Modern day relationships, more often than not, start on the mobile phone. Ironically, so does modern day infidelity. With technology impacting our thoughts and actions like never before, the lines between right and wrong have gotten blurred and how? What was scandalous earlier, is the norm today. For instance, one of the key questions in the grey area that relationships operate in is – is sexting cheating?
We do not need to define sexting, do we? But for the really clueless, here is the textbook explanation: it is act of sending lewd or explicit photographs or messages through an electronic device including morphed images, malicious texts or porn.
Sexting is a significant element of affairs, within a relationship or outside of it, and depending on the context it can wreak or bolster a relationship. But pros and cons of sexting do exist.
In the dark realm of the World Wide Web, sexual fantasies get a free hand, sans the restrictions of socially-approved codes and mores. There is almost a guilty pleasure to the act. This is what makes sexting so complicated. If there was a debate on the burning question – is sexting cheating or is it just harmless fun – you will find plenty of advocates on both sides of the fence!
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What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship?
In a previous era, the dos and don’ts in a marriage or committed relationship were fairly easy to negotiate. You had to remain loyal to your partner, and if either one of them was caught cheating, it meant the end of the road for the couple.
Exclusivity was the hallmark of a committed relationship and if there were problems, you were expected to either try and work them out or separate. Going into the arms of another man or woman was a strict no-no.
Things got a bit complicated when counselors and social scientists began wondering if emotional infidelity was considered to be cheating. If you were married but fantasized about another man or woman or got emotionally close to another person, would it be called cheating even if there was no sex involved? Was a physical relation the only benchmark of fidelity?’
The jury is still out on these dilemmas. But fact is that many a marriage, over the years, has survived emotional attachment to somebody other than your legally wedded spouse. Strangely, the pain associated with the physical act of sex is considered cheating more than an emotional bond.
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Is It Considered Cheating If You are Sexting?
Into this intricate web, comes sexting! Sexting can be considered the equivalent of sending erotic poetry or love notes a century ago! In keeping with the times, technology provides the platform to connect with another person.
By itself, it is not just harmless but also increasingly common. Couples send intimate pictures, texts or emojis to each other all the time. And when they are in deep throes of an intimate relationship, these can actually be fun and play a role adding spice to their sex lives.
The problem of course arises, when these texts, pictures and voice notes are sent to someone else other than their legally wedded spouses or committed partners. While some people may disapprove of it completely, others may forgive but find it difficult to trust their partner after sexting.
Sexting goes beyond just harmless flirting or hitting on someone. The intimacy of the act makes it all the more inappropriate. The question that actually needs to be asked is – is sexting cheating if you are in a relationship? There is also that nagging doubt that creeps in after you catch your partner sexting – what will it lead to next and is it worth forgiving an act like this?
Interestingly, a lot of people in perfectly solid marriages may disapprove of cheating but have no qualms when it comes to sexting. Vivien Williams (name changed), admits to playing the field when his wife is not looking. Married for around 15 years, his was in a mundane humdrum marriage until sparks flew with a colleague he met at work. Casual chatting soon led to sexting. However, Williams still insists it’s innocent.
“I sexted and felt guilty initially but look, I haven’t cheated on anyone. It’s just sending a few flirty texts, I receive equally flirtatious responses…it’s just sexual banter. It puts me in a light mood – I can share stuff with her that I can’t with my wife,” he says.
If only things were that simple as healthy flirting. Sexting can lead to complications (more on that below) and more than the act, it’s the repercussions that lead to trouble in paradise.
One only has to look at some celebrity stories to know the ill-effects of sexting. From Tiger Woods to Ashton Kutcher, the first foundation of their dwindling marriages was laid when they were caught sending naughty or inappropriate texts and pictures.
So if you are still wondering is sexting cheating, especially if you are in an exclusive monogamous relationship, the simple answer is: Yes. It’s a form of infidelity that does not deserve to be completely condemned and punished but definitely frowned upon.
Related Reading: How To Find Out If Your Partner Is Cheating Online?
Does Sexting Lead To Affairs?
A study by Anju Elizabeth Abraham at the California State University on sexting behaviour threw up some interesting results.
Apparently one in three students indulged in sexting. Less than a fifth of the respondents had their sext forwarded without their permission and a lot of them were bullied by their photo as well. Interestingly, over half of the students admitted that sexting led to having sex with that person.
This study can be generalized to a large extent. Howsoever naughty yet innocent it may seem, regular sexting can lead to a full-fledged affair if an opportunity presents itself. A lot of people wonder why is sexting not cheating but if you peel the layers off the concept, you find there is a very thin line that separates the two. Here are some interesting facts about sexting that can answer the query – is sexting cheating or is sexting worse than cheating?
1. It builds unrealistic expectations about sex
Sexting like many other online platforms emboldens a person. Behind the mobile or computer screen, you can type or act out fantasies that you would otherwise never have the guts to. The conversations can be quite addictive. Online chats can make people feel like sex goddess.
It can also lead you to build up unrealistic expectations about your sex life. Now, if that person isn’t your husband or boyfriend, you are gradually checking out of your current relationship and being drawn into the virtual one. How healthy is that? Your guess is as good as ours!
Related Reading: How Do You Set Emotional Boundaries in Relationships?
2. It takes your attention away from your current relationship
Is sexting cheating? Yes, it sure is if it prompts you to pay more attention to your phone chats with some stranger than having real conversations with your husband who may suddenly appear boring and non-interesting.
Especially if you are having problems with your partner already, sexting with someone else acts as a catalyst in increasing the divide. What starts off as physical attraction via text doesn’t take long to becoming an emotional crutch or an emotional affair to veer you away from your problems.
3. You will get caught inevitably
Most sexters do not feel too guilty about what they are doing at least initially because they think they will never get caught. Unlike cheating guilt, which happens when men and women indulge in an affair and then feel bad about it, sexting is considered a very small element of the entire scene.
You may think there is no harm in sending a few naughty images to your online boyfriend or girlfriend. But everyone gets caught.
Body language while on the phone, a dreamy look while chatting, the involuntary expressions that reflect on your face while you are deep into the chat are all ways of how to tell if someone is sexting.
4. Sexting can lead to attachment
Riley Jenkins (name changed), a homemaker got into the habit of sexting when she re-connected with an ex. What started as friendly chats soon got into forbidden territory. The sexts provided great excitement, making her feel younger and hotter. “But soon I began getting emotionally involved. I started sharing problems with him,” she says.
“The intimate chats had a strange impact on me as I just didn’t want them to stop. When the affair ended as it had to, it came as a rude shock,” she reveals. So in this case, despite there being no physical sex, Riley had phone sex that lead to emotional infidelity – definitely cheating!
5. It can lead to embarrassing or dangerous outcomes
Another problem with sexting is that it has got everything to do with technology. In wrong hands, it can cause havoc. Many wives or husbands have caught their spouses red-handed by going through their phones or they have even cloned their data to catch them.
Related Reading: How To Know If A Girl Likes You Over Text – 21 Subtle Signs
At other times, the chats or pictures can get leaked out due to some tech error. Imagine the shock that will cause to your partner. You may argue you have not done anything ‘wrong’ but the fact that you shared virtual intimacy with someone else, can cause your partner immense hurt. It is as bad as sleeping with another person.
In a nutshell sexting can cause a rift in an otherwise healthy relationship. It might not be the cause of a split but when a person is caught sexting, it can lead to a lot of embarrassment and shame. The extent of the involvement will determine the fate of the marriage but if you are tempted to get intimate on the phone it definitely means there is something lacking in your present relationship. The question is – how far will you go and explore the temptation?
You can forgive someone for sexting if he or she is truly sorry and embarrassed and if the act was purely out of a perverse sense of fun. It is definitely not easy to forgive and forget but if a couple makes enough efforts, sexting is not an insurmountable problem even though it is undesirable.
Relationships that start with cheating rarely last. Even if a couple gets past the scandal, the scars will remain plus it would lead to suspicions forever. Such a relationship can’t be built on a good foundation.
Sexting can be considered to be worse than cheating because it involves both, a sexual act as well as emotional infidelity. Even if there is no physical contact, the fact that a person can build an intimate relationship, even if on the phone, with someone other than the person they are committed to is akin cheating.
Sexting can lead to a real affair. It provides the platform for an affair to bloom and blossom. Also too much sexting can lead you to becoming emotionally attached to the other person.
It depends on the legal rules of the state you are in. But sexting as such cannot be considered a crime. However, it can be considered as undesirable behaviour leading to cheating and thus become grounds for divorce.