I’m involved with a guy who’s married and, yes, I’m a cliché and I know it. I don’t want him to leave his wife. I don’t even want to be involved with him physically and we aren’t doing anything physical. We’ve both been good about maintaining that boundary. But we are very involved emotionally. We like to tell ourselves that we’re not cheating but it’s definitely an emotional affair. I honestly do not want to have sex with him. I look at pictures of him and his wife and kids to remind myself that he has a family, and I don’t want to break up his family. Not that I could just by having sex with him, but you know what I mean. I don’t want to be “the other woman.” My question: Am I endangering his family just by talking to him so much, about absolutely everything (including sexual fantasies we will never act on), and treating each other as soulmates? Perhaps I’m just naïve, but I’ve convinced myself that so long as we abstain from anything physical, we’re OK.

Can’t Have Unavailable Male Partner

I’ve answered a lot of questions like CHUMP’s lately, I realize, but there’s a larger point I’ve been wanting to make, and CHUMP’s question tees things up nicely. But my apologies to regular readers who are annoyed to find another question in the column this week — one of many — from a woman who’s fucking or about to fuck a married man.

Here’s the larger point I wanted to make: I believe couples should define sex as broadly as possible and cheating as narrowly as possible. Because when a couple defines sex broadly — when more things count (not just PIV/PIA) — the more sex that couple will have and the more varied, interesting, and satisfying their sex life will be. But the fewer things that same couple counts as cheating — the more narrowly that couple defines cheating — the less likely they are to cheat on each other and, consequently, the less likely they are to break up over an infidelity.

Define sex broadly: more and better sex. Define cheating narrowly: more resilient relationships.

Now, I realize these ideas are in conflict. I think sexting with a partner should count as sex but sexting with someone else — in the context of, say, an online flirtation that was never going to lead to anything physical — shouldn’t count as cheating. But the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and function isn’t just the sign of a first-rate intelligence, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, but also the sign of the kind of emotional intelligence required to have a successful relationship. (Please note: successful ≠ perfect.)

I do have an agenda: I want imperfect-but-good relationships to survive — none are perfect, some are good — and the more sex the average couple has, the better the average couple’s relationship tends to be. And since the average couple defines cheating as unforgivable, the fewer things that count as cheating, the less likely the average couple is to break up over cheating. Which is why I’ve been on a lonely, one-man crusade against the people out there — the fucking idiots out there — pushing the “micro-cheating” concept. Instead of making relationships more resilient by encouraging people to define cheating narrowly, these fucking idiots are destroying relationships by urging people to add more things to the list. Staying in touch with an ex? Cheating! Confiding in a friend? Cheating! Following a few thotties and/or himbos on Instagram? Cheating!

These idiots pushing “micro-cheating” and “micro-infidelities” on their socials — most claiming to be relationship experts (there’s no bar exam for “relationship expert”) — are not helping. Because instead of encouraging people to define cheating as narrowly as possible and thereby making relationships more resilient, they’re encouraging people to define cheating so broadly that no relationship could ever survive.

Emotional affairs — very broadly defined — always appear on the “micro-cheating” lists pushed by these homewreckers. And while I hate to concede an inch to them, CHUMP, you leave me no choice: You are, indeed, having an emotional affair. If this man and his wife haven’t redefined their relationship as companionate and he isn’t allowed to seek this kind of attention from other women, the two of you are cheating his wife out of what’s rightfully hers. And since you’re investing time in this man that you could be investing in finding a guy who isn’t married and you feel good about fucking, CHUMP, you’re cheating yourself out of the kind of relationship you want and deserve.

So, if you don’t want to blow up this man’s marriage — if you don’t want to graduate from emotional affair to affair affair — you need to stop talking to him, stop texting with him, and stop sharing sexual fantasies with him. Just because you haven’t fucked him yet doesn’t mean you won’t succumb to the temptation. The longer someone plays in traffic, the likelier that person is to get run over. Likewise, CHUMP, the longer you keep talking with this man, the likelier you are to get run through.

If you don’t wanna get run over, don’t play in traffic. If you don’t wanna fuck this married man, CHUMP, stop flirting with him.

Read more of this week's column here!