Labeled as a cheater

Say hypothetically that your significant other reached out to someone they went to high school with to see how they’re doing in life, ya know making sure the person is okay after all these years, just trying to be a nice person… Let’s say that they didn’t tell you they did that… The person would flirt with your significant other and send inappropriate memes, but your partner didn’t acknowledge any of it and just kept conversation casual the whole time… Now let’s say you found out about this and your partner was being defensive about showing you the messages even though they know they never flirted back and just ignored it whenever it happened and kept conversation casual… At this point your partner let’s you read the conversation and you can clearly see they didn’t flirt back and just ignored it… Would you accuse your partner of cheating? Would you say that your partner was unfaithful to you? Would you be mad that your partner didn’t put boundaries in place even though they never engaged in flirting back?

After reading all of that, my boyfriend is labeling me as a cheater… I know I was wrong for not setting boundaries or even telling my boyfriend I had reached out to someone… There’s a lot of things I could’ve done differently… I just need some help through this…


From: Rohini_868

Hi there,

Good to see you back here! You’re in a tough spot especially since you already know what could have helped the situation. It’s never pleasant to be accused of being a cheater, and I do hope you and your partner can openly work through this. You two can hopefully use this time to go over those boundaries and re-affirm your committment to your boyfriend. Diffrent people have their own idea of what “cheating” is, and what is acceptable. I am assuming that this was never explicitly discussed with your partner that’s why there was a grey area.
You are still you, still worthy and still deseving of love and respect. Hoping that you two can have some honest talks and be stronger for it. We’re here for you, friend!

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From: eloquentpetrichor

Welcome back to the forum, CatMom4! I would only say this could be in any way cheating if you never told the other person you were talking to that you have a boyfriend. If they knew you had a boyfriend then it was established and you were simply talking to a friend.

I personally always say that the best way to judge whether a SO is being reasonable about their concerns or simply jealous and insecure (which would require its own conversation) about interactions with friends is if they would be just as bothered by the interactions if the gender of the friend were reversed. So, I’m assuming based on your username that you are a woman and for this argument of mine I’m assuming you are straight rather than bi, if you were having all of these conversations with another woman (thus no potential for a romantic interaction) would your partner still be bothered with how close your two are and the conversations? If, yes, then imo they are a little too possessive of your time but they are not concerned about cheating. If, no, then they are only concerned about the possibility of you cheating on them. In that case I think that you need to have a discussion about how much he actually trusts you. You need trust in relationships and if your SO cannot trust you then you need to look at what is happening in the relationship or in their own mind that would be preventing that trust.

Imo you do not have to tell a SO about every connection or friend you make regardless of gender. You are your own person with your own life separate from theirs and I believe that maintaining individuality in romantic relationships is incredibly important. But that is just my opinion on that matter.

As I said the only way I see this as something you did wrong in any way would be if you never mentioned to the old friend that you are in a relationship. If you did then they are nothing more than a friend and your boyfriend should not be accusing you of cheating.

I hope that you can have a good conversation with your boyfriend about this and you can work through whatever it is together and find your way past this incident without losing this new/old friend in the process if you want to keep the connection. Good luck and feel free to update us if you like :hrtlegolove:

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There is a wide range of what people consider cheating. Some people consider looking at porn to be cheating, while others say sexual encounters don’t count out of state. There’s also a difference in whether people consider “cheating” to be a hard line that’s been crossed, or whether there are “degrees” of cheating. There’s also a distinction between physical and emotional infidelity. Some people may say that emotional infidelity isn’t “cheating,” while others might say it’s worse than acting out physically. Ultimately, it’s a distinction that each individual draws based on their principles, their feelings, and agreed-upon boundaries and understandings within a monogamous relationship.

My personal take in your case is that “cheater” is a strong word that lays down a hard line, probably too much so, but that you were somewhere in the gray area between fidelity and betrayal. In marriage seminars I’ve attended, and in my personal experience, the cliche “if you play with fire you’ll get burnt” applies. Maybe you didn’t reciprocate the flirting and memes, but allowing that communication to continue wasn’t productive for your relationship. I also wonder why, after all those years, did you reach out to this person? I can only speak for myself, but I know in the past when I reached out “just to catch up” with someone, I half hoped they would flirt.

Gary Chapman once said that after awhile of being with the same partner, it’ll feel settled. You will encounter people who make you feel tingles again. It feels good–that’s how we get into relationships to begin with. When that happens, if you value your relationship, don’t stick around for it. If you think you can handle the tingles, eventually they’ll build up until you lose yourself in them.

I can imagine that having someone flirt with you felt good. It’s only natural. We want to feel desirable and be desired. If it was unwelcome, you wouldn’t have tolerated it. Your boyfriend was probably hurt to see that flirtation, even if it was one-sided. He probably sees this other guy as a threat. Even if you didn’t engage in the flirting, the guy was clearly coming on to you, and in your boyfriend’s eyes you were allowing it to happen by not saying “I can’t have you talking to me like that” or blocking him. Maybe you didn’t cross any boundaries yourself, but that guy crossed boundaries that were thought to be understood.

I do think, however, that labeling you as a cheater is precluding the chance for you two to have a productive conversation about what happened and why. Instead of coming through it together, your boyfriend has declared you in the wrong, which implies that the only way forward is for you to apologize. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen when something is missing in a relationship, whether it’s the thrill, affection, or acknowledgment. An old boss once told me “In a relationship, you can be right or you can be happy.” As I have grown with my wife, I have found that that idea doesn’t mean deferring to your partner, it means not trying to one-up them. Let’s say he’s lost on a drive and you were right about the directions. You can rub his nose in it, but that doesn’t serve your relationship, it just makes him resent you. In this case, he’s calling you a cheater, but does he win a special prize for it? It would be better for both him and you if you could talk about it and come through it together. That’s on him though.

It sucks that you’re going through this. Calling someone a cheater, using those words, isn’t something a person can just take back, even if you’re completely blameless. It’s a crack in your mutual trust that needs to heal. I hope you and he can reach an understanding and work through it, I hope it doesn’t take too long, and I hope it can be a growth opportunity for both of you. :hrtlegolove: