Is Text Cheating Still Cheating? What about Facebook?

With the proliferation of smartphones and social media, cheating and infidelity have found their new 21st Century outlets. Many couples embroiled in the difficult and devastating effects of marital infidelity, or cheating, have found their spouse to be texting another man or woman, or to have rekindling or developing a relationship on a social media site like Facebook.

Cheating online is such a loaded issue. Often times, suspecting spouses or partners have to act on “their gut” when they attempt to uncover their partner’s extramarital or extrarelationship behaviors. A lot of times, that instinctive feeling is confirmed when the partner finds incriminating (and often highly sexually suggestive) evidence on their phones, or in their social media accounts. A lot of times a partner has password access to the other’s e-mail box, and going against what they know better to do, they start the investigative process to procure that evidence against their cheating spouse.

As far as online “flirting” while engaged in another relationship, it’s really a slippery slope. Flirting is still transmitting sexual energy, in an indirect way, to someone else other than the one you love. It says something about one’s “leaky” sexual energy that’s not being channeled into the primary relationship, which is indicative of possible intimacy problems. I know a lot of people say that “well, I’m just a flirtatious person.” Again, it’s hard to say, but this is a socially acceptable way of saying that we are giving people are sexual energy through our communication or behaviors. Men think abotu sex all day, and fantasize about having sex with lots of women. It doesn’t mean we, as men, need to incorporate those fantasies into behaviors that undermine our self-control and our original relationships.

But does it mean that social media and texting promotes more cheating and infidelity? My opinion is no. My thinking is that if a partner is wanting badly enough to act on extramarital feelings, they’ll do it. Facebook and text messaging merely provide the convenient vehicles, unfortunately. People will find a way to cheat if they’re so inclined.

Unfortunately, these digital vehicles provide cheaters with way better technology than they were used to before. We’re reunited with long-lost boyfriends and girlfriends from our youth, ranging from high school crushes to college sweethearts to past office romances. Even if we “don’t mean to” start something romantic up with someone, if our desire is there to do it, we might do it. If we happen to be trolling the same sites over and over again when we’re surfing (Facebook, craigslist, Twitter), chances are that were going to continue to put ourselves in the same uncompromising position over and over again. I hear from a lot of partners that their behavior is “innocent,” and that its curiosity to them why their partner is fearful or doesn’t trust them. The threshold erodes and gets lower with each encounter, and soon, the cheating behaviors may be the next logical step for some.

Choosing to communicate in these ways surely has negative effects. If we find ourselves hiding communication from our partner, and not wanting to disclose that digital relationship with the one that’s closest to us, we may have a problem. By using
social media sites for more than just entertainment, because were lonely, angry at our spouse, or not feeling affirmed or wanted by our partner, we end up transmitting and bleeding out sexual energy over the Internet. We may not “mean to do this,” but if we are unfulfilled emotionally or sexually, that energy is necessarily going to come out in way that we interact, whether that’s over the Internet or live in person with someone.

Here’s some tips to help you if you’re not sure if you’re starting to cheat online:

  1. Ask yourself, ” Would my partner approve of this? What would I do if I were in his/her shoes?”
  2. Ask yourself, ” What am I really wanting from this person online? Do I want have sex with them? Do I want them to validate me or affirm me, to feel good? Do I want something from them that my partner can’t give to me now?
  3. Be aware of what you type, in terms of the type of energy that you’re emitting. Is it sexual or flirtatious in nature? Is it invitational or suggestive to the other person? What is the overall tone of your messages online?
  4. Start to become aware of the cover-up behaviors, like denying that you’re communicating with someone online when your partner asks what’s happening online with you.
  5. Talk with your partner or spouse about what happens online. Do you both know each other’s Facebook friends? Start to open up dialogue with your loved one about your online activity, and if you have nothing to fear, this communication will enhance your relationship. If you have something to fear or coverup, then refer back to tip number one.
  6. Start to identify the unmet needs for you in your relationship or marriage. A lot of the time, cheating starts without the intention to cheat, and begins quite “innocently.” If you can start to identify those things that you’re not getting in your relationship, and be able to communicate them to your partner, you’re going to go a long way towards identifying the problem before it becomes a disaster. Often times, cheating starts from this point.

Cheating and infidelity have been here long before the advent of the Internet, social media, smart phones and text messaging. In the future, with even newer technology, cheating and infidelity will find a home there, too. It comes down to us, as the individuals in relationships, to help ourselves, and to start to identify if we’re starting the slippery slope towards cheating and infidelity in our own relationship.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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