The proper definition goes like this: “unfaithfulness; disloyalty. A breach of trust or a disloyal act; transgression.” The word is derived from the Latin, infidēlitās, which means unfaithful.
Notice the definition does not indicate that infidelity is “having sex with someone else.” When we hear that someone cheated, that’s what we often assume—that they had sex with someone else. And we have even heard debates about what constitutes “sex.” But the real wound of infidelity is about secrecy and betrayal. It is about creating an atmosphere where trust cannot survive.
So yes, sex definitely qualifies as infidelity. And any physical sexual activity (including oral sex, touching, kissing, intimate hugging) can be considered physical infidelity.
There is also emotional infidelity. This might include things like:
- Flirting or engaging in sex talk with someone other than your partner—in person, on the phone (think sexting!), or online
- Lying to make it seem that you are single to someone else
- Purchasing intimate gifts for someone other than your partner
- Engaging in private and meaningful “talk” relationships with another person (including online chats, emails, phone conversations, coffee dates, “just drinks,” etc.)
- Turning to pornography for gratification
It is important to note that what might be hurtful and damaging to one relationship may be perfectly acceptable to another. So think of it this way: Infidelity includes anything that you would feel uncomfortable sharing with your partner.
That gets you thinking, doesn’t it?
What kind of person cheats?
People cheat for different reasons. For our purposes, we’ll discuss two of the most common types.
The most common Cheater—I like to refer to as Type I—is the person who has been in a committed relationship that probably began as a happy and fulfilling one. This person had every intention of being and staying committed. But somewhere along the way, the relationship became neglected. For now, we aren’t concerned why. That’s a different discussion. Just think of those minor energy leaks grown out of proportion and left untended. The relationship has slowly developed distance that now seems insurmountable. Often couples in this stage describe themselves as having “grown apart.” Instead of facing the relationship problems directly, this person might take advantage of an opportunity to feel connected to someone new.