Over the past weeks I've heard various points of view from women on what exactly constitutes cheating. I'll give you my opinion and open this up to hear yours. Most of you probably won't agree with me; some of you will strongly disagree and that's okay. I'm not looking for agreement, I want to hear how you guys feel.
The most hotly debated subject seems to be flirting so I'll start here. Sandy and I give each other a lot of leniency when it comes to flirting. Like, a lot. In my eyes what it comes down to first and foremost is the intent in which it's done. If a partner flirts with someone and the intention is for it to lead to something romantic or physical, then I agree it's wrong. But I think flirting is harmless if it's done in fun, if both parties involved are on the same page and they don't allow it to lead anywhere.
We're both naturally very flirtatious, it's just not that evident in our blogs or e-mail. I've been in this relationship for eighteen years and always find it flattering when someone acts flirty or simply pays me a compliment. It's tremendously validating, and makes my day to be found attractive by someone of the opposite sex, especially someone younger. Sandy feels the same and it's a non-issue between us, and I always love seeing the mood she's in when she tells me of some exchange she had that day. In fact, sometimes we point out people out in public that we think the other will find attractive ("Hey there's one for you."). I'll stand back and watch her work it when she's off somewhere and some guy starts chatting her up. Who doesn't love attention? Where the issue can come into play is when the flirting is done overtly in front of your partner to their exclusion (in other words, acting like they're not there). Usually a sure-fire way to put a strain on your relationship.
How these situations would sit with you I think depends largely on your self-confidence and the trust you have in your partner. Too many people equate jealousy with love; the more jealous he/she is of someone paying attention to you the more he/she must love you. To my mind, if your partner has given you no reason not to trust them, your jealousy is a sign of insecurity.
I won't say much about sexting here because I think most would consider it cheating. I don't know too many people who would be comfortable with their partner sexting someone.
This is a whole world unto itself because of its secrecy. I can name a bazillion instances where this has caused problems amongst people I know (both bloggers and non-bloggers alike).
I communicate with many friends by e-mail, and I've had some very personal conversations with those of you I'm most comfortable with and closest to. These conversations are usually about either self-perception or relationships, sometimes talk does turn to sex and gets intimate. I don't consider this inappropriate within a relationship; what I would consider inappropriate would be if the basis of these conversations was talk of sex between the two people involved (sharing fantasies of each other, etc.) Otherwise the subject of sex is as much a part of life as friendship, love or your favourite colour.
There's really no clear-cut answer here. If seeing your significant other smile at another is cheating to you, then that's how you feel (an extreme example, but if it's an issue to you it's still valid). For me, the bottom line is that cheating is doing something you know you partner has a problem with; whether you think it's harmless or you intend no harm by it is irrelevant. In fairness to each other, both concerned need to discuss what they are and aren't comfortable with. Most situations can be avoided simply by communication.
So...where do you draw the line?
Photo credit here.