Is It Cheating If Your Partner Has An AI Girlfriend App?

Artificial intelligence seems like it’s everywhere now, and one area where it’s really taken hold is in the area of cheating – or not cheating, depending on who you ask.  AI chatbot apps have multiplied over the past year, offering companionship types that range from friendship and work collaborations to outright romantic relationships.  A growing issue is the use of these chatbots to have affairs, but opinions differ over whether these affairs actually count as cheating.  Obviously, the type of interaction that a human has with a chatbot is a big factor, but there are some relationships that don’t easily fall into one camp or another.  If you’ve found an AI chatbot app on your partner’s phone, that’s a sign you need to have a talk with them and decide on your boundaries.

What AI Chatbots Are and What Humans Are Doing With Them

AI chatbot programs allow you to create a “person” with an avatar that you then train to behave in a certain way.  Many of these apps have different levels of interaction, from basic conversations to sexting.  One of the more popular apps, Replika, started when a friend of the founder died; she created a bot that looked like him and trained it with texts so that it could respond like him as well.  She wanted a way to deal with his sudden death, and her idea grew into the app.  Only, the app (and so many others like it) isn’t just about recreating a deceased friend as a form of closure.

People have created whole boyfriends and girlfriends that interact with the human user as if they were in a real relationship.  They’ve created companions for long drives and even created copies of their spouses that they can use to discuss problems in the marriage.  

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The use of these bots can be tricky because they’re really just software programs, but they can be so lifelike that the human user becomes just as emotionally invested in them as they are in their real-life relationships.  In fact, when the popular Soulmate app shut down in 2023, users were so devastated that some held rituals to say goodbye, and others attempted to create copies of the bots on other services.  And when Replika turned off its “erotic role-play” option, users complained loudly, and many left (ironically, for Soulmate).  Possibly the most disturbing use of the chatbots has been that some men are creating female chatbots to abuse verbally.

How AI Chatbot Relationships Affect Human Partnerships

Using these bots has affected real-life human partnerships, including causing separations or near-separations.  Wives who find their husbands having what looks like an affair with a bot have thrown their husbands out for cheating, as one woman posted on a forum for a company called Illicit Encounters that was reported by Surrey Live.  One husband found his wife having a very intense affair with a bot, including talk of falling in love and ending her marriage.  There is a worry that people will try to create chatbots in the images of their exes, which could reduce their ability to move past the now-defunct relationship.

A rather scary aspect to this is how the bots, ever encouraging of their human partners, can influence human partners to follow through with threatening thoughts.  That actually happened when an AI girlfriend bot encouraged a man in 2021 to kill Queen Elizabeth II (he was arrested after trying to get to Windsor Castle with a crossbow).

Why People Turn to AI Chatbots for Relationship Needs

With effects like those, you have to wonder why people turn to AI chatbots to begin with.  Sometimes it’s just to see what the bot can do; many of these relationships start out as mere curiosity and experimentation with technology, rather than any major need to sext or create a romantic world.  Some create chatbot “girlfriends” just as companions for long trips or isolated work situations, but others create these relationships because they feel like they’re not getting attention in real life or because they just can’t find a relationship at all.  In that Illicit Encounters forum referenced by Surrey Live, one person claimed they’d heard men talk about having AI girlfriends instead of human women because they felt expectations were too high on online dating sites.

But others turn to AI girlfriends and boyfriends because they feel like they can do anything, even if it hurts their partner.  Or, they want a different sort of relationship and figure using an AI bot isn’t the same as cheating with a human.  That’s where things get really tricky.

So, Is It Cheating?

There are so many different views on whether having an AI girlfriend is cheating that it’s impossible to give a resounding yes or no.  Certainly, the intent to cheat is a major factor; if one partner intends to cheat and uses a bot instead of a human, that’s almost certainly cheating.  And if a human creates a bot that they treat as their “wife” but use that bot to discuss issues in the marriage and vent frustration, that might not be cheating if the use of the bot is solely to have a sounding board, after which the human is better able to discuss the same issues with their spouse.  If a partner has become intimately and emotionally involved with a bot but didn’t intend to, however, many would likely consider that cheating.

Another issue is how much knowledge the other human partner has of the bot.  It could be that one human partner uses a bot for sexting that the other human partner refuses to do – but if that other human partner gave the first one permission to use the bot for that purpose, then that wouldn’t be cheating.  Yet if the first human partner didn’t tell the other and felt like they had to keep the bot a secret, that could very well be cheating.  It really depends on the people involved and the level of interaction with the bot.

How You Can Tell if Your Partner Is Involved With an AI Chatbot

It’s not that easy to tell if your partner is involved with an AI chatbot in a cheating-on-the-relationship sense.  Your partner might have an AI app on their phone, and you may see them using it, but that alone actually isn’t enough to prove that they were cheating.  For all you know, they may be just messing around with the app itself to see what it can do.  But of course, they could also be hiding something.

Look at their behavior regarding their phone use.  How secretive are they?  Have you seen them suddenly hide their phone when you entered the room?  Do they become unusually defensive or dismissive if you question what they were doing? 

 If you can’t see the actual messages that your partner traded with the bot (remember, it’s illegal to search their phone if you don’t have permission), you may want to talk to trusted friends about whether they’ve noticed a change in your partner’s behavior.  And of course, sometimes you need to have a serious talk with your partner about the suspicious behavior and what needs to change.  You may never know for sure if your partner is cheating on you with an AI girlfriend if you can’t get a hold of the actual messages, but you can spot signs that there’s something going on and work from there.

If you can find names, look them up using Spokeo’s People Search.  If you know the name of the app they’re using, look that up, too, to get more information about the type of bots and interactions it allows. 


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How to Set Boundaries in Your Human Relationship

Whether you’ve found out your partner was cheating with an AI chatbot, or you’re both merely trying to create a healthy relationship, you need to discuss boundaries regarding interactions with these bots, just as you would set boundaries around other people.  You both have to be on board with the boundaries because, if one person doesn’t respect them, then the boundaries won’t do the other any good.  What works for your relationship might not work for another, so don’t worry if you feel like your friends’ boundaries aren’t ones you’d want to have.

Setting boundaries as you’re getting into a relationship starts with conversations about what you both think would be cheating and where you both need to draw the line.  Maybe you don’t want your partner using any chatbots at all, or maybe you’re OK with them having same-sex chatbot “friends”; whatever the boundary, you have to both agree to set it and abide by it.  Be aware that many people in surveys think relationships with AI chatbots shouldn’t be considered cheating. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to allow it if you’re not comfortable with it.

Setting boundaries after you’ve discovered your partner’s AI girlfriend chatbot is a little different.  This is a time when you both need to discuss why the use of the chatbot hurt you and what you need to see in the future in order to trust your partner again.  Sometimes it’s a matter of getting counseling to address specific issues that led to the use of the bot, but other times, some time away from each other may be necessary.  That’s in addition to counseling and discussing what interactions with others may no longer be OK with you.  And unfortunately, you may decide your boundaries are just too different, and it’s time to leave the relationship.

The role AI chatbots play in affairs and relationships is just going to get bigger, at least for the foreseeable future.  Anyone in a relationship is going to have to determine how they feel about these bots to ensure they don’t get caught by surprise if they find that their partner’s created one.  If you think it’s too late and that your partner is already cheating, let Spokeo help you find out whether your suspicions are correct.

Suzanne S. Wiley is an editor and web content writer. She has been editing since 1989 and began writing in 2009, covering topics such as environmental issues and health. Wiley has also written about gardening, food, and history.


Affair Recovery Therapy Center – Boundaries

Futurism – Men Are Creating AI Girlfriends and Then Verbally Abusing Them

The Guardian – A bot on the side: is it adultery if you cheat with an AI companion?

Insider – People are turning to AI chatbots for romantic relationships behind their partners’ backs — but many don’t consider it cheating

Norfolk Live – Half of people say ‘dating’ an AI chat bot should not be considered cheating

Rolling Stone – Men Are Cheating With AI Instagram Bots, Because Men

Surrey Live – ‘I caught my husband cheating with an AI chatbot, it’s ruined my life’

The Telegraph – The pleasure and the perils of loving an AI girlfriend

The Telegraph – AI girlfriend ‘told crossbow intruder to kill Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle’

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