Definition of “cheating” differs among individuals, should be discussed between partners

Illustration by Aaron Logan

Relationships are anything but static. Partners change and people change partners. They meet on cross-country adventures and at their local coffee shops, in online chats and at parties. Few cardinal rules of romance have survived the test of time, and one is under scrutiny yet again. What constitutes faithfulness to a partner? Where, in this amorphous blob of love stuff, is the cheating line actually drawn?

Recent studies show mixed results. In a study conducted jointly by ChristianMingle and JDate, 2,700 singles, both religious and secular, were asked their definitions of cheating. The results showed that women are more likely to consider intangibles (emotional conversations, deepening friendships, intimate phone calls and inside jokes) cheating than men are. Men are more physically oriented, scoring sex and passionate kissing high on the list of infidelities.

The law draws the line at sex. Essentially everyone seems to agree on this. The survey states that 95 percent of men and 100 percent of women think that sex with someone other than the spouse is cheating. Massachusetts still has a law that states adultery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 2-3 years or a $500 fine; 21 other states also list adultery as punishable by a fine. In divorce courts, adultery may have bearing on the case.

At the heart of a relationship is the trust partners have in each other when sharing intimacy. Without trust, partners are afraid to invest anything of value in one another, producing only a hollow bond. While they may be physically intimate, a deeper relationship can’t grow until boundaries are set. Cheating is the deprivation of some sort of intimacy in a relationship. To feel cheated, people must be missing out on something they value.

To determine what cheating means to you, you must first determine what you consider valuable in a relationship. For me, what is valuable is intellectual conversation. If he can’t define the difference between a utopia and a dystopia as illustrated by George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” he’s out. However, proximity is less of an issue. If I can call and talk to my partner, it makes me comparably happy as to when he’s in the room. I can handle other women at the house he shares with his roommates when I’m not there, but the minute she expresses her views on the Thomas Theorem, things get real.

Celia Walden wrote an article for “The Telegraph” on Jan. 28 in which she threatened to divorce Piers Morgan because of his Twitter addiction, saying it felt like “more than three million” people in her marriage. She obviously values her limited one-on-one time with her spouse and their daughter. She sees sharing that intimacy with other people as cheating on her.

The only way to define cheating in a relationship is to sit down and define it with your partner(s) face to face, so that all nonverbal cues and nuances can be noted. Talk about everything that could possibly affect your ideas of intimacy: keeping in touch with exes, watching pornography, non-work-related emails, dancing at clubs, text and email etiquette, even non-holiday presents to persons of the attracted gender. When someone starts to look uncomfortable, you have found the line. And if you break up, be ready to do it again.

Logan Falletti is a sophomore in public relations. Please send comments to