Could you or your partner be guilty of virtual infidelity?
Infidelity was traditionally connected more directly with physical intimacy; when a partner goes outside their relationship for love or sex with another person. But Facebook, texting and various websites and apps have changed all that.
Today, the emotional aspect of infidelity is even greater because it’s become so much simpler to connect, says University of South Carolina Sociology Professor, Dr. Mathieu Deflem.
Virtual cheating could be considered anything from sexting, having intimate exchanges with another through email or Facebook, even leaving a dating profile active while in a committed relationship.
The bottom line is honesty.
“If a person is behaving in a way they wouldn’t feel comfortable with their partner knowing or seeing, there is probably some form of cheating going on,” says psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig.
The key to avoiding online infidelity is sharing boundaries with your partner. Anything that is not mutually OK is crossing the line, says relationship coach Jeremi McManus.
“A lot of relationships define boundaries in different ways. Just like any compromise in a relationship, a couple needs to decide who each other can stay in touch with and how.”
Continuing to text or instant message with exes or other interests can contribute to trust issues in a relationship, experts say.
If trust issues arise, it is important for both partners to let one another have access to their devices, says McManus. “At any point, they should be willing to let their partner see texts and emails.”
Deflem even advises a zero-tolerance option as the best option to avoid any problems. That means deleting phone numbers of past and present interests. “Some couples may even decide to quit Facebook or at least restrict it.”
Deflem suggests treating the internet and your smartphone as you would any other space after you’re in a committed relationship. In that sense, the internet is no different the way interactions change in bars, restaurants or elseswhere It is just not done the same way after a romantic relationship has been established, says Deflem.
It isn’t technology that is making people cheat; it is the individual and their own values, argues Colin Hodge, co-founder of DOWN, a new app that lets people get intimate with Facebook friends. “You can have platonic relationships with someone online, but it takes a level or maturity and confidence to pull it off,” he says.
If you want to make sure your virtual relationships don’t run the danger of becoming emotional or sexual affairs, Ludwig says to think about how your partner would feel if they read your words to this other person.