Infidelity Is More Than Cheating

Barry Lyrse, Dr. Ebony A. Utley, Sandra Garcia, Sia Turay #cconcheat CatalystCon West - 2014


  1. Infidelity is commonly understood as cheating. It’s what happens when one or both partners are emotionally and/or sexually unfaithful to each other. While we agree with the common definition of infidelity, this panel explores infidelity’s nuances. By using a dataset of 110 women’s qualitative interviews about their infidelity experiences, we ask women how they define infidelity. Then we consider how technological advances are impacting infidelity and how understanding infidelity as a form of intimate partner abuse helps women identify abusive partners and recover from their victimization. New relational norms are constantly being constructed through the use of technology. These technological advancements create multiple pathways for unauthorized indiscretions that force us to redefine what counts as cheating. Is it an affair if you only interact with a partner in a virtual world? Is watching pornography cheating? Are some social media infidelities worse than others? This redefinition continues in our conversation about abuse. What happens if we redefine infidelity in terms of physical, emotional, psychological, social, and economic forms of abuse? We compare the women’s first person experiences with researchers’ definitions of abuse to determine whether this approach can help women make more informed decisions about their romantic partnerships. Through the technology and intimate partner abuse perspectives, we hope to raise awareness about the complex nature and dynamics of infidelity.