People often think of cheating as having sex with someone outside of your relationship—but there’s more to it.
Cheating, in fact, falls under three different categories, according to Psychology Today, which did a study on the topic.
“If you’ve ever cheated, or been cheated on, you will likely recognize your or your partner’s behavior and thought patterns in one (or more) of these categories,” PT says.
This is sexual activity with “no emotional component or connection.”
“Sexploration involves casual hook-ups, hitting strip clubs, looking at porn, playing the field, anonymous sex, etc. Sometimes people who engage in sexploration think that because the activity doesn’t mean anything to them on an emotional level, they’re not really cheating. In their mind, they're indulging in nothing more than a fun and relaxing diversion from the stress and strain of everyday life, roughly equivalent to mountain climbing, a night at the casino, or a shopping spree.”
2. Booty calls
A step up from sexploration, but they are still casual.
“In this situation, cheaters typically have one, but sometimes several, casual sex partners who they see when it's convenient,” says the study. “These ongoing relationships are almost entirely sexual. There may be the occasional dinner and show before going to bed, but the emotional intimacy is purely superficial, with the relationship based primarily on sex. In some cases, there might be an element of friendship, where the two parties know the basics about one another, but that’s about it. And usually both parties are aware that the sex is not exclusive, and that one (or both) are in a long-term, supposedly monogamous relationship.”
Booty call cheaters often try to defend their behavior with a type of denial, like, “It wasn’t really cheating, because I never for a moment thought of leaving you.”
3. Full-blown romantic connections
You know, another relationship.
“Two people who feel love and have an emotional bond, who engage in an emotional and sexual affair. This type of relationship often begins unintentionally. Often, happily partnered people go about their daily lives, being nice to others and making friends without worrying too much about what those friends look like, when suddenly and unexpectedly, a platonic friendship blossoms into something more.
“The betrayal feels more severe and more damage is done to the primary relationship. After all, this type of cheating involves more than just sex and secrets: There is an emotional shift away from the primary partner toward the affair partner.”
No matter what form it comes in, the cheater usually gets caught, says PT, and the pain experienced by the betrayed partner is “immense, regardless of the type of cheating.”
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