Mr. Thomas, Flickr

The other day, I was discussing cheating with a woman who does a lot for the online community we're building at my “real job”...which, for those not in the know, just happens to be an adult website. The woman is in a committed relationship with two men. But she, like most people, defines cheating according to her own moral compass, which swings a little wide of conservative when it comes to sex and relationships. Obviously.

I began to notice this difference in the way people define cheating while talking to my ex one day, long after we'd broken up. For whatever reason, he felt the need to tell me that he never slept with anyone the last time we got back together. I spat back that I knew about the girl he was dating. Then I told him that if he'd ever taken me out on even one date, and given me the respect of telling me the truth about her, I wouldn't have given a damn.

For my ex, the line between harmless flirting and cheating is sex. Hanging out with another girl is just hanging out if you don't cross any personal space boundaries. And he totally justified lying to me about “hanging out” with a girl with, “Nothing happened, I just I thought you'd be mad.”

Thing is, for me, cheating is about first whether or not my partner's honest with me about what they're doing outside of our relationship, and second, whether or not they're as devoted to my happiness as the other person's. If they're up front about being interested in other people, and they can maintain the same interest and effort in both relationships, then whatever, Trevor! Let's do this thang.

If not, they're a cheating cheathead, and since they're obviously more interested in being with the other person than treating me like a respectable human being, they can see their way to the door.

So what is cheating, exactly? Where do you, personally, draw the line? This is an important thing to know about yourself when you're trolling for a date. As you can see, the line is not in the same place for everyone.

When considering the emotions involved in cheating, the first things that come to mind are jealousy and betrayal. And depending on a person's definition of cheating, the triggers for those feelings are just as broad as the spectrum of cheating definitions.

A common definition is any romantic interactions with a person outside of a committed relationship. That's often qualified with things like “It doesn't count if someone flirts with you if you don't flirt back.” But if you react to someone outside the relationship in a romantic way, you've stepped outside the bounds of “the relationship rules.”

There's a problem with that. Sexy, intelligent, talented people exist. And they're generally the type to interact with everyone around them. Even the most devoted partner is going to react to someone that charismatic. But is it cheating?

metanotherfrog, flickr

It definitely invokes feelings of jealousy in some. It's hard to see another person engage your partner in a way you feel only you should. But are they betraying your trust if there's a flicker of attraction before they descend from their brush with someone else's Cloud 9?

I say no. I've heard all about mental and emotional cheating, but I'm not buying it. Imagining what you'd do with your neighbors' yard is not the same thing as climbing the fence, installing a pool and jumping in when they're not home.

But what about you? Do you draw the line at a date? A kiss? A touch? A look that lasts too long? A thought that's a little too sinful to be had about someone who is not your partner? Let us know!