What do you count as infidelity?

One simple question, yet so complex.

What counts as infidelity can come with so many different answers, it all depends on who you ask. When most people get into relationship, they promise to be faithful and typically trust that the other will do the same in return. That sounds simple to me, but I know the truth is not quite so much.

With the extent of technology at our fingertips today, it’s especially important to have open and healthy dialogue with your significant other about what they count as infidelity. You may be surprised when the answer looks different for both of you. I’m not just talking about the obvious- physically intimacy with someone else or an emotional affair. I’m talking about the not-so-much talked about “grey area”.

Let’s talk facts first. It is estimated that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals, in the United States, will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.

Now let’s talk real life. In my past, in more than one relationship, I’ve been cheated on and I have cheated. I’m no stranger to this topic and how incredibly important it is to have a clear expectations and boundaries of what infidelity looks like for each of you. I have been the black, the white and the grey area of this topic. I know that talking about cheating and affairs is already a sensitive arena, but to openly admit to being a receiver and an offender of the act is a little more taboo- and that is exactly why I am passionate about sharing my experience with you.

My current marriage looks a lot different from the the relationships in my past and one of the reasons for that is open communication. Here are some healthy conversations I’ve learned are crucial to have with your partner when defining what infidelity looks like to each of you.


What does each of your relationships with social media look like?

This is a BIG one. I’m starting with this one because it is the one topic in the grey area that most people fail to communicate about as a couple. The widespread use of social media and mobile devices puts everyone at risk for potential temptation. And if you think you are exempt to this, I hate to sound harsh, no one is. Social media has no preset boundaries. It’s an open, infinite world that is limitless of what we can and cannot see. To be completely honest, most social platforms are set up for anyone to even just stumble upon, let alone go searching with intent, images and/or videos that lead to lusting, desiring, and inappropriate thoughts with little to no trace at all. That is what, as some experts like to call, “cyber infidelity” or “virtual affairs”.

Innocent flirting over Twitter or Instagram may not be the same as physical contact, but you may not both agree. That’s why it’s important to decide as a couple what it means to you. When I first started dating my now husband, we had a conversation early on about our social media relationships, and at that time they looked completely different from what they look like today. My explore page was filled with 6-pack, chiseled, gorgeous men and his was filled with small waist, big booty, beautiful women. No harm, no foul for anyone who is single. Once we got into a committed relationship we had to re-evaluate who we followed, what we looked at and how we spent our time on social media.

We revisit this conversation often, not because we need control over each other’s social media, but because it’s the greatest level of influence and temptation in our society, and frequent check-ins are the best way to ensure we are both on the same page.


What is an inappropriate work relationship?

For most of us, we spend the majority of our time with the people we work with. To be exact, 78 percent of people who work 30 to 50 hours a week spend more time with coworkers than with their families. Naturally, we build connections and relationships with our coworkers, some even feel like family. It is very important to build strong connections and relationships with your coworkers, but it’s just as important to have clear expectations with your partner around what is appropriate and what is not.

Statistically 36% of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker. That’s only the ones who have admitted it. I have been on both parts of this statistic, and throughout my ten years in the corporate world I would watch time and time again married coworkers end up in situations neither one saw coming. Again, grabbing lunch, cocktails or even carpooling with coworkers can be innocent, it’s just important to have a clear understanding of your spouses comfort level with the relationship.


What does inappropriate texting look like?

Text messaging is the main form of how how I communicate with people today, as I would assume it is the same for most people. Research even shows that 47% of those age 30-49 use text messaging as their dominant form of communication. So, it would make sense to communicate what you and your partner view as inappropriate with one of the most used modes of communication. Sometimes inappropriate texting is intentional and other times not. Either way, text messaging is a really easy way to start an inappropriate relationship, and often times we don’t even realize it’s happening until it’s too late.  

In doing some research on this topic, as well as using my own experience, I found that it is not uncommon at all for cheating partners to be doing so by text message right in front of their unknowing partner. So do yourself and your partner a favor, and take the time to really understand your comfort level, and where the line should be drawn, with mobile communication.

I will write more on this topic, in another post, in further detail about behaviors to look for if you think your spouse or partner are cheating, but that is not the purpose of this article.

This article is to help foster open healthy, constructive conversations around a topic that may be very uncomfortable to discuss in great detail, but necessary for your overall health and boundaries in the relationship.

Infidelity is never easy on anyone. It can destroy people, relationships, and families. Don’t let yourself be a part of the statistic. If you or anyone you know is struggling in this area today, please reach out.   



Sarah Cline    


Sarah Rusca Cline founded Never Be Average alongside her sister Samantha Rusca Messersmith. They are published authors, relationship experts, life coaches, and public speakers who are helping women around the world write their comeback story. Through their faith in God, their book Revived: Life After the Affair and their website Never Be Average they motivate, inspire, and provide tools for women to unleash the power within themselves. You can also find them places like Mind Body Green and The Good Men Project.