Men and women agree on this (usually): If you have a sexual or romantic relationship with someone of the opposite sex, it’s cheating. But what constitutes a sexual or romantic relationship? Surely having sex with someone else is cheating. But what about working late at night with a coworker who massages your aching back? Is that a sexual gesture? Or a romantic one? Is it cheating?

He Said, She Said: Cheating Nancy'S Counseling Corner

When you interject the Internet, there is a whole range of questions that men and women might answer differently. For example, if a man looks at porn, is that cheating? What if he watches it so much that it takes valuable time away from time he could be with his wife? What if he masturbates? What if he does it while thinking about someone else? What if he develops an intimate relationship with someone on Facebook?

Men v Women

Men and women often respond differently to these questions. Women value intimacy in a relationship and often perceive acts that men consider harmless as a betrayal. Studies show that women are generally more likely to find intimacy more important than men. They are also more likely to characterize something as cheating than men, like watching porn. And men are often likely to think those women are unreasonable.

So What Is Cheating?

It’s increasingly difficult to specify certain acts as infidelity, but here is the heart of the matter: When you violate your partner’s trust, then you have been unfaithful. The most upsetting aspect to many people of either gender is when intimacy is shared outside your marriage or partnership. You probably know in your heart that the late-night backrub at the office would upset your partner.

If you have to cover it up or if you deliberately avoid mentioning it, then you’ve broken trust. You’ve been intimate with someone else, and now you have to lie about it or commit the sin of omission—not telling your partner about it. That’s cheating.

Preventive Measures

You can avoid some problems by discussing what you both find acceptable behavior. Come to an agreement about your own personal definition of cheating as a couple. Sometimes the actual sex isn’t as much of a problem as the deception required to cover it up. That results in the loss of trust, which has a corrosive effect on relationships.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: