Where is the line drawn between a loyal relationship and a cheating relationship? Is it from the moment an unfaithful thought crosses your mind or when physical bounds have been broken? Experts reveal what is really considered cheating:
It's natural to think someone is attractive. However, fantasizing about someone else could be more dangerous for your marriage.
One expert warns that fantasies could be a form of infidelity. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., says these fantasies could come in the form of Facebook stalking or daydreaming about someone else. She questions whether these thoughts are signs of cheating or simply innocent mental escapades.
To find out, she suggests talking with your partner about what those fantasies might represent.
"If you're constantly fantasizing about the same person, what qualities does that other individual have that you feel your partner lacks?" Whitbourne asked. "By allowing yourself to explore your fantasies instead of fighting them off, you may gain insights that you can share with your partner."
It's considered cheating even if you haven't broken physical boundaries. You can't take a bite of the cake and say you didn't eat it. You say you're just friends and nothing more, but if you're reaching out to them to fill a void in your relationship and sharing private things you should only share with your spouse, this is more than just an innocent friendship - it's emotional infidelity.
"The sad reality is that emotional infidelity is often totally hidden to the extent that you may not know if and when your partner is emotionally cheating," said Seth Meyers, Psy.D. "The best indicator is to consider the character of your partner and to ask yourself how much you truly trust his or her integrity."
Ask yourself how loyal your spouse is to their family, friends, job, and most importantly, to you. Trust your gut when you have suspicions that your spouse might be cheating and always talk to your partner first before jumping to conclusions.
Know the signs of an emotional affair. Experts say a spouse might spend hours chatting online or talking on the phone to someone they're attracted to. They might even confide in them about their fading emotional attachment to their partner, rather than talking to their spouse about it. Other signs include: sharing personal stories with another person, looking forward to being with them, changing their routine and spending a lot of time together.
Some people think flirting is obviously cheating, but others don't see anything wrong with a little friendly talk. About 59 percent of women and 42 percent of men in one survey said sending flirty messages to someone other than your partner is considered cheating. The boundary between being friendly and flirtatious is a thin but solid line you should never cross when you're in a committed relationship.
There are different motivations for flirting including to compliment someone, playfully tease or to pursue a romantic relationship, according to Antonio Borrello, psychologist and relationship expert. Any flirting with the intention to fill a romantic or sexual desire with someone other than your partner is obviously cheating, Borrello said.
However, this isn't how it starts out. It begins as an innocent gesture that slowly crosses over into infidelity. You've crossed that line when you keep your flirting a secret, feel guilty afterwards or feel emotionally attached to someone else, Borrello warns.
It's not only cheating when you put another person before your spouse, but also when you put your hobbies before them. This is called an object affair. While this is nothing like an emotional or physical affair, this type of cheating sends the message that you don't value your spouse as much as something else - whatever it may be.
If your partner is putting their interests above you, express how you feel. Keep in mind your spouse might not realize they're putting something else above you. Work together with love and patience to come to a complete understanding and solution.
One study showed that many people don't believe online sexual relationships are real. They see it as simply a fantasy that arouses them.
Even though online relationships aren't physically real, they are still psychologically real, according to Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D. These "fake" relationships can have a major, detrimental impact on your marriage if you keep pursuing them. Turn off your virtual relationships and focus on the one that matters.
With all of the many controversial views on what is and isn't considered cheating, it is ultimately up to the couple to decide for themselves. Study what the experts say and talk with your spouse about where your relationship boundaries lie. When you both completely understand and accept each other's expectations, you can have a happy and fulfilling marriage.