What Counts as Infidelity

What Counts as Infidelity

Today, a friend reached out to me and shared an article from Women’s Health magazine on “Microcheating” and what most couples consider to be a form of infidelity. As you can imagine, nearly everyone agrees that sex with someone other than your spouse is cheating, but this article pointed out a large “gray area” where people couldn’t seem to agree on what’s off limits and what’s not.

I certainly don’t see it as my job to referee everyone’s relationship, but as a pastor and marriage teacher, I feel a sense of responsibility to weigh in on these important issues. In my experiences with working with couples from all over the world and also researching what the Bible and modern research has to say about what makes a marriage work, I’m convinced that there are at least 10 non-sexual forms of infidelity.

The culture might refer to these as “micro-cheating” but I’d still just call it cheating. “Infidelity” just means broken trust, and anytime you break your spouse’s trust it’s a form of infidelity, whether sex was involved or not. Sexual affairs can certainly be the most devastating form of infidelity, but these 10 forms of cheating can also be destructive. If ANY of these are happening (or being considered) in your marriage, please take immediate action before it’s too late!

Here are 10 types of cheating that don’t involve sex (and how to avoid them all). Not all of these involve another person; some simply involve a failure of the vows you made to your spouse. All are different but all are potentially devastating to a marriage. In no particular order…

1. Constant criticism, neglect or ANY form of abuse

Abuse in marriage doesn’t always involve physical violence. In fact, the most common forms of abuse leave no marks on the body, but they leave deep scars on the soul. If your words to your spouse are constantly critical, you’re breaking your marriage vows and breaking your spouse’s heart. If you view your spouse as an interruption instead of a priority, you’re being unfaithful. If you mistreat your spouse, you’re “cheating” even if no sexual act of infidelity is involved.

Number two might seem innocent, but it’s very dangerous

2. Hiding the fact that you’re married

If you are intentionally hiding your status as a married person or you’re projecting “availability” through flirting, slipping off a wedding ring, acting single around your single friends or at bars, etc., then you’re WAY out of bounds. Those subtle acts of deceit are in themselves forms of infidelity even if they never lead to a sexual affair.

Number three can be SO harmful to your marriage

3. Giving your primary loyalty to someone or something other than your spouse

If you are giving your primary loyalty to your parents ahead of your spouse, you’re actually committing an act of infidelity. If you’re more concerned with your friends than with your spouse, you’re essentially cheating. If you’re consistently giving your strongest loyalty to your career ahead of your spouse, you’re being unfaithful. If we could grasp this responsibility to give our first and best loyalty to our marriage, our marriages would instantly and dramatically improve.

Number four might be the most common form of infidelity; and yet, most people refuse to admit that it’s wrong

4. Porn, erotica and graphic romance novels

When you’re acting out sexual fantasy apart from your spouse, it’s an act of mental infidelity. All true intimacy and all infidelity begins in the mind; not in the bedroom. If your eyes and your thoughts are wandering away from your spouse, then your heart is going to follow. Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught that “to look at a woman lustfully is to commit adultery with her in your heart.” Don’t just be physically monogamous. Strive to be mentally monogamous.

Number five is something people often justify doing, but it’s destructive…

5. “Checking out” other people OR following an ex on social media

I’ve heard people joke that, “Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu!” Whether it’s an old flame or just a good looking guy/girl passing by on the street, they’re usually referring to the idea that checking out someone is “harmless” as long as they look but don’t touch. What they fail to realize is that the very act of looking and lusting objectifies others, creates insecurity through unfair comparisons for our spouse, and subtly pulls your thoughts away from your marriage. Keep your eyes and your heart focused on your spouse!

Number six is the biggest enemy of intimacy in marriage...

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Dave Willis
Dave Willis is a bestselling author, podcaster and one of the most widely-read relationship bloggers on the internet. He and his wife, Ashley, work together to create marriage and family resources as part of the ministry of MarriageToday. They have four sons ranging in age from preschool to high school, and their family lives near Dallas, TX. Dave’s new book, Raising Boys Who Respect Girls, is available everywhere books are sold on November 12, 2019.