Pop quiz: When you think of cheating, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Chances are you’d say sex, right? With falling in love with someone else a close second. But turns out, you can be unfaithful to your significant other without touching anyone at all, in plenty of devious little ways you might never even connect with the concept of infidelity.
“Cheating is not only sex,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Romance”), a psychotherapist and the author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. “The real thing that upsets the apple cart is betrayal and unfaithfulness. You can easily do that without touching anyone.”
Here are six ways you’re cheating on your sig-o without any physical contact whatsoever.
1. You’re attracted to someone else and compare your partner to him, in a bad way
Look, attraction to other people happens when you’re in a committed relationship. That part’s totally fine and good and normal. It’s what you do with it that matters. If you think another guy is hot and you keep comparing your significant other unfavorably to him, you’re not being true to your man.
2. You lie about the important stuff
Whether it’s about a friendship you’ve struck up but choose not to share details of with your sig-o, classes or coaching you’re doing for self-improvement purposes, money, work milestones or any other significant occurrences, lying is a form of betrayal to the one you love. Period. So why do it?
3. You spend money you two haven’t agreed on
While this might not seem remotely like cheating, if you’re spending money behind your partner’s back on something he or she doesn’t feel comfortable with or doesn’t know about, you’re not being true.
“Anything that undermines your mutual love and connection is actually betrayal of the faith in your relationship, and therefore, unfaithful,” says Tessina.
4. You can’t stop thinking about someone else during sex
Fantasizing about someone else during sex with your sig-o is no big deal, once in a while. But it can rise to the level of cheating if you’re “imagining sex with another person — the same one — consistently while having sex with your partner,” says Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., a licensed couples therapist and the author of Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t!. Ask yourself how you’d feel if he were doing the same thing while having sex with you. Yes. Betrayed.
5. You avoid solving problems together
Whenever you do something to tamper with, weaken or break your connection with your partner — like giving up on solving problems together, as a team — you’re not being faithful and you’re in essence cheating on him, Tessina says.
6. You’re very close to another person who isn’t in your immediate group of friends
If you’re “enjoying emotional closeness — total emotional nakedness — with another person who isn’t a friend in your social circle,” that’s a form of infidelity, Raymond says. “This other person is the first person you think of talking to because it’s more fulfilling than telling your partner.” It’s so common and so widely considered cheating that it’s got a name: an emotional affair. Stop it before it starts if you want to keep your primary relationship healthy and intact.
All of these examples are “cheating in its broadest context — not just sexual infidelity, but all types of infidelity,” says Raymond. And we’ve only just scratched the surface here; there are plenty of other ways to cheat without touching out there. The lesson to be learned is this: If you’re engaging in any behavior that is threatening your love, connection and relationship, or your openness and honesty with each other, it’s a betrayal — and betrayal of any kind is cheating, in a sense. So take stock. Try to tackle the issue before it gets out of hand and causes you to lose everything that’s important to you that you took for granted when you had it. It’s just not worth the risk.