Is it Cheating?

Call me naive, but when I started dating after divorce, I didn’t expect to find married people on dating apps. Imagine my further surprise when I caught wind of “cheating” apps, like Ashley Madison, which is designed to facilitate affairs for married people.

If you’ve been in a committed relationship or married and out of the dating pool for a while, the landscape of love has changed dramatically since dating went digital. All I can say is, welcome to the jungle, my friend. Tighten your seatbelt, because you’re in for a wild ride!

Before setting up an online dating profile, you’re going to want to brush up on your dating vocabulary. Words like hookup (remember when that use to mean meet at the mall to hang out?), sapiosexual, catfishing, ghosting, and euphemisms like Netflix and Chill are going to become part of your new lexicon.

Once you do get your profile set up, you might be surprised to find there are people who are married or in a committed relationship who are also looking to date you, my single friend.

But wait a second? If you’re in a relationship or married and your significant other has a profile on a dating app, that’s cheating, right? RIGHT??? Well, it seems the answer is… not necessarily.

Even if you’re not on a dating app like Ashley Madison that’s set up for married people who want to cheat, you are going to encounter numerous men and women in open relationships who want to date you…and they have their partner’s permission to do it. Individuals (and sometimes couples) might be looking for a single man or woman to date. I know. If you’re new to this, it’s confusing.

Open relationships, which you might see labeled as ethically nonmonogamous, poly, or polyamorous are increasing in popularity. You won’t be swiping for long before you encounter someone looking for an unconventional relationship model. Polyamory is a popular label, but there are as many version of non-monogamy as there are people who practice it. The main difference between open relationships and good old-fashioned cheating seems to comes down to one thing, communication. Cheating involves deception, while open relationships are founded upon a mutual agreement of nonexclusivity. Who knew, right?

As someone who has always practiced monogamy, at first, I was pretty terrified by the idea of being hoodwinked by someone who was more savvy about this whole open relationship thing than I was. I didn’t want to fall for someone whom I thought was only dating me but was actually secretly dating others too and using an advanced game of semantics to justify it as okay. Although I haven’t dated anyone who isn’t monogamous, in my role as host of The Suddenly Single Show, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview people who identify themselves as practicing ethical non-monogamy. I have to admit, the more I learned about this kind of relationship from people who practice it, the less afraid I felt. In fact, I became intrigued by how flexible human relationships can be when we practice honesty. For me, it also inspired the question, “I wonder what might happen if we didn’t ask one person to be our everything?”

There’s a lot of trust that goes into forming a new relationship, and it’s a good idea to take things slow if you’re looking for an LTR (long-term relationship) monogamous, or not. However, even taking your time won’t always protect you from ending up in a relationship with a cheater. I’ve interviewed dozens of men and women who have reported feeling something was off in the beginning stages of a relationship and later regretted not listening to their gut. The same thing goes for those who are married and think their spouse might be using a dating app to clandestinely flirt (i.e., cyber cheating) or even to seek an extramarital affair. Trust your gut. If something feels off, talk to your trusted family therapist about what to do.

So, if you’re single and dating, how can you tell for absolutely sure if someone is single, married and cheating, or in an open relationship? Sometimes they’ll tell you upfront in their profile, but sometimes, you’ll have to ask. And the truth is, if you’re dealigned with a cheater, you’re not going to receive an honest answer. If something feels off, don’t doubt yourself or wait until you have proof. If you connect with someone who is practicing ethical non-monogamy, they have a responsibility to be honest with you. If you want a monogamous relationship, don’t be afraid to say that.

Now that I’ve laid out a few of the different relationship models available to you, what do you think? When is it cheating?

Want to hear more stories about what it’s like dating after divorce? Listen to Danielle as she hosts The Suddenly Single Show. Available on the iHeartRadio app, ask Siri to play The Suddenly Single Show podcast or at