What constitutes cheating in a relationship?
Just google “Cheating apps” and you will see over 10 million results! Some of the top search results include a review of apps that help you cheat on your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend!
Who can forget the spectacular rise and the fall of Ashleymadison.com and how it ended up unmasking men who signed up even though they were in a relationship? You can read all about it here.
It seems cheating, like alcohol and drugs, is widely prevalent and some of us are actively looking to cross the line! Of course, every day, there are countless cases of men and women finding out that their spouse or partner has cheated on them and going through the trauma of lost self-confidence, rage and depression. When you add children into the mix, cheating assumes even greater destructive power in your life.
But what exactly is cheating anyway?
Any personal relationship between two consenting adults is all about the expectations of emotional or sexual exclusivity between the partner. These expectations are set by society and by the partners themselves. However, when either of the partners in the relationship breaks the exclusivity and have an emotional or sexual relationship with a third party, it constitutes cheating.
Every society has a different attitude about cheating. Cheating is prevalent at different levels within the country and across countries. Check out the list of most unfaithful nationalities in a survey conducted by Durex.
That’s not all. Thie definition of cheating raises lot of questions than it answers.
Let’s look at these five scenarios:
1. Daydreaming: Thinking about your ex or someone else you met somewhere and longing to be with them even though you are not in touch with them secretly. Let’s face it, most men and women have their secret crushes, the girlfriend who got away, or even fantasies about a movie star.
2. Tinder profile: Having your profile on a matchmaking site or a dating site like Tinder while you are in an exclusive relationship! While this may come across as an act of betrayal, what happens if it was done simply to pass time with no real interaction happening? Would this be considered as cheating?
3. Closet friend: Have a secret friendship with someone other than your spouse or partner because they seem to understand you better, appreciate the things you like talking about or have a common hobby to bond over. There is no sexual relationship with this third person but you flirt occasionally.
4. Not being yourself: Let’s say you got drunk at a company get-together and kissed a co-worker in your inebriated state. Would this constitute a case of cheating? If you are a woman and you were molested when you were drunk, how would your husband or boyfriend react when he learns about the incident. Would he see it as cheating?
5. Affair with it: One of the recent developments is the availability of life-sized robots that people buy to have sex with! If you catch your significant other having sex with a robot, would you call it cheating? While experts think having sex with a robot is not cheating, you may think otherwise.
As you can see from the above scenarios, there is no clear-cut answer as to what constitutes cheating in a relationship. If we apply a rigid definition of cheating without the context, then almost all couples cheat! The real answer lies in how the people involved in the relationship define cheating and it varies in every relationship.
Cheating in relationships as per the law
The Indian penal code (IPC) had a couple of sections that deal with crimes related to marriages. Note: Sections 497 has been removed and is no longer applicable.
Section 497 Adultery (no longer a law): According to this law, if a man has sexual relations with a woman married to someone else, without the knowledge of the woman’s husband and knowing that she is married to someone else, it constitutes adultery with a jail term of up to 5 years and a fine. The woman is not a culprit under the law.
Section 498 Enticing a married woman: This section may not be a straightforward law against cheating but covers scenarios where a man entices a married woman or forcefully makes her have a sexual relationship with anyone. The punishment for this offence is imprisonment of up to two years with a fine.
Section 498A of the IPC which is an anti-dowry law. However, this section has an important role to play even in the case of adultery. Section 497 can be applied only if a man (who is a husband) has a sexual relationship with a woman married to someone else. In case, a husband has a relationship with an unmarried woman, section 498A can be invoked on the grounds of cruelty.
There are some glaring irregularities in the adultery law as per the IPC.
The offender is always the man who sleeps with a married woman. What happens if the married woman does not disclose the fact that she is married? Even in such cases, she cannot be prosecuted. Also, if the woman’s husband sleeps with another unmarried woman, it is not considered to be adultery!
In fact, the Supreme Court of India had flagged the gender disparity that seems to be the fundamental principle on which the law is based on. On 27th September 2018, The Supreme court struck down Section 497 as it violated basic privacy and gender quality principles of the constitution.
In the US, several states classify adultery as a criminal offence that carries a fine and jail time. However, for all practical purpose, the adultery law is rarely enforced and any case of cheating in marriage has a negative impact only when property division is settled in court. In fact, many states in the US have voted to repeal this law as there seems to be a trend in separating morality from law.
While the legal definition of adultery always involves marriages, there is some recourse to unmarried couples if one of them ends up cheating.
As we described in-depth in our article on live-in relationships (click here to read our article), for all practical purposes, the courts in India sees a cohabitation or live-in relationship as marriage and applies the same standards when dealing with scenarios like cruelty or child support. However, there is no legal recourse if your boyfriend or girlfriend chooses to have an affair.
Cheating confession from Reddit
Here is a confession posted on Reddit. This is from a married woman who confessed to cheating on her husband.
My husband and I have been together for 5 years, married for about 2 and a half. The first time I cheated was around 2 years ago. My husband is really passionate about his job, so he works late a lot. At the time I was working too and I would come home from work and he was rarely there. Anyway, on that particular day, I was feeling depressed and lonely, so I decided to go and have a drink downstairs at the bar. It all happened so fast, and after it was over I found that I was happier. I felt better about myself. My husband tells me that I’m beautiful all of the time, but it feels better coming from someone else, you know?
After the first time, although I felt somewhat empowered, I also felt bad about doing it. About 6 weeks later, I went out and did it again. It picked up in pace and for the last year I’ve been doing it about once a week. I know it sounds horrible, but it makes our marriage stronger. I feel better about myself and I’m happier and more accommodating when we are together. It doesn’t negatively affect our sex life, quite the opposite actually.
Why do people cheat?
Robert Weiss, author of “Love and Sex in the Digital Age“, is a relationship expert who specialises in how technologies, such as the Internet, can affect relationships. In his Psychology Today article, he lists some of the key reasons men cheat.
1. Immaturity – Some men don’t understand the sanctity of a relationship and treat it as a dispensable item.
2. Habits that impair judgement – Some men fall prey to alcoholism or drug use. Their habits lead them to a path where they lose self-control or judgement and end up cheating on their wives or girlfriends.
3. Mid-life crisis – Some men go through a crisis of confidence. They fear the loss of their youth and get satisfaction by having affairs with younger women.
4. When infatuation disappears – Some men might enter into a relationship because of the initial infatuation with the woman they married has worn off. After a while, they realise that the woman is not right for them and so they end up cheating.
5. Revenge or Anger – Some men might consider cheating as the right way to teach the woman a lesson because of what she may have done. In such cases, they will openly cheat as the objective of this behaviour is to cause hurt.
6. Wants a way out – Once a man chooses to end a relationship or marriage, not all of them go through with the process the right way. Married men may start an affair so that the wife will divorce him eventually or get into a relationship while being married just to make sure he has a new relationship in place after divorce!
Weiss lists other reasons such as childhood abuse that makes men unable to hold on to a relationship, impulsive behaviour, selfishness and unfulfilled expectations.
Women seem to have a completely different set of reasons to cheat.
According to this online survey, the top reasons that women listed as the cause for their cheating included being ignored by their spouse or boyfriend, the other person really supported them, there were serious doubts about the relationship, the other person was good looking and boredom.
Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a Psychological and Brain Sciences expert, has identified four primary reasons women cheat on men based on a study conducted by a team from the University of Southern Mississippi.
1. Seeing the spouse as unworthy: Women sometimes conclude that their husband is unlovable or unworthy of their love. This gives them enough justification to cheat on the relationship. Some women may also believe that their life will be under threat if they leave the marriage and out of fear they remain married and continue to have an affair.
2. Cheating is OK: Some women redefine what is moral to justify their cheating. This is the same reasoning people use to justify their actions however immoral it may be.
3. Keeping it separate: Some women “embrace” their extra-marital affairs by treating it as a separate activity that has no connection to their married life. They use their affairs to satisfy their wants or needs and get back to their regular life by choosing not to think about their affair.
4. Choosing to remain a “bad” person: Women sometimes decide that they are extremely flawed beyond any redemption and so this gives them the excuse to continue having flings outside their relationship.
9 Ways to find out if your partner is cheating!
The following signs point to the possibility of cheating. They do not automatically mean that your partner is actually committing adultery or cheating. However, learning to spot these signs could help you uncover secrets early on.
1. Change in routine: If your husband has a set routine and there is a sudden change in it, you might want to sit up and take notice. Example, your Sunday afternoon family outing routine get cancelled because he has to work on a big project all of a sudden and the same excuse comes up every now and then.
Change in routine could be a genuine excuse or there could be something else happening behind your back. Cheating husbands and boyfriends may go to extraordinary lengths to justify their behaviour. If something sounds too good to be true, you might want to learn more.
2. Rediscovering privacy: When couples are in a long-term relationship, invariably there are no secrets. However, if your husband or wife suddenly starts demanding privacy, you might want to keep your antenna up. For example, your husband has all of a sudden changed the access code for his cell phone and gets upset if you want to use his phone even for a genuine reason.
3. A second phone: There is a saying, “Men with multiple cellphones are up to no good!”. Unless your husband or wife has an office phone, there are very few legitimate reasons for carrying multiple phones. If you discovered a secret phone, you might want to pay close attention to your partner’s behaviour. These days, mobile phones come with multiple SIM cards, making this an even more difficult sign to grasp.
4. Random blank calls: Do you suddenly seem to be getting more calls to your wife’s or husband’s number that turn out to be “sales” calls? Does your husband or wife come up with an excuse to go out after receiving these calls? Your spouse may be organising a surprise party for you or something else might be brewing behind your back.
5. A secret credit card: If you manage your finances jointly with your husband or wife, you probably have a good sense of where all the earning go. When you notice discrepancies or when you find out your spouse has a secret credit card, you should wonder why. Sometimes its a credit card and in some cases, it could even be a secret bank account.
Check an expert’s advice on how to stop your spouse or partner from cheating.
6. Mystery social media friends: If you suddenly start noticing some mystery friend liking your spouse’s posts and becoming the first person to respond to every post, you might want to wonder who this person is. It could be a “friend” from school or a former girlfriend. Experts have concluded that social media has made it easy to cross the line and enter the realm of cheating.
7. Emotional distance: When your spouse suddenly starts maintaining a distance, doesn’t participate in daily chores, goes to bed at a different time, has minimal or no conversation, and there is a complete absence of any form of intimacy, you might want to wonder what is causing the emotional distance. Maybe your partner is depressed or facing a tough financial situation that you are not aware of. But if you can rule these out, you should be wary.
8. Overcompensating: When you are suddenly showered with gifts or attention for no apparent reason, your spouse may be compensating for the guilty feelings! There could be another reason for this sudden show of affection. Affairs can rekindle your spouse’s enthusiasm and he or she will probably bring it home with the hope of keeping it going.
9. New interests: Finally, if you notice new mannerisms, random interest in things that never cropped up before, new hobbies, or a complete change in long-held views (example: political affiliation, choice of music), you could attribute it to some influence outside your home. People having an affair end up picking up mannerisms or new interests from the person they are involved with.
Apps and tools that cheating partners may use to fool you
It’s true that your partner’s mobile phone and computer can give you the proof needed to verify your suspicions. However, there are plenty of free as well as paid apps and software tools available for smartphones and computers that help cheating spouses to cover up their tracks. While most of these apps are designed to keep information private, they do come in handy for not so noble activities.
Just visit the Google Android Play Store and type “Privacy” in the search field. You will end up with a big list of apps that can help you hide your phone calls, text messages, videos and even apps.
Some of the privacy apps that have over a million downloads include:
1. Private Zone – AppLock & Vault
2. AppLock (DoMobile Lab)
3. Security Master – Antivirus, VPN, AppLock, Booster
4. Parallel Space – Multiple accounts & Two face
5. Keepsafe Photo Vault
These apps have features that allow you to hide photographs, images and documents. Some of them will also help you hide calls and messages. An app called KYMS works just like a calculator app but can be unlocked using a passcode to view secret images!
On Desktop devices too, you have plenty of simple tricks and software tools available for Desktop devices as well.
For Windows devices, you could just make a specific folder or files hidden by selecting the checkbox as shown in the screen below so no one else will stumble on your secret folder or files!
For Mac devices, you need to run a terminal command “chflags hidden /path/to/file-or-folder” to hide specific files and use the command “chflags nohidden /path/to/file-or-folder” to make it available again.
There are also software tools like “My Lockbox” to hide files and folders on Windows computers.
While there are plenty of tools and apps available to mask contents of the cell phone or computer, you will probably need help to find out if your cheating husband or boyfriend is using such tools.
Here are some tips to help you figure out if your partner is cheating and hiding communication with someone else or is hiding sensitive content.
1. On Android devices, you could easily find a list of apps your partner has installed by clicking on settings and viewing all “Installed Apps” or even “Dual Apps” that can have two separate identities.
2. On desktop devices, if you end up searching for files, make sure you click on “unhide” in the menu area of the folder. If you are searching for folders follow these steps.
3. You could browse through all the installed software on Windows and Mac computers by following these instructions here and here.
Of course, you could hire an expert to look into the device if you have free access to your partner’s devices.
Essential steps to take if your husband or wife is cheating
Cheating in a marriage is a traumatic event and once you over the initial shock of discovering this rather unpleasant truth about your cheating spouse, you will need to start acting decisively. Here are the key steps you should follow once you figure out that your husband or wife is cheating on you. Some of these instructions are relevant for Indian citizens only.
Decide what you want to do: Suspecting infidelity is one thing, discovering the truth about your cheating spouse takes you on a roller-coaster emotional ride that ranges from regret, self-loathing to anger and a burning sense of seeking revenge. A key decision you need to make is whether you want to continue the marriage or end it with a divorce. The choice you make will dictate the next steps you will need to take.
1. Divorce laws are based on religions: Divorce laws in India are different for every religion. Read about the provisions of the act that might be relevant for you based on your religion.
Here is a brief overview of the different laws that might be applicable. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Christians are governed by the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Indian Divorce Act, 1869. Muslims are governed by the Dissolution of Marriage Act, 1939 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. Parsis are governed by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936. In addition, you have the Special Marriage Act, 1954 which is meant for anyone belonging to any religion.
2. Divorce by mutual consent: If you and your spouse choose to part ways once cheating has been established, you could pursue divorce by mutual consent. You can use section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act to file a petition for divorce by mutual consent. For this petition to be filed, the husband and wife have to agree on the alimony amount as well as child custody arrangement after divorce. You could also have the arrangement to receive a maintenance amount after the divorce is granted.
3. Wait time for divorce by mutual consent: When you divorce by mutual consent, you will have to wait for 1 year before you file for divorce. During this period, you should live separately before filing the petition for divorce by mutual consent. The petition is filed at the family court of the district where both parties lived together for the last time. After the petition is filed, the court usually adjourns the case for another 6-months. Only then you have the opportunity to get the divorce finalised.
The court does have the powers to waive off the 6-month wait time in some cases. In the 6-month adjournment time, either the husband or wife can withdraw the petition for divorce by mutual consent. In such cases, divorce is not granted!
4. Contested divorce: In cases where you don’t have mutual consent (Example, a wife has proof that her husband cheated on her and the husband denies all wrongdoings), you will have to file for divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (if you are a Hindu) and specific sections associated with laws applicable for other religions. Such cases can go on for many years as the court has to examine the evidence for adultery and conduct cross-examinations to determine the validity of the arguments from both the parties. It’s a messy process and can be emotionally draining and a costly exercise.
A word of caution – If your allegations of cheating are not proved in court, your spouse (who is accused of cheating) can also file a divorce case against you on the grounds of cruelty or false allegation.
5. Custody of children: Before you initiate divorce proceedings because your spouse is cheating on you, having a good understanding of the basic principles of laws applicable to the custody of your children will help you. The courts in India place the interests of the child as the primary criteria for granting custody. The parent or in some cases both parents may get legal and physical custody of the child/children. If your child is less than 5 years old, the mother usually gets custody of the child unless she is considered to be negligent.
Custody battles are known to drag on in courts in contested divorce cases and of course, there is a big emotional and behavioural impact on the children to worry about. Click here for further reading on the court’s approach to child custody decisions.
1. See a therapist or relationship counsellor: Once the truth about your unfaithful spouse is out in the open and if both of you decide to give your marriage a second chance, you should find a marriage counsellor or therapist and start the healing process. The responsibility of a therapist generally includes
- Ability to bring clarity to the future of the relationship (should it continue or end).
- Identify unhealthy habits and behaviours (abuse, lack of space, domination etc).
- Help change mindsets about expectations from each other.
- Coping strategies for the partner who feels betrayed by the cheating.
- Helping the partner that cheated to identify personal issues that caused the adultery in the first place.
- Communication between the partners to rebuild trust and prevent repair the marriage.
2. Find out if your spouse has changed: There are several behavioural patterns that you can observe that will conclusively give you the confidence that your husband or wife who was caught cheating is really attempting to work on saving the marriage. Some of the behavioural changes should include following through on promises, staying in regular touch when you are both away from each other, more time spent with the family, giving you the time and space you want to heal and recover, and showing greater affection. Of course, attending all the therapy sessions and following the action items is a key parameter to watch out for.
3. Telling your children and in-laws about the affair: There is no right or wrong answer about informing your children about the issues you have in your marriage. Considering the fact that this information is sensitive and could negatively impact your child’s sense of belonging and trust in the parent, use your judgement. If your children are too young to grasp the concept of marriage, they should be shielded from the drama.
Involving the in-laws once again is a matter your judgement. You could build your support base in your family or you may end up dealing with in-laws who turn around to blame you for their son or daughter’s indiscretions.
4. Making changes to your life: Finally, you may have to make significant changes in your life to help you heal better and erase memories of things that could remind you of the cheating. For example, your husband may have to find a new job if he has cheated on you with a colleague, you may decide to give your marriage a fresh start by moving to a new city or a new house, or you may choose to dispose of possessions like a car, phone, a couch that might have been used by your husband to cheat on you.
Essential steps to take if your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating
1. Break up decisively: Once you have decided to break up, it is important that you communicate your decision to your cheating boyfriend or girlfriend immediately. The communication has to be decisive and should leave no room for ambiguity. There is absolutely no reason to soften the blow as you are the one that is the victim of cheating in the first place.
Once you have decided to move on, you will have immediately remove all traces of the relationship. This includes but not limited to:
a. Social media status, connections, images.
b. Your private photo albums that you don’t to keep anymore.
c. Change email access, block contacts, or switch your email id completely.
f. Block contacts on your phone or change your number if required.
g. Make sure all your items in your former boyfriend’s and girlfriend’s possession are returned.
h. Ask your former boyfriend or girlfriend to delete photos of you two together if needed.
You may end up losing some of your common friends, but do what is needed to move on. The key thing to remember here is to never cross the line even though you might feel wronged, don’t take law in your hands or seek petty revenge as it may backfire on you and make your cheating lover look like an angel.
2. Mend your relationship: The alternative to breaking up is to mend your relationship with your cheating partner. Mending a relationship with trust deficit is not an easy task and it takes time and patience to recover and move on. You will also never really forget the incident ever. Here a few things you can do get your broken relationship back on track.
a. Take time off from the relationship. Go on a vacation or spend time with your family.
b. Don’t blame yourself and try to find deficiencies at your end that caused your partner to cheat.
c. Take a final call on your relationship status in a reasonable time frame. Don’t let it fester in uncertainty.
d. See a couple’s therapist if you believe you need professional help.
e. Watch for signs of change in your partner who cheated on you.
3. Handling cheating in a live-in relationship: If you were in a live-in relationship and your partner cheated on you, things can get a little messier as you have probably invested a lot more into the relationship. You could break up or give the relationship a chance as indicated above. However, there are a few more issues to consider if you have a child out of wedlock.
Check out our detailed blog post on live-in relationships and how to deal with the issues that arise out of it.