What is Cheating Exactly? A guest blog post by Christine London

What is Cheating exactly?

My dear critique partner and author in her own right, Viviane Brentanos, posed the question recently in her blog. Perhaps the complicity of the subject resonates with you, as it did me.

   “Ok – someone sleeps with someone else. By today’s moral criteria, that is considered betrayal but what about mind cheating? Hands up out there who have ever cheated on their partner mentally? Is harboring lustful designs on someone other than your spouse/partner just as wrong as going through with the physical act?


Why is the emphasis always on sex? A simple kiss, a hug, a stroking of the hand, anything vaguely intimate – is that not cheating? Sharing a clandestine glass of wine – is that not betrayal? Do we convince ourselves because full consummation does not take place we are not hurting anyone? What constitutes a relationship? I do find it rather ironic that in modern day thinking, you are not in a relationship unless you are sleeping together. So even if you spent time together, laugh, kiss, hug, joke, generally enjoy the company of someone, you do not have a ‘real’ relationship because you are not doing the deed.


What precludes loving more than one man (or woman) not only in a lifetime, but concurrently? What indeed? Who decided the rules? Dare I suggest man-made religion? We often hear…he /she is the love of my life…my soulmate. Granted, we may believe this at the time. We see our present partner through those too-oft deceptive rose-coloured specs but how can we be sure? It’s a vast world out there, filled with, perhaps, a barrel full of potential soul mates. I believe the problem we face is– no two people view this matter in the same light and I think it all comes back to the green-eyed monster, jealousy. No one wants to share a loved-one, no matter how much the “errant” partner will tell you it can be done. Which brings us back to physical v emotional infidelity. Will we ever figure out this game of love?”

Viviane Brentanos



   I hope we never figure it out because it is as personal as the individual. Some of us require absolute attention from our beloved. Others find separate holidays and weeks apart the glue of relational longevity. Some define monogamy in purely physical terms and are not bothered by their partner spending time with members of the opposite sex. Others are more jealous by the shared laughs and smiles than walking in on a tumble in the sheets.

   In general our society traditionally defines infidelity by the sex act, but why should society have a say in our individual hearts and minds? If nothing else good comes from our over exposure to the exponentially growing amount of information produced by mankind, perhaps the fact that we all have our own individual needs and feeling should be central. Freedom should no longer be limited to democratic politics or choice of job, place of residence and religion. Freedom, should be choice of the way we live in our relationships as well. Societal boundaries are being pushed and challenged daily as we grow into the future.

   Change is always messy, so to, meaningful relationships. It is through the give and take of relationship that each of us must decide with what we are comfortable. Whether it is open marriage or traditional coupling where no appreciable contact is desirable with members of the opposite sex that are not the spouse–it should be the sum of the hearts and minds of the individuals involved. Messy? Sure. But anything worth negotiating is.

Now all we have to do is be ever vigilant to protect each person’s right to make those choices and get our corporate noses out of other people’s decisions.

   Love is good. Love is never wasted. It should always be respected in any healthy form.

   What, as romance readers, do you think? The boundaries are being pushed in the world of fiction, perhaps even faster than societally. But hasn’t literature always served the function to make us question ourselves?

Christine London lives and works in Los Angeles writing spicy suspenseful tales that include British characters and/or settings. Her next release, Shadows Steal the Light is coming Feb 2011. More about her at www.christinelondon.com. You can reach her on Facebook, My Space and Twitter…oh and on the L.A. beaches, or walking the streets of London. J


12 thoughts on “What is Cheating Exactly? A guest blog post by Christine London

  1. In matters of human sexuality, an exact match of libido for both members of a couple is by far the exception to the rule. In addition to simple hormonal levels, factors such as health changes, age differences, and physical attractiveness can generate divergent sexual desires that become more imbalanced as the years go by. People who love each other completely and hopelessly can be a complete mismatch when it comes to their level of sexual desire sexual desire. Attempting to live within the bounds of monogomy is a very noble evdeavor and some if not many actually accomplish it. But what of the others? Is it really necessary to dissolve an otherwise solid relationship simply because one party surrenders to sexual or emotional needs that exceed that of the other party? I have, for many years, known numerous couples who live quite happily and contentedly within the boundaries of open marriages because they have discussed and agreed upon those very boundaries. That openness becomes the ‘safety valve’ that provides a safe alternative to the destructive clandestine affair. The experience of being with others becomes a shared adventure and a point of intimate discussion, rather than the destroyer of a marriage. Even if one party is more excited by the prospects than the other, the boundaries become a compromise not much different from agreeing upon a restaurant or a movie. The concept may sound strange to many, but it does provide an alternative to a life of sacrifice, resentment, and bitterness toward a spouse. The key is discussion and mutual agreement in the establishment and adherence to the boundaries.


    Randall Lang

    • Good insightful commnets, Randall. Seems the common theme throughout is agreement in the establishing of boundries of a relationship. Good counsel indeed.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  2. My definition of cheating is probably rather rigid…but it works for both my husband and I.

    If you wouldn’t do it or say it in front of your spouse…you’re probably cheating – or getting dangerously close.

    • Sounds like a good guideline to live by, Kathy, as it can encompass many different things for different couples. Doesn’t sound rigid at all. Sounds loving.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. My personal definition is that cheating is doing something behind your partner’s back that will hurt them in any way when they find out. The key is having enough open communication with your partner that you both understand what will hurt the other.

    When we got married we didn’t use the standard vows, we wrote our own, because neither of us wanted to promise something we might not be able to keep. You can’t really promise to love someone forever – love is something that happens, and sometimes it stops happening, or it just isn’t enough to keep going in the face of other issues. for the long haul we promised to treat each other with respect and honesty, and to stand by each other. Those are things you can keep, no matter what your emotions are doing.

    • I like these vows alot. You were very wise. What of those who just went along with the standard because that is what was done/expected? Is there not room to reevaluate anything you have agreed to in the blush of youth or the rose coloured glasses of new love?

  4. The older generation, and that includes me,has a different slant than the current one.If sexy thoughts are cheating, though we’re all guilty. Thank god I didn’t live in the time when women weren’t considered as even having minds. Certainly cheating is a concept that changes with each person, and you’d better get the rules straight between you and that other before delving too far into a relationship.

    • Absolutlely–getting the ‘rules’ straight would avoid all kinds of pain. You are a very open minded ‘older generation’ member, Jean. My mother would not even consider the legitimacy of sex before marriage, much less ‘shacking up’. How quickly we are being pressured to change…good for many, but those who are uncomfartable with the new ‘rules’ should not be forced to accept them into their lives any more than they should tsk, tsk those who are expanding their definition of meaningful loving relationship(s).

      None of us is master over her thoughts. (though there are passages in the Bible that would tell you you should be, lest you sin). Yup..by that definition, we are all sinners indeed.

  5. Hmm, excellent question. What is cheating? Cheating is defined by the “rules” of each relationship. What I would consider cheating, someone who is in a poly amorous relationship would not. I totally got Monique’s reply to Barbara after the Oscars that a physical affair for her is not a deal breaker. It isn’t the affair itself – the sexual, sensual acts – that break apart a relationship for me. It is the deceit and the breaking of trust that ends the relationship.

    I don’t know that I’d be able to be open to a man loving another woman at the same time that he loved me. I do not share well, nor do I want to work on it and “learn” to be more open. I am very clear about this with men, and I am also very clear with the fact that if they are into more fluid relationships that is fine. I just do not play that way. What irritates me is how many of these poly amorous men try to make me feel bad about my choices just as society tries to do the same to them. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the crowd who is into multiples and the crowd who is into monogamy. Everyone wants everyone else to behave the way they do. It is almost as if most people cannot believe that the individual choice is okay unless all of society supports the choice by choosing the same.

    The definition of cheating to me is acting deceitfully to allow yourself to do what you want to do and avoid consequences. This involves far more than physical acts of copulation. In fact, it involves being emotionally involved with another when it takes away from the relationship(s) you have without the other(s) involved knowing about your acts. Relationships take work and deceit ruins any and all of them especially when what motivates the deceit is self-interest rather than the best for all concerned.

    • Thank you for your reply and definition, Maria. I think we’re on the same page–the imperative nature of allowing each person the right to decide what is right for him/her. You highlight the importance of insuring that all members involved agree with the way their relationship is structured and for society to keep it’s bloody nose out of anyones personal decisions as to what is moral for them and their loved ones. So true–you think deceit should be kept out of the equation!

      It is no more acceptable for others to judge you on your deciision to be a one man gal, than it is for people to judge those who have poly amorous relationships that work for them. Cheating should be defined by the agreed upon ‘rules’ of each relationship, not by society.

      Well said!

  6. Great post, Christine!

    I would say it can be complicated but it does depend on what the individual thinks is cheating. I know that sounds weird, but I’ve learned that what I might consider cheating is not what someone else would. It also differs between men and women.

    Most women believe that you can cheat mentally. I agree. I think that if you are with someone or married and you’re having thoughts or fantasies about someone else that you are cheating in a way. It’s also dangerous because you might act on these feelings and it carries into being physical. Most men believe it’s not cheating unless it’s down to the nitty gritty, intercourse. I’ve found a lot of men think that even kissing or flirting with another woman isn’t cheating but it is a form of it.

    But to me, I think cheating is anytime you have sex or engage in any type of romantic gesture with someone other than your partner. This can be from a kiss, sexy text messages, cyber flirting/communication, to intercourse. I don’t agree with some people who believe it’s not cheating unless you have sex. It is because cheating and affairs start in the mind and the sex isn’t the beginning and ending of an affair.

    This subject always seems to remind me how different men are from women, LOL! I’ve known men who’ve gone so far as saying that oral sex isn’t cheating. Ooookay. Whatever. LOL!

    In terms of books, yep I think no matter what we read it makes us question our beliefs in some way. Especially when it comes to good versus evil.

    Best Wishes!

    Stacy-Deanne: Crime/Mystery & Interracial Romance Novelist

    • Indeed “Sex and affairs start in the mind”.

      I think our culture is going to have to deal with more than the definition of ‘cheating” in the years to come as more and more of us live twice as long as we ever have. Society may have to have another look at not only ‘cheating’, but lifelong monogamy and its meaning/repercussions. It makes all sorts of cultural sense to keep a couple together to raise children to independence, but when that happens now in the parent’s mid life and not end of life, it leaves many, many years for each person to enrich his/her life either together, or with others.

      Traditionally it has meant for each member of the couple to all but cut him/herself off from members of the opposite sex because of the ‘appearance’ of infidelity– or the fact. With thirty or forty years past empty nest before us, who is to say how many will feel deprived of the enrichment of interacting/living/socializing or more with the opposite sex? It will lead to interesting discussions and reevaluations—ultimately for each of us to make. How might this effect the cultural definition? How might it effect cultural norms and judgments?

      Interesting to consider…

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