Does cheating matter if you don't get caught?

The average person who uses social media has romantic or sexual conversations with two people other than their current partner.

These results from a new US study (University of Indiana) echo many others: that ‘remote infidelity’ – loving or sexual interaction that doesn’t involve physical contact – is on the rise.

But the jury divides sharply on the effect this will have on our relationships.

Some consider it not just an alarm bell but a loudly clanging church-tower size one – as harmful to the relationship as in-person one-night-stands or affairs.

Others believe this is nothing new, that people in love have always flirted (usually without intent) and it’s not cheating if body parts don’t touch.

Sex expert Tracey Cox


They also believe - crucially - that what your partner doesn’t know, won’t hurt the relationship.

Surprising (to the people with the first mindset but not the second), the University of Indiana research actually found no correlation between people who had saucy or soppy chats with others and their commitment to the relationship.

Which sparks another, rather interesting question.

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Regardless of whether cheating is in the flesh or ‘remote’ and digital, if your partner doesn’t know about it, does it really matter?

Whether we’re talking about good old-fashioned in-the-flesh infidelity or the online version, if you don’t blab to big-mouthed friends, there’s absolutely no chance you’d ever get found out, have MI5 standard passwords on all your accounts, never plan to see them again (or never have, if it’s digital), you had safe sex (if in person) and it meant nothing, what harm can cheating really do?
Some people (usually the less faithful type) say it depends totally on your personality.

If you genuinely see nothing wrong with what you did and your motivation was solely opportunity, how could cheating possibly harm your relationship?


Your partner is none the wiser and your behaviour towards them hasn’t altered.

Where’s the problem?

Well, here’s a few.

Lots of people do get caught - more so with ‘remote’ infidelity than physical because once you’re online there’s a more visible, documented and (remarkably easy to find) trace.

There goes the ‘they’ll never find out’ defence.

But even if you did manage to commit the perfect infidelity crime, very few people truly believe there’s nothing wrong with cheating.

Even the smoothest, slickest serial offender, fond of boasting of their conquests to equally unfaithful friends, is aware they’re doing something wrong.

And this is where it all unravels.

Knowing we’ve done something that would hurt our partner subtly alters our perception of them.

You got away with something, so you’re one up on them.

This makes them appear either naïve and too trusting or vulnerable and hopelessly helpless.

Good relationships are based on mutual admiration and respect, not pitying your partner or secretly thinking they’re stupid.

My conclusion?

I’m sticking with what I’ve always said about infidelity.

If you want to know if what you’re doing is cheating, ask yourself this question: Would my partner be upset if they could see what I’m doing right now?

If you answer yes, then you’re cheating.

Continue doing what you’re doing after you’ve answered yes and you’re effectively saying ‘I don’t care about your partner’s feelings’.

In person or online, let’s not kid ourselves. It all means something.