We all draw invisible lines in relationships, mostly around cheating. What does cheating mean to you? And, when does flirting become cheating?
As you sit and read this article, I hope you have never been cheated on. I also hope that in your future you never have to deal with the agony and pain of someone you love and trust betraying you in the worst way. The thing is, there is a huge amount of confusion around cheating, and what it actually is. Is flirting cheating? If so, when does flirting become cheating? It’s all so confusing!
Okay, we know that cheating as a definition is someone betraying your trust with another person, but does that mean actually sleeping with someone else, kissing them, exchanging text messages which could be considered flirtatious, or does it mean forming an emotional connection? What is cheating to you, and when does flirting become cheating?
We all have different variations on where that red line is and what it takes to cross it. Perhaps that is why so many of us fall foul to cheating in relationships, because we expect different things.
I’m very on the fence about this particular question and it is something which makes me feel a little uneasy to talk about. The reason is because I think my line of cheating is a little different to what my boyfriend considers to be cheating.
For me, sex with someone else is cheating, kissing someone else is cheating, exchanging flirtatious text messages is cheating, pretending you are single when you are most certainly not is cheating, and telling someone else that you have feelings for them is cheating. As you can see, I’m pretty firm on my cheating rules.
The reason? Because I was cheated on and it’s not an experience I’d like to repeat!
For me, the answer to the question of ‘when does flirting become cheating’ lies in the intention. If there is an intention to hide your relationship or play down its seriousness, you’ve already crossed the line. Look at it this way, how would you feel if your partner was texting someone in a way which was considered flirty?
You know the type of messages I’m talking about, either sexting, or just plain old ‘hey babe’ complete with winking emojis and love heart eyes.
To me, that’s you forming a connection with another person other than your partner. You’d be heartbroken, right? Of course you would, you wouldn’t shrug it off and say ‘hey you knock yourself out with those flirty text messages babe, do what you’ve got to do’. You’d scream blue murder and demand they stop! [Read: Flirting while in a committed relationship and what you need to know]
You also have to ask whether the other person, i.e. the recipient of the flirtation, knows about the relationship. If they don’t, you’ve crossed the line already. You’re hiding your relationship and that’s unforgivable. If they do and they’re still partaking in it, do they consider it flirtation? Why are they texting someone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend?
Those are the main reasons. As you can see, some are about the person needing a confidence boost and some are about the relationship lacking in some way. The first option is quite troublesome – if someone doesn’t realize they’re flirting, they could be going around flirting with everyone and everything and never realizing it!
Let’s explore the others in turn.
Firstly if someone is trying to grab back some excitement, because their relationship has gone cold or stale, they’re showing intention. They’re aware they’re flirting with someone else and they’re playing with fire. Surely the effort could be better put into improving the state of their current union, rather than trying to start another one on the side? What you have to ask in this case is whether they actually are trying to start something else, or whether they see it as harmless fun. [Read: 10 most common reasons why your girlfriend flirts with other guys]
Would you see it as harmless fun if you were the boyfriend or girlfriend of this person? I know I wouldn’t.
Secondly if they genuinely like another person, there are major issues. This will lead to actual cheating, i.e. putting body parts where they shouldn’t go. In this case, the intention was there from the start and the line has been crossed.
Finally, some people flirt because they want a confidence boost, or to do something which seems risky. There is probably some issue within the relationship which makes a person feel the need to do this. Talk it out, figure out what the problem is, don’t try and mess with hearts and minds just for a quick fix of excitement!
So, exactly when does flirting become cheating for you?
I really don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. There are so many opinions, considerations of what flirting is versus where the line should be drawn, that it’s impossible to agree.
This is the single reason why so many relationships have issues relating to this problem, because we all think in different ways. We have different thoughts and opinions on flirting. The thing is, when it is done to you, your thoughts and opinions suddenly tighten up, and you have no wiggle room for boundaries. [Read: 9 screaming signs of Instagram flirting there’s no way you can miss]
Cheating is a painful, terrible thing to do to someone. I appreciate that sometimes things happen, accidents perhaps, but flirting isn’t an accident.
As I have said a few times, if you have chosen to intentionally flirt with another person, you are betraying the love and trust your partner has in you. How would you feel if they were doing it behind your back? That’s the question you have to ask yourself. Perhaps then you can gain better perspective on where you consider flirting to stop and cheating to begin.
For me, you shouldn’t be flirting with anyone else. Call me rigid, call me old-fashioned, I don’t care. My heart isn’t there to be played around with, and I would never want a partner of mine to be making someone else think they have a chance. Perhaps the reason is that I couldn’t do it to them. I would be wracked with guilt and worry that I would be found out, and knowing my luck I would be too! [Read: 18 signs you’re accidentally having an emotional affair with someone else]
Perhaps the best answer to this entire quandary is to have your own boundaries and rules and to make them clear to a partner quite early in your relationship.
I’m not suggesting you sit down on date two and tell them in no uncertain terms that you consider this, that, and the other to be cheating, but once you start to build up a relationship, it’s important to be on the same page. In addition, always consider how your partner would feel if they found out, or how you would feel if they were doing the same thing to you.
Maybe you feel you are doing nothing wrong, and maybe you are simply having harmless flirtation with someone who you know you have no feelings for. Is this the right thing to be doing when you have someone sat at home waiting for you? In my eyes, no.
So when does flirting become cheating? If you think your partner would feel disrespected or hurt if they saw you at that moment when you’re talking or texting the other person, that’s when you should know the line has been crossed.