What counts as cheating? It's a question that we may never have a straight answer to. With more and more ways to keep in touch through technology and social media, there are a lot of blurred lines when it comes to what is and isn't appropriate. Texting a friend is fine, but texting a friend before bed every night might be considered less fine. But where are the boundaries?
Well a new survey from Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people, asked 3,342 members what actions they considered cheating, besides the obvious sexual acts. What was really fascinating about these results is that an emotional connection was actually far more likely to be considered cheating than other explicitly sexual things — like sending naked photos to someone else. That may be for a very good reason — emotional infidelity can be extremely painful.
"Emotional cheating is very hurtful," matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander tells Bustle. And you shouldn't underestimate the effect that it can have on a relationship. "... To know that someone is cheating on us emotionally is heartbreaking."
Why does emotional cheating hurt so much? Well, it's impossible to write off as just a little "blip". "From these statistics it sounds like people are valuing an emotional connection higher than a physical one," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "If your partner has sex with someone else you can rationalize that 'it didn’t mean anything' or 'it was just sex'. But with emotional cheating, the person obviously does mean something to your partner. It feels like more of a threat to the stability and longevity of your relationship."
It's very serious stuff. Although one heartening part of the survey was that, considering how many different things might be considered cheating and how varied people's opinions are, a whopping 78 percent of those surveyed said they have defined what they consider cheating to be with their spouse.
Considering the survey participants are all members of Ashley Madison, my guess is not all of them stick to those boundaries, but at least they took the time to set them up in the first place... right? Maybe?