When you hear the word “cheating,” a straightforward physical affair is probably what comes to mind.
But from the female perspective, cheating can actually mean a whole lot more than simply putting the P in the V. In fact, there are some scenarios that might seem completely innocent to men, but have the potential to end up leaving your lady feeling pretty hurt and betrayed.
To get to the bottom of what women consider cheating, we asked a few real life ladies to share their thoughts on the non-physical situations that they regard as cheating. And to back up their thinking, we had top relationship experts add their rationale for each case as well. Read on for the things most women consider cheating — that aren’t always so obvious.
1. Spending Time With A “New Friend”
“If I found out my boyfriend was seeing a woman on a regular basis, exchanging multiple texts with her — even if they weren’t sexy or romantic — I’d say he was cheating,” says Taylor, 26. “However, this woman would have to come out of left field. If I knew they were friends, that’s one thing. But if this woman randomly appeared and all of a sudden they were ‘best friends,’ I’d consider that cheating.”
Why would starting a new friendship with a female fall into the category ofcheating? According to relationship expert Carmel Jones, when a guy shares his feelings with a woman other than his wife or girlfriend, he’s committing an emotional betrayal. “Suppose a husband had a female confidant to whom he confided deeply personal information that he withheld from his wife,” Jones gave as an example. “I’ve seen this scenario several times and can confidently report that all the wives felt their husbands were cheating.”
But what if the information shared wasn’t anything… uhh… dirty? “Whether the information was sexual was largely irrelevant,” Jones says. “The point was the husband felt an emotional kinship with another woman that he did not feel with his wife. This, the wives believed, was the definition of betrayal and dishonesty — and therefore cheating.”
2. Excessively Masturbating While Watching A Ton Of Porn
“I dated a guy in college who jerked off to porn almost obsessively, to the point where he had trouble getting it up when we were trying to have sex in real life,” says Jenna, 27. “I did feel like he was cheating on me. Even if he wasn’t doing it with someone else, he was using all his effort and apparently all of his hard-ons to get off to porn instead of putting that effort toward having sex with me. I don’t expect the guy I’m dating to never look at porn or jerk off ever again, but I do expect him to be able to have sex with me on the regular.”
How much porn is too much porn? Women and relationship experts alike agree that if your porn and masturbation habits are getting in the way of making love to your lady, it’s not farfetched to call that cheating. But as mental health and recovery advocate Nancy Virden explains, there’s also a psychological reason why constant porn use gets in the way of getting it up — and it has nothing to do with using up your allotted amount of hard-ons.
“Pornography glorifies fantasy,” she explains. “In a fake world where women do everything a man desires at his whim and demand, and where ultimate power and control provides sexual release, a man’s neurological pathways are transforming to react more to fantasy than to his wife.” So, what happens when an avid porn user tries to shift back to reality? “[His wife] has needs he is less inclined to want to meet,” she says. “His thoughts are on the next fix instead of on their conversation. He may grow impatient with her desire for his time, attention and affirmations. Real life doesn’t give him the instant gratification of pornography.”
3. Inappropriate Contact With An Ex
“If we’re being real, no woman is going to be thrilled with the idea that her man is still in touch with his exes,” says Arielle, 24. “But when it comes to what kind of communication is OK and what is out of bounds, there are definitely lines that shouldn’t be crossed. I once found out that a now-ex-boyfriend of mine surprised his ex by leaving a box of her favorite muffins on her stoop, with an inside joke the two of them shared left in the ‘from’ field on the box. Of course, I found this out by snooping, which isn’t right either.”
Staying friends with your ex is known to be a slippery slope — and can have detrimental effects on your next relationship, for sure. But what do the experts have to say about what crosses the line? As relationship expert and founder of LastFirst Emily Holmes Hahn points out, the grey area happens when said contact with an ex is purposely hidden from your significant other. “Even if the contact is totally incidental, your ex was part of your romantic past, so withholding this sort of information from your partner falls into the broader category of cheating,” she explains. “This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with an ex or send her a ‘how’s it going’ note from time to time — you just need to keep your significant other in the loop!”
Hahn says the key to navigating this situation is to always be upfront about the contact you have with your ex. “If [your significant other] finds out from you, it shouldn’t be a problem,” she says. “However, if she finds out otherwise, the interactions will seem more suspicious than they probably are.”
4. Keeping Dirty Photos From Past Relationships
“If you’re in another relationship, there’s just no justification for saving the nudes that your ex or anyone else sent you,” says Kayla, 23. “Are you saving them in case you want to get revenge on your ex? Are you still jerking off to them? If you are, why the hell are you jerking off to naked pictures of your ex? Are you saving these mementos as a bragging rights type of thing to share with your buddies? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, I don’t want to date you.”
As stated before, women have some sensitivities around the whole whacking off all the time to porn thing. Couple that with the fear most women have of being less stellar in the bedroom than your ex was, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for cheating. “A man masturbating, reminiscing or just looking through old sexting pictures can be construed as cheating,” says dating and relationship expert Hunt Ethridge. “Most women don’t want you looking at former lovers, and might consider you keeping these things as cheating on them, even if you aren’t still in contact.” Time to ditch your spank bank.
5. Forgetting To Wear Your Wedding Ring
“I’ve witnessed my boss purposely forgetting to wear his wedding ringmultiple times, and if I were to find out that my husband went and did the same, I would say he was cheating,” says Laurelle, 31. “Especially if you’re out at a bar or happy hour, not having your wedding ring on makes it seem like you’re available when you’re not. I wouldn’t want any blurred messages where my husband and other women are involved.”
Sure, it’s possible that you earnestly forgot to put your wedding band on one morning while you were rushing out the door. But once it becomes a habit — especially a habit when you’re forgetting to wear it when you’re not with the person you’re married to — dating expert Stef Safran says it’s considered cheating. “So many men seem to ‘forget’ their wedding rings when their significant other isn’t around,” she says. “The ring shows a commitment and tells other women ‘I’m taken.’ The lack of it can give out the wrong message.”
6. Anything That Makes You Say To Yourself, “This Would Piss Off My Significant Other”
“Of course, cheating includes all the physical stuff with another person (kissing and onward), but I’d also say that emotional cheating can do the same, if not more damage to a relationship,” says Kara, 28. “By that I mean inappropriate conversations, Snapchats or texts. Basically, anything that makes you subconsciously say, ‘My significant other would be pissed if she saw or heard this’ is cheating. And it can be just as hurtful as physical cheating, because you’re essentially building a relationship with another person beyond just a quick bang.”
Back in the day, this type of cheating was restricted to phone calls and in-person exchanges. But thanks to the technology of today, it’s possible to be in touch with whoever our given target is in just a few clicks of our phone — something that relationship expert April Masini says is enabling this type of cheating. “There is a privacy to the cheating when people cheat via text or email,” she says, “and that creates an intimacy that flirting in public doesn’t. This type of flirting tends to take on an escalated sense of cheating that flirting at a party or even in person does not.”