Have you ever had a conversation with your partner about what being faithful means?

If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you have most likely promised to be monogamous. But what exactly does that mean to you? And more importantly, do you know what it means to your partner?

For most relationships, being faithful means not having sex with other people. It also means that you refrain from investing romantically in others. This means that most of your attention, love, respect should be directed toward your partner.

Let’s say you are at a bar and dancing with your friends. Suddenly, you’re dancing with a stranger. Is that all right, based on your definition of being faithful? How close is too close?

We can often run into trouble at work as well. We develop a friendship, and that person becomes like a spouse in the workplace. We confide in that person, rely on them and trust them with our secrets. Sometimes, we start spending time outside the workplace with that person. But where are your boundaries? Is having dinner and drinks allowed with that person? Are you emailing intimate details of your lives back and forth? Is it a friendship, or a substitution for the things that are missing in your relationship?

How do you know when you’re crossing the line?

I always work with this rule: If you would tell your partner about the behaviour, or even do the behaviour in front of your partner, then it is all right. However, if you hide it and lie about it, you are probably being unfaithful in some way.

I encourage couples to talk about the boundaries they have with others. This includes some fairly difficult questions. I suggest you have this conversation. I have noticed, as a Couples Therapist, that we assume our partners agree with what is acceptable behaviour. However, you may actually have different definitions of what cheating is! If you haven’t had the conversation, don’t assume you share the same definition.

Ask your partner:

Are you allowed to go out for lunch/dinner/drinks with a member of the opposite sex?

Are you able to dance with others when you’re out?

What about emailing about personal details?

Who are you allowed to talk to about the intimate details of your relationship?

It might be time to define these rules, as you could have completely different ideas about what is acceptable behaviour and what is cheating.