Technology can be amazing at times, but it can also put you in some tricky situations, especially if you’re in a relationship. Which brings us to the all-important question that many people ponder: Is texting cheating? And let us clarify: We don’t mean sending off a text to a member of the sex (or sexes) you’re attracted to and asking how they’re doing. We mean full-on flirting—or more.
Technology has changed the game when it comes to love and relationships—we meet on dating sites and apps, we often communicate more frequently by text than calls, and we send Bitmojis back and forth as banter. Tech is a big part of our bonding experience with our S.O., which is why texting another person can be considered cheating. “Your relationship should be a place where you find comfort and peace,” says Susan J Elliott, JD, M.Ed, and author of Getting Back Out There. “Everyone has the right to go to sleep at night and not worry that their partner is in the next room playing virtual footsie with some internet hottie.” Below read on to see the three questions you should ask yourself when it comes to whether texting is cheating. (Just remember that there is a fine line between being faithful and unfaithful, and every situation is a different).
Is this behavior you'd do in front of your partner?
Elliott says that the most successful types of couples follow the rule “if you wouldn’t do it in front of me, don’t do it.” So it’s pretty safe to say if you or your partner were going to shoot off a text you didn’t want the other person to read, then you shouldn’t be having this text “conversation” in the first place.“[The rule] leaves no room for gray areas or arguments,” says Elliott. “It’s a simple and time-tested rule that works.”
Are you being emotionally unfaithful?
You know when a physical relationship is cheating because it’s obvious. But when it comes to being emotionally unfaithful (like via texting), the line can be harder to draw. “Emotional affairs occur when one partner is channeling physical or emotional energy, time, and attention into someone other than the person they are in a committed relationship with to the point that their partner feels neglected,” says Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth. If you’re not sure whether your conversations or relationship is heading into that gray area, Vaughan suggests you ask yourself the question “am I doing things or talking about things with this person that I don’t do or talk about with my spouse?” If you’re investing time and energy (and emotions) into someone who is not your S.O., this means you’ve crossed the line.
Is this something you're both comfortable with?
We’ve already discussed the importance of setting boundaries in healthy relationships, and this is no different. Every couple (and every individual who is a part of the couple) has different levels of comfort. “If you think that anything short of flesh to flesh sex is not cheating, that can be construed as a reasonable conclusion,” says Elliott. “If you think that even a small amount of flirtation through text is cheating, that is also a reasonable conclusion. Some readers may ask how both can be reasonable conclusions.
The answer is that it’s what you can live with.” It’s important to have a chat early on with your S.O. to set some ground rules as to what is and isn’t acceptable in your relationship. Oftentimes, Vaughan says that it’s the lying and deception that partners can’t get over in their relationship—more so even than physical infidelity. It’s something to keep in mind.
Up next: How to make friends in your 30s.