna try and give some perspective from another side.

    One of my male friends, he can be super flirty with me, but once, a long time ago, we had this conversation and he told me this: "I like you, you're totally my type and the guy you'll chose will be lucky and happy; if I were available, I'd date you in a minute. But I'm married, I love my wife, and I chose to not do anything ever that would destroy what we are building together, so I'l never ever act upon the fact that I like you".
    If I were his wife, I'd be fine with that. She knows him enough to know I'm his type and she knows him enough to be sure she can trust him and doesn't need to worry about out friendship. If he were hiding my existence from her, or if he had never said anything about how he feels, things would be on the fence because it would all be unclear, But since everything is very clear, there's no harm. At least I don't think so.

    Whatever you're hiding, it's the hiding part that shows you're on the wrong track, IMO, and you need to do whatever it takes to not have anything to hide anymore.

    (Geesh, what a ramble, I hope that makes sense!)

  3. I'm of the "you know it when you see it" camp. That is, although some things are in a little bit of a grey area (light flirting, flirty texts) you should know when you've crossed the line. I do agree with Jennie and MOB: if there's romantic interest and you and the other person broach the subject, you're probably getting pretty close to the line UNLESS you're pretty explicit about your monogamy with your current partner. I don't know, though. Like I said, you should know it when you see it- and if you're hiding something from your partner, there is probably something wrong.

  4. I can wholeheartedly say I agree with all three of you. I purposely sort of played devil's advocate in my post (though, I think I made it clear I'm not a fan of any of this behavior, right? Because I was pretty annoyed by the whole thing and my brother's response to it.), but I think any of that behavior is bad, bad, bad. Whether or not it counts as cheating is probably another story, but honestly, I just find the whole thing to be so disrespectful. And that for me is the defining factor.

    Heck, we didn't even talk about Random Broad and that crappy, crappy behavior. : )


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