September 22, 2021

A Dating Grey Area: is it Cheating if we were Never Exclusive?

We sit on the sofa, snuggled up watching a movie.

As we gaze at each other, checking to make sure the other is comfortable, we kiss. He gets up to go to the kitchen, and I marvel at how fast time passes with him. I see his phone and click the screen to see what the time actually is. Big mistake.

A see a text from a woman who is not me.

Sorry?! I can’t believe my eyes, my stomach flips, and I automatically feel a blanket of betrayal roll over me.

We’ve been dating for a few weeks, talking every day, sending good morning and good night texts, going out on dates each weekend, and making each other a priority. We’ve gotten to know each other’s likes and dislikes, our upbringings, our childhoods, our hurts and our dreams. And the passion and intimacy are so intense, I often forget to catch my breath.

But we are not official. We are not girlfriend and boyfriend. We are not exclusive.

Do I have a right to bring this up and confront him? I decide yes. I need to know more.

He comes back into the room, and I explain what I saw on his phone. I ask him to show me the whole message, knowing that I will see something that I regret.

There is guilt, even worry, on his face as he explains that he doesn’t want to hurt me.

He shows me the text and I feel sick. Not only did they exchange numbers, but he took the step to arrange a date. I toss the phone on the sofa and walk away and out the door.

As I walk home in utter disbelief that maybe that was the last time I’d see him, that whatever we were building together is gone, I wonder to myself: does this count as cheating?

I feel like I’ve been cheated on, but we never had the label of “exclusive.”

Do I have the right to be so mad, to feel betrayed? And do I have the right to be angry with him when, after all, we weren’t official?

When we’re giving our time and our effort, and opening our heart and body to someone, whilst voicing that we are, in fact, looking for a relationship and ultimately expecting this to develop into one, if that person betrays us in the early dating stage, is it cheating? Or is it a territory we have no say in because there is no label, which also means we have no obligation to show that person any loyalty?

Well, in my opinion, the time spent in the early dating period is essentially the beginning of a potential relationship, and it’s a vital time—an accumulation of what is yet to come, what we can hopefully base a future on.

And if we have declared our intentions, put forth effort, time, loyalty, and trust, and given the best of ourselves, which is a requirement when creating the foundation of relationship, then it’s not too much to expect honesty and loyalty in return.

I believe that the pillars needed to hold our relationships up strong must be built on respect from the very start.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that whether it’s two weeks or two months in, it’s important to set our boundaries early and make our intentions crystal clear. Don’t be too scared to voice them, or to have the “are we exclusive?” talk, for fear of being seen as needy. Be true to yourself.

And if we don’t get the answer we need, we must love and respect ourselves enough to walk away, even if we’re still in that honeymoon phase.

Believe that what someone shows you from the start is who they are, and who they will be in the future.


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