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 only gotten blurred over time, and how! What was scandalous earlier is the norm today, even when it comes to affairs. For instance, one of the key questions in the gray area that relationships operate in is – is sexting cheating, when you are in a relationship with someone else?
We do not need to define sexting, do we? It’s pretty clear what that is. But for the uninitiated, here is the textbook explanation: sexting is the act of sending lewd or explicit photographs or messages through an electronic device. Even though it sounds scary and troublesome, it can actually be a fun and engaging experience. Thinking of it as having sex over text, and all you can use is your words and the other texting functionalities that you have on hand.
Sexting is a significant element of intimacy in today’s world, be it within a relationship or outside of it, and depending on the context, it can wreak or bolster a relationship. In the dark realm of the digital world, 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 just harmless fun?”, you will find plenty of advocates on both sides of the fence. Does sexting lead to affairs? Again, it’s anybody’s guess.
For better clarity on the subject and understanding is sexting cheating, we have roped in emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few, to answer a few important questions for us today.
What Is Considered Cheating In A Relationship?
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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 spouse was caught cheating, it could mean the end of the road for the couple. Yes, it really was that simple and straightforward earlier on.
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 and terribly looked down upon. The internet was also less pervasive and you weren’t left wondering things like, “Is my husband sending inappropriate text messages to somebody else?”
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 relationship the only benchmark of fidelity? Pooja tells us, “Cheating is the violation of a promise or trust that one has in their partner.
“The things that might be considered cheating in a relationship vary from couple to couple. What is adultery and what is not can be quite subjective. For instance, one couple might enjoy harmlessly flirting with others. But to another couple, doing that may not feel right. For some, sexting might be okay, for others, it could be a violation and a form of betrayal.” The jury is still out on these dilemmas and whether sexting someone else while in a relationship is cheating or not. We’re here to help answer this question for you.
Related Reading: Becoming A Sexting Pro! Follow These 10 Tips
Is It Considered Cheating If You Are 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 sexy emojis to each other all the time. And when they are in the deep throes of desire, these can actually be fun and play a role in 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. Then arises the question, “Does sexting lead to affairs?”
For Mischa and Seth, it did. Theirs was a solid marriage of 11 years, or so they thought. Then Mischa caught husband sexting someone else and discovered several sexy texts on Seth’s phone, sent to another woman. When she confronted him, he initially insisted that it had gone no further than the texts. But eventually, he admitted that it was a full-fledged affair.
“I had stumbled upon my husband sending inappropriate text messages to another woman,” Mischa says. She struggled with it for a few weeks, asking herself, “Can sexting be an end to marriage?” Finally, they divorced after a few months.
Sexting is a form of cheating for some
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 if there are signs your husband is sexting or after you catch your partner sexting read-handed. What will it lead to next and is it worth forgiving an act like this?
Pooja says, “Often, sexting someone else is considered cheating by people. Since most relationships are perceived to be monogamous, the partners assume that their relationship is monogamous in every sense, including sexual intimacy in the virtual realm. Sexting would then mean that the partner is physically desiring someone else and can be understood as cheating.”
Even though in most cases that is true, there is another side of the spectrum as well. A lot of people in perfectly solid marriages may disapprove of cheating but have no qualms when it comes to sexting. Why would a married man sext another woman or a married woman sext another man? Let’s hear it from one of our readers. Vivien Williams (name changed), admits to playing the field when his wife is not looking.
Married for around 15 years, he 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.
So, is sexting cheating?
If only things were as simple as healthy flirting. Sexting can lead to complications (more on that below), and more than the act, it’s the repercussions that stir up 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 – all of which are clear signs your husband is sexting.
So if you are still wondering is sexting cheating, especially if you are in an exclusive monogamous relationship, the simple answer is: Yes. Sexting while in a relationship is a form of infidelity that does not deserve to be completely condemned and punished but is definitely frowned upon.
If you’re wondering, “Why do girls sext others when they have a boyfriend?” or “Why would a married man sext another woman?”, well their reasons can be pretty personal and we have no generalizations to offer you there. But we can give you some information on the nuances of sexting someone other than your partner and its repercussions on your primary relationship.
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 behavior 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 on account of their photos 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. However naughty yet innocent it may seem, regular sexting can lead to a full-fledged affair if an opportunity presents itself. Can sexting lead to feelings? There is a good chance it might.
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
Pooja explains, “Any repetitive behavior can be addictive. The same is the case with sexting, so it can become addictive. Sometimes the elements of texts, audio-visual cues, and being far away from the person can add to unrealistic expectations about sex as a whole. They might even finally meet that internet romance in real life and be in utter shock at learning the reality. Actual sex is never perfect, but addictive sexting might make you feel like it is supposed to be.”
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 flirty chats can make people feel like sex goddesses or gods.
Can sexting be an end to marriage? Maybe. It can also lead you to build up unrealistic expectations about your sex life. Now, if that person isn’t your partner or spouse, you are gradually checking out of your current relationship and being drawn into the virtual one. How healthy is that? You know the answer just as well as we do.
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 partner who may suddenly appear boring and non-interesting to you. 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 become an emotional crutch or an emotional affair to veer you away from your problems.
“Why do guys sext when they have a girlfriend?” wonders Selena. She has good reason to ask. Her former partner was addicted to sexting other women and she caught him at it several times. He always protested that he was doing nothing wrong. “Is it considered cheating if you are sexting?”, he would ask her in injured tones.
Explaining why sexting amounts to cheating in such a scenario, Pooja, “Sexting can sometimes make one neglect their current relationship. But in rare cases, it can also make one come back to their primary relationship and even reignite the spark that had gotten lost. It works both ways and depends from person to person.”
Related Reading: How Do You Set Emotional Boundaries in Relationships?
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 often considered too inconsequential to lose sleep over.
You may think there is no harm in sending a few naughty images to your virtual affair partner. But there is a very real risk that you may get caught eventually. Is it really worth it? Body language while on the phone, a dreamy look while chatting, and the involuntary expressions that reflect on your face while you are deep into the chat are all dead giveaways if your SO is observing you closely, trying to figure out how to tell if someone is sexting.
4. Sexting can lead to attachment
Can sexting lead to feelings? How to tell if someone is sexting? To answer both of these questions, consider this. There will be attachment issues that become visible. 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. 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 – which is definitely cheating!
As Pooja tells us, “That’s the real drawback of sexting. At first, it may just feel physical and good but soon without realizing it, you might find yourself growing emotionally attached to this person. You might also feel a growing need to connect with them on an emotional level, which is much larger and more problematic than connecting with them on just a sexual level.”
Related Reading: How To Know If A Girl Likes You Over Text – 21 Subtle Signs
5. It can lead to embarrassing or dangerous outcomes
Another problem with sexting is that it has got everything to do with technology. In the wrong hands, it can cause havoc. Many people have caught their partners red-handed by going through their phones or they have even cloned their data to catch them. At other times, the chats or pictures can get leaked out due to some tech error.
Imagine the shock that will cause 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 just as bad as sleeping with another person, if not worse.
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 but 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 effort, 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 to cheating.
Sexting can lead to a real affair. It provides the platform to begin an affair and blossom. Also, too much sexting can lead you to become 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 undesirable behavior leading to cheating and thus becoming grounds for divorce.
Affairs do not last too long. But what definitely lasts is the hurt that is caused to everyone involved.