I found myself getting anxious about a certain app that my partner uses, and spent weeks torturing myself.
Before cell phones, cheating was a series of deliberate actions: secretly flirting (in person), arranging times and places to meet (also in person), and then physically ‘doing the deed’ – definitely in person. But now, in the age of smartphones, is there such a thing as “modern monogamy?”
Back in the day, catching your spouse cheating was a dramatic and devastating event, because it all happened IRL. There were physical and emotional risks involved with cheating, which is why it was – and is – a serious heartbreaker.
Cheating used to have a relatively standard definition, for the majority of traditionally monogamous couples. It’s not so simple, nowadays. Now that Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and various texting apps have become so ingrained in our social lives…what is cheating, really? And what do we do if our partner defines it differently than we do?
At its most basic, cheating involves stepping outside the boundaries of your relationship. For many of us, sexual contact with another person is a definite no-no. But what about sending/receiving sexy photos on Snapchat? Or a romantically emotional affair with a close friend, via text messages? If your boyfriend is following a bunch of flirty, bikini-clad girls on Instagram, could that be considered cheating?
It depends. What is okay for one couple may not be okay for another. Relationships are a ‘choose your own adventure’ story – just don’t wait until the line is crossed to tell your partner where it is.
Because you are reading this article, perhaps you’ve been questioning whether you’ve cheated or been cheated on. The past cannot be changed, but taking a few simple steps can save you a lot of worry in the future. There are a million articles about cheating – how to catch it, how to do it, how to avoid it. Before you go into the ‘how-to,’ it’s probably best to establish the ‘what is.’
Problem: You’re uncomfortable and unsure about the boundaries of your relationship.
Solution: Ask your partner what cheating means for them. It’s that simple.
It can be hard to establish boundaries, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Most of us don’t want to come off as too serious, until we have to. But why wait until something goes wrong? It might not be sexy to talk about boundaries, but it can protect you from a lot of seriously un-sexy situations down the road.
If we find ourselves worried about our partner’s fidelity, it’s tempting to stifle our feelings because we don’t want to appear ‘needy’ or ‘paranoid.’ Unfortunately, suppressing our feelings can result in them manifesting down the line – jealousy, resentment, and insecurity will inevitably hurt you more than your partner. Trust goes both ways, but so does fear. You probably know when your partner is upset about something, even when they’re holding it in. Wouldn’t you rather know what’s the matter, before it gets out of hand?
In order to avoid breaking your partner’s trust (or vice versa), it’s important to establish boundaries early on. And it’s not just about your partner – ask yourself, what does cheating mean, for you? Define it for yourself, and then sit down with your loved one and ask them what they think. Remember – it’s a discussion, not an interrogation. Their definition may be different than yours, and the more you talk about it, the easier it will be to meet in the middle.
This conversation is not meant to “trap” them or force them to adopt your point of view. Talking about your worries (and allowing your loved one to voice theirs) is about loving. The goal is to reinforce mutual trust. Using “I” statements and reminding your partner how much you trust them can make all the difference.
Without trust, there is no love. And that can be difficult when there is no communication. Maybe your partner is just as worried as you are. Talking about boundaries can actually be a very freeing experience for both of you.
I recently had this conversation with my partner, and I am so glad I did. I found myself getting anxious about a certain app that my partner uses, and spent weeks torturing myself with negative self-talk and paranoid imaginings. I didn’t want to come off as jealous, so I did nothing. As a result, I caused my partner a lot of undue worry because I was acting so strangely. When I finally sat down with him to talk about the app, I was overwhelmed by how validating it was.
For me, cheating means purposely breaking a partner’s trust. Now that my spouse and I have consciously established what this means for us, I am even more confident that I don’t have to worry about it.
Being honest about your feelings is infinitely safer than acting on assumptions. Your partner most likely has their own set of rules based on their background. It may be completely different than yours, and that doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
So what is “cheating,” for you? How have cell phones and social media changed the way you view monogamy? Share your thoughts in the comments, below. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we learn about each other.