Is Cuddling Cheating? The Answer, According To Most People, Is Yes

A few days ago, I caught myself rewatching Season 1 of The Bold Type and swooning over #Kadena — the romantic relationship between Scarlet social media director Kat (played by Aisha Dee) and artist Adena (played by Nikohl Boosheri). The couple, still in the early phases of their relationship, faces a few challenges including their very different relationship goals and cultural backgrounds (Kat is from a wealthy African-American family, while Adena is Muslim and an immigrant). And then there's the fact that Kat isn't convinced cuddling is cheating... while Adena feels pressured to break up with her long-distance girlfriend of three years after spending the night in the arms of her new crush.

Kat's argument is that since they didn't have sex, it wasn't technically cheating but Adena disagrees. She explains to Kat that, if she's being totally honest with herself, she started cheating on her girlfriend the minute she decided to pursue a friendship with Kat, knowing that her feelings might not have been purely friendly.

For Adena, cheating is more than just a physical thing — more than a kiss and more than sex. It's about being emotionally intimate with someone other than your significant other. Turns out, she's not alone in feeling this way. Most people agree that cuddling is cheating or, at the very least, is bound to lead to cheating eventually.

Here's what people had to say when I asked if cuddling counts as cheating.

Yes, It Absolutely Counts

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If you have to ask then you already know it is ....... obviously you being intimate/sexual on ANY level with someone other than your SO is cheating.

- Ahabaharas

Basically, if you stop doing something with someone when your significant other enters the room... it's wrong.

- Mo, 30

You cuddle to show affection so its like a kiss in a lot of ways. Yes, its cheating.

- PigeonsOnYourBalcony

There's a grey area to what is and what isn't acceptable in a relationship, and I think cuddling is on the 'cheating' side of the grey area. Consider how you'd feel, if the boot was on the other foot. I certainly wouldn't want my SO to be cuddling someone else, that's for sure.

- DougWomble

Because! You just don’t cuddle with someone that’s not your partner. Cuddling to me is physical but it’s also emotional and it shows the level of comfort you have with that person. So how could I cuddle someone and be all wrapped in their arms and not have feelings for them? Eventually, it would lead elsewhere.

- Sasha, 23

I would say yes because there's a reason you're that comfortable with someone else.

- Anthony, 23

Cuddling implies affection, and unless you're in an open relationship where you're affection and intimacy is mutually nonexclusive, then yeah most people would have a problem with that. Where people draw the lines for cheating I don't know but this vagueness doesn't make it any more okay.

- xjliftquestion

Yes, it's cheating. Unless you've established boundaries outside of the norm.

- BunnyDay93

Like, OK, if my SO was cuddling with another girl, I'd be like, 'WTF?' Why is someone else in his personal space? That space is only for me.

- Gabriella, 21

Yes! I do think cuddling is cheating. I would not be happy if my SO was cuddling with someone else. That can be even more intimate than sex sometimes!

- Jen, 23

If you need to ask, its cheating. If you need to hide it, its cheating. If it looks, smells, feels, sounds like cheating, its cheating.

- wat2do2day

Yes, I think it's cheating because cuddling is intimate and if you are dating someone, why do you feel the need to seek intimacy elsewhere?

- Ana, 28

Yes! How did you get to the point where you're comfortable enough to cuddle?

- Michael, 22

If i walk into that i would be pissed. so that's a yes in my book.

- wickedgam3r

Yes, it is! Go cuddle with your pillow if I'm not there.

- Tynika, 21

Oh yeah! I think so. If you're in a situation with another person where cuddling could take place, it's already out of line, I think... unless it's a super platonic friend and they're not attracted to you at all. But two people in relationships? I think that's sketchy.

- Isabel, 21

If you can't tell your BF it happened, it's cheating.

- Herdnerfer

Yes, because I believe the more important part of "cheating" as we typically define it is that there is an emotional/romantic connection to another person. Cuddling is an inherently intimate act, probably more so than sexual intercourse, so I would say it's almost (ALMOST) worse than finding out your partner had sex with someone else. Sex can almost certainly be free of an emotional connection. Cuddling seems less like it can.

- iampaperclippe

Yes, cuddling is cheating! That amount of physical contact is a no-no.

- Francis, 23

I can't imagine someone walking in on their SO laying on the couch or bed while cuddling with another person and being, like, 'Oh, you were just cuddling? That's fine.'

- Hannah, 25

It's cheating because cuddling leads to that good-good.

- Chernyce, 19

Maybe, I'm Not Sure

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I feel like it's an intimate act so I'm not sure. Maybe on its own, it isn't exactly cheating but there's usually some ulterior motive there, yeah?

- Jon, 26

If you're not sure, you should discuss it with the person you're dating before you do anything.

- mm172

My initial reaction is no because it's not sexual, but I wouldn't want my SO cuddling with another woman. Unless it was his mom, but even that would be weird because he's, like, 33. I guess it falls in the void where sexting might be considered cheating. Since most people might think of cheating as an emotional exchange, I guess cuddling could count.

- Helen, 26

It depends on the intention. If the intention is romantic/sexual, then yes. But if the intention is platonic, then no. Then again, it's kind of hard to tell.

- grey_sun

The question is: why are you cuddling another girl??? Shouldn’t you be cuddling with your GF???

- Charmander787

There really isn't such a thing as objectively-defined cheating. Your relationship will define what cheating is and what it isn't. That's why it is very important to communicate honestly about such things. But a good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't tell your SO about something, it might be cheating.

- abunchofsquirrels

If person A has just experienced some kind of tragedy or trauma and my partner is with them immediately after and cuddles with them, I'd be understanding.

- Cat, 25

Its not cheating, but i still wouldnt appreciate my SO cuddling with another dude. Depends on the context though i guess, but i see cuddling as pretty intimate.

- DidJohnDieAtTheEnd

Like any other 'is _____ cheating' question, the answer is to ask your SO whether they would consider it cheating, and decide whether you're all right with where they draw the boundaries. There's no Official List of exactly what actions "count" and which don't; cheating is basically just "doing a thing with another person that you have agreed to only do with your partner."
For really obvious things like sex you are generally assumed to have implicitly agreed not to do them with other people just by agreeing to be in a committed relationship, but there's a bunch of edge cases that vary with the person where you really do just have to talk about it - for example, some people would consider partnered dancing (e.g. waltz, tango) with other people to be cheating, others wouldn't; some people consider flirting to be cheating, some don't; stuff like that. Some people have really unusual opinions like 'making out at parties isn't cheating but watching new episodes of our favorite show with someone else is,' and so long as both parties are on the same page that's no less valid than anyone else's definition.
I would tend to guess that most people would consider cuddling to be an intimate sexual-adjacent activity, though, and therefore to be cheating or at least cheating-ish.

- nblackhand

Only if you get caught.

- atoz88

Nah, It's Cool

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In my opinion, if there is no feelings involved it's fine but also tell your partner don't keep it a secret from them.

- kensnose

I don't consider anything less than fluid exchange cheating. My standards on infidelity are rather looser than others, though.

- Diablo165

Well, there you have it. For most people, cuddling with someone other than your SO might even be worse than having sex with someone else but some people still think it's a bit of a grey area. Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to what you both consider to be cheating.

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