The City and the Northern Girl #15

Where’s the line?

People have always cheated. Just take a look at Tiger Woods, or even the Bible. But throw in 21st century email, text messaging and Facebook and the lines become even more blurred. Not to mention the amount of opportunities one has to cheat has near enough trebled. But the question is: what actually constitutes as cheating?

Infidelity is a minefield – it’s almost always the surest way to end a relationship and it’s always the messiest. According to a study by the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, a staggering 54% of women and 57% of men surveyed admitted to cheating in past relationships. Does that surprise you? It got me. It doesn’t exactly help that now, more than ever , there are lots of different ‘stages’ to a relationship. You could be “just friends” (that drunkenly sleep together), “casually seeing one another”, “friends with benefits”, “exclusive”, or even “Facebook official” – yes that is an actual stage. Each form of relationship comes with its own rules and expectations, and just to complicate it even further, you both might not even agree as to which ‘stage’ you’re at. You can see the confusion.

The University of Michigan did a study on this exact question. They asked 456 students to rate 27 behaviours on a scale of 0-100, 0 being completely harmless and 100 being on a par with Ashley Cole (note: not the official terms used by the researchers). The results, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that men got more distressed over physical infidelity i.e. if their girlfriend went off and had sex with her boss, whereas women saw emotional infidelity as  the worst kind of betrayal i.e. falling in love with someone else. For everyone in the study however, sex was always classed as cheating, scoring a high 97.7. No exceptions. Except maybe a threesome. But what about all the other stuff, all the in-between bits? Is it just sex that is cheating, or does kissing another lad on a night out count too?

Well kissing scored 87.7, sexting scored 82.6 and even holding hands got a whopping 63.2. My initial reaction was that this might be a little extreme, but when you actually think about it, why the hell would your significant other be holding someone else’s hand? And we’re not talking about helping their Grandma across the street here.  21st Century’s addition of social networking to the infidelity mix hasn’t exactly helped relationships either. I put the question of Instagram pictures to my Twitter followers, as to whether liking another person’s photo of just themselves was classed as cheating. 99.9% of the vote got ‘No, but if it’s girl in a bikini then I’d blow my lid”. I’ll admit I’ve had many an argument with past boyfriends over ‘liking’ photos on social networks, with almost all of them claiming that their touch screen had caused the mistake. Oh Apple, you scapegoat.

The question of cheating usually boils down to motive. Ask yourself why you’re flirting with that hot girl at work. Ask yourself why you’re still messaging your ex. Yes, maybe your intentions are innocent but put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Would you be happy if they were doing the same as you? If the answer’s no, you need to change your behaviour. In my opinion, if you’re hiding something from your partner, you should ask yourself why – if you are hiding something, you’re either saving yourself an argument or you’re doing something wrong. Fair enough if you’ve communicated about it and decided that yes, you are both comfortable with grinding on strangers on a night out, then that’s great. But if you’re doing it and then having to assess your friend’s photos before they go up on Facebook? You’ve probably overstepped the mark.

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