6 Innocent Activities That May Not Seem Like Cheating, But Can Lead To It

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We may think we can predict who's more likely to cheat than others — the truth is, everyone is capable of cheating. But if you are concerned about infidelity in your relationship, experts say there are some seemingly innocent habits people do each day that can possibly lead to cheating in the future.

When it comes to what constitutes cheating, it can be highly subjective. For some, physical cheating like full-on intercourse is the only thing that counts. For others, emotional cheating texting other people and confiding in someone behind their partner's back is crossing the line.

"The definition of cheating changes from one individual to the next, and consequently from one relationship to the next," Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "It is definitely something you will have to speak to your significant other about sooner or later."

Similarly to how anyone is capable of cheating, a variety of things can lead to cheating as well. According to Backe, it's all about the individual's mindset. "Many times, cheating will be based on how they feel, even if they are not aware of it," he says. "Ultimately, if there is some sort of secrecy involved, it is a clear cut indication that something is up."

If you don't have any doubts, it's important to remember that not all of these habits will guarantee infidelity down the line — many can be explained based on the circumstances. But, if you have reason to be suspicious of yourself or your partner, here are some activities that may not seem like cheating, but can lead to it, according to experts.


Interacting With Other Romantic Interests Through Text And Social Media

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A 2014 University of Indiana study found that people in relationships use social media to keep in touch with “back-burners.” These are essentially people like exes or attractive friends someone could eventually see dating if their current relationship goes south. It may seem innocent since they're not flirting. But according to Backe, "Physical cheating may very well start off as emotional cheating, and nowadays this often starts online, seemingly as innocent as can be." The same goes for logging on to dating apps when someone is in a relationship just to pass the time.


Participating In Competitive Situations

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Joining a company’s softball team may seem innocent enough. But as dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle, putting people together in a competitive situation may create an atmosphere for attraction to grow. Of course, do not automatically assume that your partner may cheat just because they have decided to take on a new hobby. But if that hobby seems like an excuse to spend less time with you, and things start to see off, bring it up to them.


Having A "Work Spouse"

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There are a lot of great perks to having a work spouse. For instance, a 2017 study published in the journal Communication Studies found that having a “work spouse” can actually help improve your job performance. Since work spouses give people a source of support, people have the confidence to achieve more at work. But if proper boundaries are not set, relationship expert Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark, tells Bustle, it can move into dangerous territory real fast. "We spend more awake time with our co-workers than we do with our partners or spouses," Darné says. "Sometimes friendships form between co-workers very innocently at first." But once someone starts confiding in each other about things they're unhappy about in their relationship, that's crossing the line. "Only your mate can do that," he says.


Going With The Flow And Saying "Yes" To Everything

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It's almost cliché to hear a cheater tell their partner, "Oh, I never meant for this to happen." But in doing so, Darné says, this ignores all the times they said "yes" to texting them behind their partner's back or secretly meeting them for dinner. "Essentially they're saying it wasn't their actions that led them to cheat, but rather the universe caused them to cheat or fall in love with someone else," he says. Even though your partner may use this excuse, it's true that they choose how to spend their time and with who. In short, nothing happens until they say yes. "A cold 'no' stops everything in it's tracks," Darné says. So remember, your partner did have the option.


Having Inside Jokes With Someone You See Regularly

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Really anything "innocent" that someone can do with a person they find attractive can lead to a danger zone if they're not careful. For instance, having inside jokes with a friendly co-worker that someone finds attractive can turn into harmless flirting and possibly more over time. "Someone who is escalating a seemingly harmless behavior is probably looking for more than the other person," John M. Grohol, Psy.D., Founder & CEO of PsychCentral, tells Bustle. While it may not seem like the case at first, an emotional fair can develop if your partner chooses to see this person often, and ultimately begins to confide in them over things they are no longer sharing with you. If you notice they have stopped sharing things with you, and spending a lot of time with someone new, speak to them about it.


Dreaming About Someone Other Than Your Partner

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Whether or not dreams say anything about your partner's true feelings really depends on what they believe. But if they started spending a lot of time with someone other than you and it's starting to become a little flirtatious, their dreams may be worth paying attention to. "When [your partner] begins to daydream about the other person, or reminisce about that possibilities of more after flirting, the 'innocent' line becomes blurred," Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup, tells Bustle.

Since cheating means different things to different people, it should be noted that the things on this list won't necessarily guarantee cheating. For instance, your partner may just be a naturally charming person. So any flirting they do outside of the relationship will really just be harmless. As long as you're both very clear about what does and doesn't count as cheating in your relationship, these seemingly innocent things shouldn't be a problem.