Emotional Cheating: Where Do You Draw The Line?

When this idea was pitched in the office, I thought it was a bit of a weird one for an article. I mean, surely the boundaries of cheating are obvious? Evidently not. We here in the office are divided on what is, and what isn't cheating. It seems pretty obvious to me what constitutes cheating, but once we started discussing it, different ideas of what it actually means came to the fore. What I do know is that it means you're a dickhead who betrays the person you're with. You don't have to be drunk, you don't have to sleep with someone else, you can even cheat on someone when they're sitting right next to you.


We all know that sleeping with someone else is a no no. And if you don't know that, then what the fuck is wrong with you? Sexual attraction between two people is what differentiates the relationship between a platonic one, and a romantic one. So if you have sexy time with someone else, then congratulations, you're a cheater.


In recent times, there's a new term that is thrown around when we talk about cheating; emotional cheating. This basically means that you're cheating in every way but physically. You're lying, sneaking around, feeling guilty, and generally being an asshole. And this is where it's not so black and white.

It can be hard to draw a line between what is and isn't emotional cheating. If I tell my best friend everything, the same as I would with my boyfriend, does that make me a cheater? Well no, because I'm not attracted to her, as fab as she is (soz hun). And this is where things get messy. So if I were to tell the same stuff to someone I'm attracted to, does that make it cheating? Because sex is the thing that makes a friendship a relationship. Yet a romantic relationship can't solely be based on sex. You have to have the emotional aspect too.



To be honest, even I'm unsure if emotional cheating is a thing. How can you decide that telling someone personal information about yourself is cheating? If that's the case, then how is anyone supposed to talk to anyone without cheating? It may not even be what you talk about, but how you view the conversation, how much you invest in that conversation. Would you have that same conversation with your partner to the same effect, or is it the person, and the maybe unrecognised attraction that interests you more than the conversation?

It seems like it all comes down to attraction. The difference between the messages in your inbox from your friend, and from that guy, is if you're attracted to him. Which to be honest, makes me a bit sad. I know the physical aspect is important, but what about the other stuff? When you're with someone, you trust them, you let them in, and if you found out they were doing the exact same thing with someone else, you'd be devastated.

It's a hard one to actually identify. I think if you put in the same effort, and more, with this person and you communicate with them as you would your boyfriend, then it's cheating. Maybe it's different for each person, as every relationship is different. But there are some basic guidelines.



If you're feeling guilty about it; it's cheating.


If you're lying about it; it's cheating.


If you're sneaking around; it's cheating.



If you're not telling your boyfriend or girlfriend what you're doing, or how much you're talking to them, or you feel you have to hide it from them, there's a reason. You know that it's crossed the line, and it's not exactly friendship anymore. Let's face it, if you were asked to tell your other half what you talk about with this new person, and you start to shit yourself at the thought of it, then you should listen to these alarm bells. They're telling you something.

Emotional cheating isn't the only way you can prove you're a lying dick. Social media also gives us a whole new way to cheat. Snapchat makes it easy to send some oh-so-classy dick pics without much evidence, and Tinder gives us a way to easily find some stuff on the side. i cannot count the number of times I've come across people that I know are in relationships on tinder. To me, sending someone who isn't your boyfriend or girlfriend nudes and flirty messages is cheating. Because that shit is only for them, obviously.


Like I said, the physical aspect of a relationship is, and has always been emphasised. It's the easiest way to tell if you're cheating, or have been cheated on. It's the other stuff that confuses people. Everything in a relationship is somewhat private, unless you're one of those annoying couples who make Snapchat stories every time they're together, which in that case CAN I JUST SAY STOP. Please, for the love of God, stop.


Sexy time between two people is private, unless you're into some other stuff, you kinky bastards you. What you share emotionally between the two of you is also private; there's a reason you're trusting them with your thoughts and feelings. As much as the sex stuff is important, an emotional connection ranks just as high. To me, you have a special emotional connection with the person you're with, as cheesy as that sounds. And it could be just as bad, if not worse, to find your partner has emotionally cheated on you by breaking that trust or creating the same type of connection with someone else. Thinking with your dick is one thing, but acting with your heart is another ball game altogether. It's just as real, and just as valid.


So think before you press send. What do those messages mean? If you're hiding your phone when your girlfriend or boyfriend comes into the room, surely that says enough to you. If you've nothing to hide, then good. I like you. If you are hiding something, then get the fuck out of here because no one likes a cheater.

Clodagh McMeel
Article written by
Self-confessed cat lady, Clodagh is known for her sneezing and laziness. She is most often found on the couch or in bed, usually accompanied by her laptop and pizza. When she isn't doing nothing, she studies English and French in Maynooth. But that's very rare.
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