So your partner’s constantly texting but being kinda secretive about it.
Do they quickly switch apps when you walk by?
Are they more glued to their phone than usual?
That sinking feeling in your gut is telling you something’s up.
Sexting has become so commonplace that it’s easy to question whether it counts as cheating.
What are the boundaries nowadays?
Does a racy text cross the line into infidelity?
Let’s peel back the covers on this too-close-for-comfort topic.
Read on to get the need-to-know on sexting and modern relationships.
What Is Sexting?
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via phone, app, or any form of technology.
The term itself is a mashup of “sex” and “texting.”
While sexting often happens between romantic partners, it can also occur between people not in a relationship.
The content shared ranges from flirty texts to nude selfies to graphic descriptions of sexual acts.
Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones with cameras and messaging apps, sexting has become extremely common, especially among younger demographics.
The rise of sexting in relationships has sparked debates about whether it should be considered cheating or not.
Is Sexting Cheating? 13 Things You Need to Know
Sexting occupies a nebulous gray area when it comes to infidelity. Some view it as harmless fun, while others see it as crossing a line.
So, where exactly is the boundary between playful sexting and outright cheating?
To help provide some clarity, here are 13 key considerations when determining if sexting should be considered unfaithful in a relationship or not.
1. Motivation Behind the Sexting
Whether sexting is a form of cheating often depends on the underlying motivation. Sexting as part of mutual sexual exploration between committed partners is very different from sexting behind a partner’s back for excitement and validation.
The latter indicates issues like boredom, loneliness, or lack of intimacy in the relationship that should be addressed. But sexual conversation between consenting partners is not inherently unfaithful.
2. Level of Reciprocity
Sexting within a relationship can actually enhance intimacy when it’s reciprocal. Partners openly share desires, explore new dynamics, and build trust and openness. However, one-sided sexting suggests a lack of consideration of your partner’s needs.
Prioritizing your own sexual gratification without care for your partner’s comfort diminishes the mutual respect integral to fidelity.
3. Explicitness of the Content
Not all sexts are created equal. Harmless flirting may not constitute cheating in the way explicit descriptions of desired sexual acts cross the line.
Factors include how graphic and unambiguous the content is and if it directly mentions or implies an outside partner. Vague flirting requires interpretation, while detailed sexual messages leave little to the imagination.
4. Communication Style
The tone and language used while sexting also determine how intimate or illicit it seems. A clinical, transactional style without endearment or affection contrasts strongly with mutual expressions of longing and desire.
Also, secrecy and attempts to hide sexting imply awareness you are overstepping bounds. Open, caring communication creates closeness, while sneaking around destroys trust.
5. Emotional Investment
Perhaps most importantly, sexting with strong romantic or emotional sentiment indicates deeper intimacy and bond-forming. When sexts include mutual expressions of adoration and vulnerability, this creates an emotional affair that reroutes feelings of affection, commitment, and desires outside of the relationship.
Sexting without emotional investment may be more forgivable than sexting that cultivates real intimacy, attraction, and attachment to another.
6. Physical Proximity with Sexting Partner
If sexting is occurring between partners in a long-distance relationship, there is less opportunity to act on the sexual messages being exchanged. The physical separation limits the threat it poses to the relationship.
However, sexting with someone in close physical proximity creates more opportunities to cross boundaries. The sexting may lead to flirtation and intimacy in person, not just digitally.
7. Exclusivity of the Relationship
Sexting while in an exclusive, monogamous relationship violates the terms of that commitment. But for open relationships or those exploring polyamory with consent, sexting outside the relationship may be permissible.
The boundaries and expectations of sexual and emotional fidelity differ by relationship, so sexting must be evaluated in the context of those mutually agreed-upon ground rules.
8. Shared Access to Phones and Accounts
Unrestricted access to your partner’s sexting without hiding anything implies innocence. Willingness to hand over your phone or share accounts reflects comfort and lack of guilt.
But deleting messages immediately, guarding devices closely, and secret apps or accounts often mean betraying trust. Some couples agree to sext only on shared devices and accounts specifically to avoid deception.
9. History of Infidelity
Prior cheating or boundary crossing means a partner loses the benefit of the doubt that sexting is meaningless fun. Repeated infidelity, sexual or emotional, damages trust.
For a rebuilding relationship, sexting may signify falling into old patterns, threatening the rebuilt foundation of fidelity. In faithful partnerships, sexting may be benign rather than an automatic relapse.
10. Violation of Established Commitments
Most importantly, sexting must be evaluated against agreed-upon commitments in the relationship. Implicit expectations around faithfulness matter, but explicit conversations defining commitment provide the clearest guidelines.
If sexting was established as off-limits, going against that mutual agreement damages the relationship regardless of other factors.
11. Hiding From Your Partner
If you feel compelled to hide the sexting and actively cover your tracks, you likely recognize it would hurt your partner.
Willingness to lie or omit the truth indicates you prioritize your own sexual gratification over your partner’s peace of mind and esteem. Deceit itself destroys loyalty, honesty, and stability in a relationship.
12. Overlap with Emotional Intimacy
Sexting within a casual sexual relationship may not constitute cheating if the relationship lacks emotional intimacy and commitment. But when sexting occurs alongside building meaningful rapport, sharing deeply, and relying on someone emotionally outside the primary partnership, it takes on the weight of emotional infidelity.
Prioritizing daily intimate communication and emotional bond-building with someone else damages trust.
13. Lack of Remorse or Understanding Impact
Recurring sexting, especially secretively, indicates indifference to how it may hurt a partner and disregard their feelings. An apologetic, remorseful partner who ceases the behavior demonstrates empathy and commitment to regaining trust.
But, refusing to acknowledge the pain inflicted through betrayal implies the sexting mattered more than the stability of the relationship and the partner’s sense of worth. An unwillingness to empathize colors the sexting as selfish rather than a foolish mistake.
Is Sexting Nudes Cheating?
Sexting revealing photos and videos is one of the most unambiguous forms of cheating through technology. While flirty or explicit texts may potentially be dismissed as harmless fun, sending nude selfies or explicit imagery crosses into dangerous territory.
Sharing one’s naked body or sexual acts with someone other than an exclusive partner directly violates expected monogamy. The permanence of images also makes nude sexting harder to dismiss as transient.
Sexting these visuals provides indisputable evidence of virtual unfaithfulness. While context matters, few committed partners would feel comfortable knowing their significant other was exchanging nudes with someone else.
Is Phone Sex Cheating?
Phone sex introduces real-time sexual interaction outside of the relationship, making it a more overt form of infidelity than written sexts. The intimacy of hearing and being heard while engaging in verbal sexual acts often imitates the emotional and physical closeness of real sex.
Most partners will view the sexual stimulation and satisfaction derived from phone sex as an unacceptable betrayal, even without physical touch. While some may argue phone sex is harmless, the shared intimacy makes it cross the line for many monogamous spouses and partners, especially if deception is involved.
Can a Relationship Survive Sexting?
When someone discovers their partner has been sexting, it understandably causes hurt, anger, and distrust. The path forward depends on various factors. In some cases, the relationship can recover if both people are willing to put in effort – but there are no guarantees. Trust is broken, and it’s hard to win it back.
Things that may impact the ability to heal and rebuild trust after sexting include:
- The unfaithful partner expressing genuine remorse and commitment to change
- Willingness to improve intimacy and address underlying issues
- Establishing new boundaries and accountability around devices and messaging
- Commitment to honest communication and rebuilding emotional intimacy
- Participating in professional counseling (individual or couples)
- Regaining a sense of hope and optimism about the relationship
- Forgiveness and letting go of anger on the betrayed partner’s side
- Time spent reconnecting and making new, positive memories together
Ultimately, overcoming infidelity requires rebuilding broken trust step by step. With patience and compassion, some relationships can heal even after sexting breaches that trust.
What to Do If You Catch Your Partner Sexting Online or By Phone?
Discovering a partner’s secret sexting can be emotionally devastating. You may feel shocked, angry, betrayed, and heartbroken. In the heat of the moment, it’s understandably difficult to process those painful emotions and decide what to do next. Here are some tips for moving forward:
Confront Your Partner
Have an open and honest conversation about what you uncovered and how it makes you feel. Allow your partner to explain the situation from their perspective. Make it clear sexting crosses boundaries and seriously impacts your ability to trust them.
Set New Boundaries
Discuss what you both feel appropriate boundaries around sexting should be moving forward, and agree clearly on what constitutes cheating in your relationship. Outline specific commitments you both feel comfortable making to rebuild fidelity.
Turn to close friends, family members, or professionals to help work through the emotional fallout. Having supportive ears to confide in reminds you that you’re not alone. Their outside perspective can also help provide guidance.
An impartial third party like a relationship therapist or counselor creates space for you both to share feelings, get to the root of what led to the sexting, and learn tools to foster intimacy and trust again.
Reflect Before Making Any Big Decisions
Avoid making pivotal choices like separation while you’re still processing the initial rawness and anger over the betrayal. Give yourself time and space first to gain some clarity.
Make sure to take care of your own needs and process this traumatic relationship fracture at your own pace. Don’t neglect sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional well-being during this difficult time.
Healing from a partner’s sexting takes time but is possible with honest communication, rebuilding trust, and reconnecting emotionally. With effort and commitment to growth, your relationship can move forward stronger.
Should I Forgive My Partner for Sexting?
Discovering a partner’s sexting causes deep hurt. You may wonder if you should forgive or if some betrayals are unforgivable. There’s no one right answer. Consider if your partner shows genuine remorse and is committed to rebuilding trust.
Are they willing to take responsibility and make changes moving forward? Ultimately, it depends on your own ability to let go of anger and offer grace eventually. Forgiveness is empowering, but don’t force it until you feel authentically ready in your heart.
Sexting and infidelity make for a murky modern minefield. While sweeping generalizations are difficult, understanding your own boundaries and communicating openly in your relationship provides clarity. With empathy, forgiveness, and commitment, relationships can overcome breaches of trust, including those involving sexting. Never forget – your comfort and peace of mind should be the priority.