3 Types Of Infidelity You Never Knew Existed

Photographed by Renell Medrano.
In an episode of The L Word, a group of friends sit around a campfire and debate what counts as cheating. "Who here, put up your hand, thinks that kissing is cheating?" one of the women asks. Just about everyone raises their hand. Before that, one of the more conservative women in the group, Tasha, claimed that even thinking about having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship counts as cheating. That argument didn't go over well. As many of the other women say, it's hard to control your thoughts. But, there are people like Tasha, who believe that straying in your mind constitutes infidelity. There are also people like Shane, another woman in the group, who says that having sex with someone else might not be cheating if there isn't an emotional connection.
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While this scene doesn't actually clear up what counts as cheating, it does make clear that there's no consensus on infidelity. For most people in a monogamous relationship, having sex with or kissing someone who isn't your partner definitely counts as cheating. But what about fantasising about a friend or acquaintance? Or lying about how much money you spend?
In some people's eyes, doing those things would make someone an unfaithful partner. So, we talked to relationship experts to break down different types of "cheating," and what to do if you think your partner is being unfaithful.
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illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Emotional Infidelity

Think of emotional infidelity as the grown-up version of the awful micro-cheating trend that recently riled up the internet. Emotional cheating isn't about calling your partner out every time they confide in a friend. It's about getting your emotional needs met by someone who isn't your partner.

People often develop close emotional bonds with coworkers or friends they see all the time, because they have shared experiences that a partner won't understand, according to Kate Stewart, a psychotherapist and dating coach in Seattle. Sometimes, your partner might not even realise they're having an emotional affair.

"Many people in relationships are specifically guarding against sexual infidelity, so emotional infidelity catches them off guard," Stewart says.

If you feel that your partner might be having an emotional affair, Stewart suggests talking to them about it kindly, without being accusing or mean. Say something like, "Hey honey, is something up with you? Things have felt a little off recently." Approaching the conversation that way is more likely to get your partner to open up. Then you can work out why your partner feels more comfortable opening up to someone else and maybe move past it.
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illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Boundary Crossing

For people in kink or non-monogamous communities, especially, breaking rules or boundaries set up by the partnership can count as a kind of infidelity, Stewart says. Rules can be something like: no kink scenes with men, no using sex toys with other partners, or no unprotected sex with outside partners.

If one of the partners in a non-monogamous group chooses to break a pre-set rule, then "that comes down to a violation of trust," Stewart says. Infidelity, at its core, is about violating the trust romantic partners have for each other — whether it's between two people in a monogamous couple or several people in a non-monogamous partnership.

Like with any type of infidelity, the first step toward a solution is to talk to your partner. In the case of rule-breaking, Stewart suggests being direct. "Often if you ask someone directly, they will fess up because it's too hard to lie in response to such a direct question," she says.
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illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity might just be the only kind that doesn't involve another person. It happens when one partner lies about how much money they have or how they've been spending it, Renelle Nelson, LMFT, CST, an infidelity recovery coach, says.

That sometimes can involve another person — like if one partner has been paying for an apartment in another city because they're seeing someone there — but doesn't have to. "It's about the deception... the betrayal," Nelson says. "When you commit finance infidelity, you're being untrue about your finances with your partner. And you break the contract you had set up to be honest with each other."

Of course, not everyone will see keeping financial information private as a breach of trust. Like the other forms of infidelity, it depends on how each person in the partnership feels and the rules they set up. Some couples may have decided to keep their money separate, and that's totally fine. But if a couple decided to pool their money, and then one kept a secret bank account that they used only for themselves, that's a form of dishonesty.

If you find out about a secret bank account or that your partner has been spending a lot of money without telling you, Nelson suggests having a direct conversation. "Don't say 'what are you doing, what's wrong with you,'" she says. "Say, 'what's going on with this account?' or 'why did you make this purchase.'" It's important to be specific, so that you can really get to the root of the problem.
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