Ever sexted with a woman who’s not your partner? Followed an ex on social media? Shared secrets with a “work wife”? Many women would call you a cheater, our exclusive poll found. And a gender gap appeared: Women are more likely than men to call given behaviors cheating. Fair warning, men. (There’s even a term for these less egregious forms of cheating: microcheating.)
What’s clear: Lust and temptation are eternal, and modern life makes it easier to succumb. Of course, intercourse and oral are considered cheating by nearly 100 percent of men and women. Kissing? For 95 percent of women and 81 percent of men, yeah, that’s cheating.
But beyond that, it’s complicated. Watch porn? She’s probably OK with it. Log on with a camgirl? Not so much. And cheating is not just a guy thing: Plenty of wives and girlfriends cheat, too.
There’s new thinking about why we cross the line into a real affair. Therapist Esther Perel sets out to bust myths in her new book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. Such as: that an affair means the relationship is bad — or the cheater is. The motive is often a yearning for a lost part of your identity. “It isn’t so much that we’re looking for another person,” she notes in a TED Talk, “as much as we are looking for another self.” Other myths, she tells us: that men cheat out of boredom and that a marriage can never recover from infidelity.
Marty Klein, Ph.D., a California therapist for more than 30 years, says many of his patients want to make marital sex as exciting as affair sex. “It isn’t a realistic comparison,” he says. But you can learn from cheaters. Treat your partner like a paramour: Prepare for sex (prioritize, visualize), be present (savor it), embrace novelty (break your normal routine), and make your partner feel attractive, desired, and excited.
Infidelity is when you secretly do something meaningful that you know your partner doesn’t want you to do, says Robert Weiss, L.C.S.W., author of Out of the Dog House. We asked some 1,600 men and 800 women which behaviors are cheating. Beyond the obvious (intercourse, oral), opinions vary. So ask your partner.