What Is Cheating Anyway?

Heartbreak, Sex

What exactly counts as cheating? Something you definitely need to discuss in your relationship.

I get so sick and tired of people accusing each other of cheating when (to me) they aren't even in the ball park. Then again, there are those who don't or won't step up the plate of integrity with their steady sex mate when they sure seem to me to have crossed that delicate membrane onto the field of certified cheaters. I'm not talking about "Field of Dreams" here, no. I mean that, this is one violation of trust where you can really hurt yourself and your sexual partner, if you don't get straight about what's cheating and what's fair game.

Let's talk about cheating. I mean the real deal, not what's in your mind. But what's happening flesh to flesh. I often get asked, "Dr. Patti, is such-and-such really cheating?" You know the rap...things like cybersex online with a mystery Miss, flirting with your best friend's wife, kissing a co-worker while your hubby's away at the conference, fingering your golf partner til she screams "Oh my, dude"...and I always retort with "It depends."

Baseball rules

Flesh-on-flesh without vaginal penetration is sort of like playing baseball without touching home plate. I once worked with a female client, we'll call Sally, who thought that as long as she didn't go all the way with men she met who were not her husband, she wasn't breaking any marital vows. Is this sounding familiar? Setting realistic boundaries about what is IN or OUT of bounds is one way to create your standards for cheating in your sex life. To Sally kissing, petting, even oral or anal play were okay; having another guy's penis enter her vagina was the line never to be crossed.

Okay, so are you saying, "If my girlfriend did that with another guy, I'd punch his face and let her have it, too?" Now, you're onto something. That is, what may be cheating to Paul isn't necessarily cheating to Pamela. Each couple has to set their own relationship guidelines for cheating, like it or not. Maybe you think that going down on a sexual partner outside of your relationship is just teasing, not really "sex," but your sexual mate may read you the riot act if she catches onto that idea. Set up your "okay" and "not-okay" actions with a steady sex player before you romp around in anyone else's playground of lust.

Here are some ideas for you men:

Is kissing acceptable? Did you know that for most sex workers (how do you spell p-r-o-s-t-i-t-u-t-e?) they allow almost any sexual behavior except for kissing? To many women the act of spit swapping is more intimate than penis-in-vagina sex. Hmmm.

Is it okay if you just play with her breasts but don't touch below the belt? Well, petting gets a person rather hot, both the petter and the pettee, setting the thermostat so high that you may find yourself heading down a road that maybe you just can't turn back on. Think about it.

Is it okay if I just finger her and not stick "it" in?

Certainly manual sex play is very stimulating for her and you. But this is way more than a friendly gesture now. You may not be able to say no, once you're under the waistband of those undies.

Is oral sex really sex?

You betcha! Think Bill Clinton without those cigars. But, you get to decide if this is the real deal, not me.

If I don't come, is it really sex?

Ahem. Listen up. If you are inside of another woman (with a condom hopefully) and you are worried about not popping, you surely aren't thinking about picking up the kids from soccer.

Now, I'm not telling you what's acceptable and not. What I am saying is that you have to know what's within the acceptability of your own relationship and her's. If you are crossing the line of fidelity, then you get to get the goodies and you pay the price emotionally later. Just like buyer's remorse, cheating according to those distinctions you set may backfire on you like the sting of a nasty rubber band on your wrist. Snap. Ouch.

Is cyber sex cheating?

I always get questions like "Is cyber sex really sex?" This is one good question, as there is nothing physical about it. Unless you count what your other hand is doing while you surf the raunchy images you may wish you could download while you're at work. Cyber sex can mean a lot of different things. Things like looking at pretty girls naked and spread wide open for the camera, or chatting with strangers about intimate desires, or even dating online with either a perfect fantasy mate or with the hopes for skin-on-skin later on. I have had many clients whose marriages (and other forms of relationships) have been busted by a cyber-affair, with or without a personal meeting.

Why? Because first, you are breaching a trust. Second, if you do end up between her legs in reality, you may bring home more than a happy pecker, but an uninvited STD to your safe relationship back home. Finally, if you are spending hours at the computer — cyber-talking, cyber-dating, or just cyber-waiting — that time, attention and energy are being taken AWAY from the primary relationship you are supposed to be in.

The main criteria I coach couples to consider is this: is this cyber behavior taking him (or her) away from you or bringing you closer together? If the answer is "away" not "closer," then you are probably involved in a cheat.

Now if you are, that's your business. But when this fantasy person disappears a few weeks later into thin cyber air, don't come running to your dear wife or girlfriend hoping for pity. Ask for her forgiveness and give her time to adjust to your cheating ways. Cheating is betrayal and will take time for healing and rebuilding the foundation of trust in your relationship.

Oh, and by the way, having a "love affair" where your emotions have wandered is just as damaging to the container of your primary relationship as body-on-body, full-out sexual indiscretions.

And for Goddess sake, when things turn ugly, getting caught in the act, don't start dialing my office number. Don't piss me off! Instead, use your head (the one on your neck) to think before you leap into cheating. I want you to assess the potential risks as well as the delicious benefits you think are in store for you. Get it?

Dr. Patti Britton is a Clinical Sexologist, Sexuality Educator and Master Sex Coach with top level credentials. As a well-respected pioneer and leader in the field of sexology, she is the author of hundreds of articles, four amazing books, and is former columnist for Penthouse Forum. Dr. Patti is a Your Tango expert, popular speaker, sought-after trainer and workshop leader, blogs on her own websites and hosts over 40 DVDs for women's and couples' sexual enhancement.

She has a private practice in Los Angeles and via Skype globally. Dr. Patti is the Co-Founder of SexCoachU, the world's premier training and credentialing institute for sex coaching. Her coaching career was inspired by being in the presence of Thomas Leonard, and her two amazing coaches, Julian Cohen and Cheryl Richardson.

This article was originally published at http://www.drpattibritton.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.