Cheating is cheating in the minds of most people: One person breaks the trust of his or her significant partner by secretly engaging in sex outside the relationship.
However, there are many and different ways to cheat, and some can be more damaging to a primary relationship than others.
The below are the categories:
- Booty calls
- Full-blown romantic connections
If you’ve ever cheated, or been cheated on, you will likely recognize your or your partner’s behavior and thought patterns in one (or more) of these categories.
When asked what infidelity looks like, many people envision sexploration, meaning sexual activity with no emotional component or connection. Sexploration involves casual hook-ups, hitting strip clubs, looking at porn, playing the field, anonymous sex, etc. Sometimes people who engage in sexploration think that because the activity doesn’t mean anything to them on an emotional level, they’re not really cheating. In their mind, they’re indulging in nothing more than a fun and relaxing diversion from the stress, and strain of everyday life, roughly equivalent to mountain climbing, a night at the casino, or a shopping spree.
Of course, their significant others tend to feel differently. Faithful partners, especially women, usually don’t compartmentalize sex and emotional connection the way sexplorational cheaters do. This is why betrayed partners struggle to understand how the person they love can mentally separate the two elements, viewing extracurricular sex as meaningless from a relationship standpoint. A cheater may insist that his or her behavior wasn’t cheating because there was no emotional connection, so there is no reason for the betrayed partner to be upset. But this doesn’t register as valid to a person who feel deceived.
On the emotional connection scale, booty calls are a step up from sexploration, but they are still casual. In this situation, cheaters typically have one, but sometimes several, casual sex partners who they see when it’s convenient. These ongoing relationships are almost entirely sexual. There may be the occasional dinner and show before going to bed, but the emotional intimacy is purely superficial, with the relationship based primarily on sex. In some cases, there might be an element of friendship, where the two parties know the basics about one another, but that’s about it. And usually both parties are aware that the sex is not exclusive, and that one (or both) are in a long-term, supposedly monogamous relationship.
Booty call cheaters often try to defend their behavior using the same type of denial as sexplorers: “It wasn’t really cheating, because I never for a moment thought of leaving you.” As with sexploration, in the eyes of the betrayed partner this argument fails, because a non-cheating partner is generally unable to separate sex from emotional bonding. He thinks, “You were having sex with him, and you did it several times—that I know about. So you must have felt some sort of attraction or connection that you don’t feel with me. Otherwise, why would you bother doing it?”
Full-Blown Romantic Connections
Full-blown romantic connections are exactly what they sound like—two people who feel love and have an emotional connection, who engage in an emotional and sexual affair. This type of relationship often begins unintentionally. Often, happily partnered people go about their daily lives, being nice to others and making friends without worrying too much about what those friends look like, when suddenly and unexpectedly, a platonic friendship blossoms into something more.
Emotionally connected affairs tend to feel more potent to both the cheater and the cheated-on partner. The betrayal feels more severe and more damage is done to the primary relationship. After all, this type of cheating involves more than just to have sex and secrets: There is an emotional shift away from the primary partner toward the affair partner. The more deeply the cheater connects with the other person, the further away the cheater moves from his or her mate, both emotionally and physically. This is true no matter how strongly the cheater denies this, and the longer an emotional affair lasts, the more ingrained this shift becomes.
The above are common ways that lead to cheating.