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8 Forms of Cheating That Don't Involve Sex

There are many ways to be unfaithful to your partner.

By Aria WhitePublished about a year ago 6 min read

When most people hear the word "cheating," they think of someone having a sexual relationship with a person (or people) who isn't their partner. But cheating can happen in many different ways. In fact, some of the ways people cheat that don't involve sex can be just as - if not more - damaging to a relationship.

Cheating is, essentially, saying or doing anything you wouldn't say or do in front of your partner, or saying or doing anything that stifles connection, trust, and/or intimacy with your partner.

These forms of cheating don't involve having a sexual relationship but are still ways to betray your partner and diminish the intimacy of your relationship.

*Note: these only pertain to monogamous relationships. Those who are polyamorous or have open relationships might not consider these behaviors cheating.

Physical Touch

Any form of physical touch is a form of cheating. Unless you and your partner have agreed that in certain circumstances (if one person is a professional actor, for example), kissing and other forms of physical touch are not considered cheating, it's safe to assume that holding hands, cuddling, kissing, and anything else physical you do with someone else is a way to be unfaithful to your partner.

The only exception to this is being physically expressive with family members or close friends of the same sex. Familial/platonic hugs and kisses are not considered cheating because there is no romantic aspect to them. Also, things like going to the doctor or a beauty salon are times when someone else might use physical touch but these are standard practices in those industries, so those instances wouldn't be considered cheating.

Sharing Intimate Details

One of the main reasons that men and women should not be friends is that male-female friendships, no matter how platonic they seem, always have the potential to cross an inappropriate line. You don't have to physically touch someone to be unfaithful to your partner. Sharing intimate details about yourself, your life, or your relationship with an opposite-sex friend can be considered emotional infidelity. Giving your time and attention to someone else instead of your partner is cheating.

In fact, you can technically be unfaithful by having a deeply emotional relationship with someone of the same sex too. Sharing anything intimate with someone outside of the relationship is a form of betrayal. Some would even say that sharing details about your relationship with a therapist - without your partner - is cheating.

Watching Pornography

I don't care how many people say watching porn is "normal." It's not healthy - especially not when you're in a relationship. Pornography not only misleads viewers into thinking that fetishes, rough sex, abusive sex, and violent sex are erotic and healthy, it gives the impression that relationships without these things are not good; that sex is supposed to be all about pleasure and achieving orgasm. Sex is so much more than that.

Also, watching pornography means you are getting aroused by people who are not your partner. And if you need to watch porn in order to get aroused, this could be an indication that your relationship has problems. When you are in love with someone, you should be able to get aroused by them and not seek arousal outside of the relationship. Sure, some people have medical issues that affect their sexual health, but pornography is not the cure.

Keeping Secrets

There is never going to be a situation in which you need to keep a secret from your partner - unless you are planning a surprise party for them, in which case, the secret will eventually come out, so that's completely fine. But keeping secrets from your partner about things that could break trust or damage your relationship is a form of cheating.

Keeping secrets about your friends' or family's personal lives is different because those are not directly related to your relationship. If a friend or family member has entrusted you with information, it's usually fine to keep it between you and that person. But withholding (intentionally) information about your own fears, feelings, behaviors, communications, etc. is deceitful and definitely falls into the cheating category.

Using Sex Toys

Even though sex toys are not people, using them is still a form of cheating. When you are in a loving, intimate relationship, the only way to get aroused should be by your partner. This doesn't mean you have to be "in the mood" all the time, but if you are using sex toys because your sex life is boring, it might be time to reevaluate the connection you and your partner have.

Sex toys create a barrier between you and your partner, which hinders intimacy instead of creating it. There is also the potential to use sex toys as a crutch whenever your sex life needs a boost. This doesn't set a healthy precedent for connection or growing closer as a couple. This is why using sex toys is cheating - you are literally cheating your partner out of an authentic sexual experience.

Hiding Money

Money is one of the - if not the - top reasons couple's get divorced. There are several explanations for this, including that sometimes partners hide money, large sums of debt, or secret bank accounts from their partners. If you feel the need to hide money, it could indicate a lack of trust in your relationship. This will eventually lead to a broken relationship because it is a form of infidelity.

Having separate bank accounts is fine if that's what you and your partner both agree to. Just be honest about having your own account and don't hide any shared money from your partner. Be upfront about financial troubles that you have and if you have concerns or requests about money, talk to your partner instead of acting in a deceitful way.

Flirting With Others

If you are single, there is no harm in flirting with people. Once you are in a relationship, however, flirting is a form of cheating. Even if it seems meaningless and innocent, it's a way of giving yourself to someone who isn't your partner. It is giving time and attention to someone in a way that indicates interest, even if that isn't the intention.

Many people also find themselves having "work crushes" on co-workers or celebrity crushes, which is basically lusting after someone else. Even if nothing actually happens with a crush, just thinking about that person and giving them a piece of your mental energy is cheating. The only person you should flirt with or lust after is your partner.


Yes, masturbating is a form of cheating. You are not involving your partner in the act, and therefore, they are being deprived of sharing that intimate experience with you. If you and your partner have different sex drives or one of you is away on vacation, or you only see each other once a week, masturbation is not the solution. Communication and possibly couple's therapy are better ways to try and balance out a sexual mismatch with your partner.

*Note: Mutual masturbation is not a form of cheating because both partners are involved, and only with each other. Exploring your bodies and pleasing one another is a great way to build connection, so as long as you are not masturbating by yourselves, this is acceptable behavior in a relationship.

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About the Creator

Aria White

Aria White is an author, mental health advocate, narcissistic abuse survivor, and relationship expert. Her first book, "Dear Me, I've Missed You" is available at Amazon and other book retailers. Follow her on Instagram @authorariawhite.

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