Chatting or Cheating? How to Know When Online Flirtation Crosses The Line
In-the-flesh affairs are easy to identify. From making out in a cab to sneaking away for some afternoon delight, unless you’re Bill Clinton, there is little ambiguity when physical contact is involved. But the same cannot always be said for online affairs and the line between friendly chatter and full-blown cheating is often blurred by distance, uncertainty and sometimes a dose of self-serving rationalization.
In my practice, I hear from many clients who admit to crossing lines of infidelity online that they wouldn’t dare approach in-person. Whether they’re sending flirty Facebook messages or full-on sexts, technology has not only transformed the way we communicate, but it has also changed the way we cheat.
Dr. Katherine Hertlein, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist believes that online chatting is set up perfectly to facilitate cheating. “It’s affordable, accessible and anonymous,” explains Hertlein. “And since communicating online with friends and family is also acceptable, behaviours that border on cheating territory often go unnoticed.”
But how do you know if your flirty, smiley-faced texts amount to being unfaithful? We’ve compiled the top signs that your chatting is bordering on cheating along with expert advice for managing online affairs.
Experts agree that secrecy is the number one sign that your chatting may amount to cheating. If you close computer windows when your lover walks in, delete your browsing history or erase messages and emails, you may want to consider whether or not you’re being honest with your partner (and yourself) about your online relationships.
But some degree of privacy is natural, so how do you know if your secrecy is a sign of infidelity?
According to infidelity expert Katherine Hertlein, it’s really about how your partner would react if they knew what you were up to. “If your private chat was revealed and your partner would feel hurt by both the content of it and the fact that you purposely concealed it, you’re probably bordering on unhealthy secrecy.”
Dr. Sheri Meyers, author of Chatting or Cheating, agrees. “Being secretive is a sign that you’re having an affair.” And though it’s not always intentional, online affairs can be just as damaging. “Flirtation can be fun and it’s harmless if it’s out in the open.The dangerous part is when it crosses the line into secrecy. Flirtatious text messages, self-revealing chats, and intimate confessions can fuel a unique cocktail of brain chemistry that can turn a platonic friendship into an addictive, all-consuming affair of the heart.”
If you find yourself being secretive about an an online “friendship”, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what toll this friendship is taking on your primary relationship.
Next: You share more info with your “friend” than your lover