What counts as an affair and what to do if you see the signs in your relationship.
When it comes to infidelity, things can get a little unclear and murky sometimes.
He might argue that what he's doing is not cheating and tell you to stop overreacting. She might claim that you're just being jealous or crazy and that her actions are “no big deal.”
You may start to question yourself and what you're seeing when you suspect that your partner is having an affair. If you've confronted your partner about it, you've possibly heard all kinds of excuses, defenses and dismissals...and you are still left not knowing what is going on.
And, whether or not you are being duped and lied to!
There are many things that you and your partner could have different viewpoints about. What constitutes cheating could be one of those things that causes countless arguments and keeps you up at night worrying and wondering.
“Is it an affair?”
If you are asking yourself this question over and over again and not getting a definitive answer, consider this...
There are 3 types of affairs:
This is not a definitive list, but a broad categorization of the ways infidelity often plays out. All forms of infidelity are damaging to trust, can feel hurtful and like a betrayal.
1) Physical/sexual affair
This is what is often traditionally considered to be an affair. There is physical, sexual contact and sexual intimacy between two people who are already in committed relationships (or perhaps only one is in a committed relationship). There might not be sexual intercourse, but kissing, touching and other sexual interactions are shared.
2) Emotional affair
An emotional affair is more difficult to identify. There has not been-- and may never be-- any sexual or romantic contact between the two people. They may profess to be “just close friends,” but there is something deeper going on.
It's just not always easy to see.
The classic signs of an emotional affair include: wanting to spend more time with the “friend” than with the partner; confiding on a more emotional level with the “friend” than with the partner; secretiveness or lying about time spent with the “friend” and more.
3) Online affair
Just like an emotional affair, this kind of affair is often discounted because it does not involve literal physical contact between two people. All interaction takes place online, in text messages or in other “distance” modes.
An online affair can be very explicit, graphic and sexual-- either personal or more impersonal and anonymous. It can also be more like an emotional affair and not be sexual, but be very intimate nonetheless.
Review the verifiable facts as you know them.
Start out by reviewing what you know about your partner's behavior and your relationship. If it helps, make a list of what you suspect and the evidence you have to support your suspicions that your partner may be cheating. Circle those items that are verifiable and that are backed up by information and focus on those.
Pay close attention to any inconsistencies between how your partner normally acts (or used to act) and how he or she acts now. If there are things that your mate says that just don't add up, notice this too.
Some people choose to spy by looking at their partner's email, social networking, banking and other accounts. We encourage you to get reliable information to clear up your questions, but we do not suggest you break the law. Find ways to gather facts that you won't later regret.
What to do if you find proof that your partner is having an affair...
Remind yourself of the stated agreements you and your partner have.
Too often, a couple runs into trouble and it's because they each have different expectations and rules. They've not had the courage or taken the time to sit down and talk about what they each expect. They operate under some pretty big assumptions.
Don't assume that you and your partner are monogamous if you've never explicitly talked about it. Don't expect your partner to maintain the kind of commitment to your relationship that is important to you if you've not communicated that.
Rarely is it ever too late for people to create clear and conscious agreements about what they each expect and want. Soon might be the time to create agreements with your partner.
As you move through this inquiry process, keep in mind the agreements that you and your partner have-- or don't have.
Strictly speaking, if you and your partner have never agreed to be monogamous and he or she is sexually or emotionally intimate with another person, this is not cheating. But, this doesn't mean that it is okay with you or that you aren't hurt by your partner's actions.
It also doesn't mean that you have to allow this behavior to continue. Have that uncomfortable conversation with your partner and make known your desire to be monogamous-- or whatever form of commitment you want. Listen to what your partner is willing or unwilling to agree to and make a decision from there.
This decision might be that it's wiser for you to end the relationship-- especially if your partner is not ready to agree to the kind of commitment that you want.
If you do have agreements to be monogamous and these are not being kept, this is your opportunity to choose. You get to choose whether or not you'll give your partner a second chance or whether it's best for you to leave the relationship.
If you choose to give a second chance, be clear and specific about what it will take for your partner to prove to you that he or she is trustable and is now keeping your agreements. Look for signs that positive changes are being made.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the relationship they desire. Click here to get their free mini-course to help rebuild trust after infidelity.