The topic of cheating is blurry since everyone defines infidelity differently. Nobody wants to think about their partner being unfaithful. But sometimes this topic is unavoidable and we need to talk about things like virtual cheating. Is sexting cheating? What about emotional cheating? If they don’t follow through, should it still count?
Many people won’t want to hear the answer to these questions but they’re very important to understand in a relationship. In order to build boundaries, both partners need to understand where to draw the line.
Here we discuss sexting, its correlation to cheating, and the signs and impacts your partner is sexting behind your back. [Read: Boundaries in a relationship – 43 healthy dating rules you MUST set early on]
Sexting is essentially engaging in sexual conversations with people over the phone. The word itself is a play on “sex” and “texting.” Sexting can be a way to spice up a relationship, but it can be detrimental if one partner is sexting someone outside of the relationship.
These conversations can range in severity. Anything from flirtatious texts with sexual nature, illicit audio clips, sending suggestive or nude photographs, having explicit video calls, and messaging sexual fantasies counts as sexting.
Sexting isn’t just about the words being sent, it’s also about the way the words make you feel. It builds intimacy with the person outside of the relationship. This raises the question, is sexting cheating?
Most people associate cheating with a physical affair, so there is no shame in wondering whether sexting leads to one. While every case of sexting won’t automatically lead to physical affairs, most definitely have the intent to.
Sexting is a sign of discontent in a relationship. When someone engages in sexual conversations with another person, disinterest in their partner makes them take an interest outside of their relationship.
So while sexting begins as virtual, there is a very high chance it would lead to an in-person affair if the opportunity presented itself.
With this being said, if someone who is having a sexting affair sees their behavior as excusable, they likely see physical affairs as excusable too. [Read: Cheating spouse – 18 signs you MUST watch for if you don’t want to be hurt]
Now, what if there is no physical cheating? What if it’s just texting? Does it still count? While some may argue the right answer to this question, we think the truth is pretty clear.
Yes. Sexting is definitely cheating—here’s why:
There are many forms of cheating, ranging from physical to emotional. But what all of these types have in common is that there is a betrayal. Betrayal of trust, monogamy, and betrayal of intimacy. Just because sexting is virtual doesn’t make it any less valid.
If the person in the relationship is sexting someone outside of the relationship, then they have betrayed their partner by desiring someone else over them. Simple as. [Read: Relationship without trust – can *or should* it last?]
The question of whether sexting is cheating gets confusing because cheating is commonly associated with having physical sexual relations outside of one’s relationship.
So, to determine if sexting is cheating, you have to see sexting for what it is: giving sexual attention outside of the relationship.
Even if sexual attention comes in the form of text messages, videos, or fantasy, it’s still sex. If your relationship has boundaries that state you’re a committed, monogamous couple, then sexting is absolutely breaking those boundaries.
Not every case of cheating involves sexual infidelity. In fact, emotional involvement plays a huge role in cheating. Fidelity means loyalty and loyalty in a relationship means not becoming emotionally involved elsewhere.
Shifting your focus to people outside of your relationship takes away from how you feel toward your current partner.
So you can’t devote yourself fully to your partner if you’re emotionally involved with someone else. That’s not loyalty, plain and simple. [Read: Emotional affair – what it is, 76 signs & steps, infidelity stages & what to do]
If the sexting was kept a secret from your relationship, it’s cheating. This is a clear sign that the sexting relationship is valued over the real one, which is an immediate indication of betrayal.
Healthy relationships are built on open communication and trust. And we typically hide things when we know they’re wrong to avoid consequences. So if sexting is done in secrecy, it was known to damage the relationship yet it was still done anyways. Remember, if you’re hiding it, you shouldn’t be doing it.
If you’ve felt suspicious of your partner’s texting habits lately, listen to your gut feeling. As we stated above, sexting is typically hidden from a suspecting partner because they know it is wrong and don’t want to get caught. They feel invincible because of their secrecy, but there are still signs you can look for.
With that being said, any sign of secrecy or over-defensiveness about privacy is an indicator your partner might be sexting.
There are many ways your partner may go about trying to hide their sexts from you, but these are the common signs. [Read: 25 secrets to catch a cheater red-handed in the act & with the right proof!]
1. Is texting far more frequently.
2. Takes their phone with them everywhere.
3. Deleting text messages or phone records.
4. Keeping their phone out of your reach.
5. Leaving the room to answer texts or calls.
6. Puts a password on their phone that you don’t know.
7. Sets their phone face down.
8. Turned off notifications on their phone.
9. Sleeps with their phone tucked underneath them.
10. Has odd names in their contacts list.
11. Takes longer to respond to your messages.
12. Their routine has changed.
13. Has explicit images on their phone that weren’t sent to you.
14. Gets defensive when you ask about who they text.
15. Uses apps with no saved-chat history, like Snapchat [Read: Snapchat cheating – what it is & signs your partner is doing it]
While it may not be physical cheating, sexting is still a type of cheating that crosses boundaries, and it holds the same weight as a physical affair. These are some of the impacts of a sexting affair.
Trust is like a mirror, once it’s broken, it can never be repaired the same. Your partner has given you a reason to doubt their truth, so you may find it difficult to feel secure and fully trust your partner’s intentions moving forward. [Read: 46 must-dos to rebuild & regain trust after cheating or lying in a relationship]
A sexting affair threatens a couple’s emotional bond and causes a drift. When someone reaches outside of the relationship for intimate connection, the partners suffer a disconnection.
This barrier makes empathy, privacy, companionship, and communication a lot more difficult between the couple.
Cheating is grounds for resentment to foster. You may feel resentful toward your partner for building intimacy with someone outside of your relationship, and you may also resent the person they were texting. [Read: 19 signs of resentment in a relationship that hurts both & how to fix it]
You trusted someone that you were intimate to be exclusive, and they went behind your back to be intimate with someone else.
This can harbor a fear of being intimate with this same person again. Or, it might even carry over to another intimate relationship if you pursue one.
It’s likely that discovering your partner has cheated on you will bring you trauma. If this was a committed, monogamous relationship, their betrayal will leave a lasting impression on you and your relationship together.
Betrayal trauma can manifest in many forms, including anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, poor emotional regulation, and also feelings of hopelessness moving forward.
Furthermore, if left untreated, your betrayal trauma might evolve into attachment issues toward them or in your future relationships as a trauma response. [Read: Fearful-avoidant attachment style – what it is, 39 signs & how to deal with it]
Broken trust and betrayal come with their fair share of negative emotions. Being a victim of a cheating partner may make you want to act out in revenge to cope.
However, these attempts to get even with your partner, like having revenge sex, usually include self-sabotaging and harmful behavior that prevent you from moving on from the infidelity.
Moving forward in a relationship after cheating is a personal decision that some take and others don’t. Regardless, if you feel that your relationship should move onward, there are a few things you should do to find closure and cope efficiently.
You clearly know or have a very strong idea that they’re sexting someone else, so you deserve a civil discussion about what has been happening.
Ask them why they’re doing it and how long it’s been going on. Are they insecure about an aspect of your relationship? And why did they feel they needed to look outside of the relationship for fulfillment? What were they looking for when sexting someone else?
Get the details so you can fully understand what they’re truly doing. You may be misunderstanding a situation if you jump to conclusions, so sit them down and just talk about why it hurts you and why they felt the need to do it. [Read: Ways to confront a cheater who plays the victim card]
Talk about cheating. Was sexting previously established as illicit behavior in your relationship? That might be up to the two of you to decide. Even if you don’t want to call it cheating, it’s still a massive betrayal of trust. You need to talk that out and decide where the lines need to be drawn.
In some cases, you may need to talk about how far is acceptable to both of you. If your relationship didn’t have clear boundaries set, then this is the time to discuss them together.
Breaking trust that can’t be rebuilt is like a death sentence for relationships. However, depending on your relationship, it might be salvageable after discussing the matter with your partner.
It’s really up to the two of you as a couple. However, if you decide it’s forgivable, then it needs to be forgiven. You can’t bring it up in later arguments. [Read: Should you forgive a cheater? How & 21 MUST-KNOWs to make a choice]
You’ll want close friends and family with you when dealing with this type of situation. Talk to them and tell them what happened.
Have them give you advice and build you up if you’re feeling down. After you’ve made a solid decision on how to proceed, you’ll want to tell them so they can be there for you.
Whether you’ve decided to proceed forward with your relationship or not, a professional counselor can be very valuable in your journey. They can provide reassurance, support, and guidance for recovering from infidelity.
For a relationship to work, both partners need to be equally involved in mending the broken seams. This means you can’t expect to put in all of your efforts and reap any rewards if your partner doesn’t put in an effort either. Couples therapy is an option for those who think their relationship can move forward.
A counselor can help you explore the issues in your relationship that led to infidelity and help restore security in your partner.
Although it is not a fix-all to relationships, it is a very powerful tool to help you and your partner communicate your needs to each other that you wouldn’t otherwise speak of. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]
Ultimately, it’s really hard to mend things with someone who’s cheated on you. Your best bet would just be to leave them.
If they’re disrespecting you in such a horrible way, they’re probably not worth your time. Save yourself the added trouble later and leave them now.
[Read: 36 healing secrets to get over being cheated on quickly and not fall apart]
Being intimate with someone other than your partner is cheating, whether that’s through text or in person. There doesn’t need to be physical contact. If their emotions are in it, it’s cheating.
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