- People who are in consensually non-monogamous relationships, where they date or have sex with more than one person at a time, can still physically or emotionally cheat on their partners.
- Therapist Susan Wenzel, who is in an open relationship herself, defines emotional cheating as “secrecy.”
- Other signs of emotional cheating are making excuses to hang out with a person that your partner doesn’t know about, picking fights with a partner, or feeling guilty.
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It’s a common misconception that people who are in consensually non-monogamous relationships, where they date or have sex with more than one person at a time, can never cheat on their partners. In reality, people in consensually non-monogamous, open, and polyamorous relationships can still violate a partner’s boundaries and trust in a way that could be considered cheating.
It’s even possible to be an emotional cheater if you’re in an open relationship, according to sex and relationship therapist Susan Wenzel, the author of the upcoming book “A Happy Life in an Open Relationship.”
In her book, Wenzel talks about her own open relationship and offers advice on how to have a healthy and happy one. She told Insider that emotional cheating can certainly happen in a relationship like hers, and that she personally defines ’emotional cheating’ as when partners keep secrets from one another.
Other people in non-monogamous relationships may define cheating differently since ground rules differ from relationship to relationship.
Wenzel said for her, it’s fine if her partner is texting with or talking to another person in a sexual or romantic way, as long as they have discussed it beforehand and both agree to the arrangement.
“That’s not emotional cheating if it’s texting or whatever it is because they know that you do talk a certain way with that person, and it’s OK to say, ‘I don’t want you to go through my phone,'” Wenzel told Insider. “That’s privacy, not secrecy.”
On the other hand, if Wenzel’s partner were to form a romantic or sexual bond with another person and not tell her, she would feel her trust was broken because it wasn’t consensual.
“If you’re deleting your messages with another person [so your partner can’t find them], that’s emotional cheating because your partner isn’t consenting. You’re hiding something” Wenzel said.
Other signs of emotional cheating, for both people in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, could be making excuses or lying to hang out with a person that your partner doesn’t know about, picking fights with a partner, or feeling guilty.
- Read more:
- What cheating really looks like in polyamorous relationships, according to people who are in them
- I’m having an affair with my best friend’s partner, and he’s become manipulative. Should I come clean?
- A relationship expert believes couples can be stronger after cheating, but there are 4 important steps to rebuilding trust again
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