Her World investigates what constitutes cheating in today’s relationships. We spoke to Dr Yeo Pei Li, licensed professional counsellor at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy and dean of Counselling Studies at Alpha Omega International College to understand infidelity better.
Try typing ‘why do people cheat’ into your Google search bar. You’ll be bombarded with article after article telling you about the different reasons your spouse is cheating on you, signs to look out for, or what you should do after you’ve found out about the affair. There’s a smorgasbord of explanations as to why both men and women decide to break their vow, give up on a relationship they’ve taken years to build, and play away from home. While the topic of infidelity is not new, we’re still astounded when a close friend confesses to us that their significant other has cheated on them, or worse, when we realise that it’s our marriage that is under threat.
What is infidelity anyway? Is it having sexual intercourse with someone who isn’t your partner? Or does touching and flirting count as cheating too? Everyone seems to have a different definition. Some may think that cheating is just about sex, but others consider having an emotional attachment with an outsider cheating. Whilst there is no universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes infidelity, it’s generally understood that infidelity means being unfaithful in a marriage or committed relationship. It’s a hidden secret from your spouse that could result in a sense of relational betrayal, and it could severely strain and end a relationship when exposed. “The definition of infidelity keeps expanding and it comprises a number of activities – sexual intercourse, kissing, fondling, emotional connections – that are beyond friendship,” explains Yeo Pei Li, licensed professional counsellor at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy.
Of course, with the rise of social media, things like sexting, sending revealing pictures to someone other than your partner, watching pornography, and staying active on dating apps can be considered as cheating too. But at the end of the day, it all depends on the boundaries set by you and your partner. The both of you may not tolerate things like sharing private thoughts with an outsider, but some couples are fine with that. The most important thing here is to communicate your wishes with your partner.
Like it or not, we’re now living in a world where there are many opportunities to cheat without getting caught – and it’s harder than ever to recognise the signs of infidelity. We ask Pei Li whether these red flags are false alarms or truly something to worry about.