WASHINGTON, November 30, 2016 – It started out innocently enough—just as most extramarital affairs do. But this one took place all online. Which begs the question: is it really cheating if it’s just online? The age of technology has created some blurred lines when it comes to affairs and cheating.
Ultimately, it depends on your definition of cheating. Does it have to be physical, or could cheating be emotional? What does it mean to be “intimate” with someone else?
According to some psychologists, cheating can be physical and/or emotional, and cheating typically takes place when you are in some intimate way replacing your spouse with someone else. One way to test whether it is cheating or not is this: are you hiding this other relationship or action from your spouse? Why? Is what you are doing because you feel something is lacking in your relationship?
The other question to ask is where is your heart in this? Maybe you tell yourself that your actions are innocent and not hurting anyone. But, if you were to tell your spouse, maybe it would hurt them. Number one, because you are being dishonest, and number two, because you are giving away a part of yourself to someone else that should be reserved for just your spouse.
Here are the three main ways you can cyber cheat and how the age of technology makes it easy and convenient to do so, further blurring the lines of what is really “cheating” in this day and age:
- Chatting Online with Someone You Know
Facebook and other social media sites make it so easy to connect with people you knew from high school, college, a former job, etc. Especially if you had feelings for someone before, it’s easy to fall prey to being ok with flirting online. A few messages back and forth are probably just fine, but if you both take things further, you are on shaky ground.
Bill and Cheryl, who had dated in high school, reconnected years later on Facebook. It was fun for them to catch up and talk about the old days. But they didn’t stop there. Over time, they developed their current relationship to the point that all their old feelings came back. They lived far apart, but that seemed to just fuel the idea that nothing would come of it, so therefore nothing they were doing was actually cheating. But in fact, their spouses would have seen it that way. Bill and Cheryl started telling each other secrets, and they kept their online relationship a secret from everyone else but each other.
In the end, the two made plans to leave their spouses. They eventually did so and got married to each other, leaving heartbroken spouses and even children behind who wondered how it all even happened.
- Chatting Online with Someone You Haven’t Met
Unfortunately, there are many people who already have relationships who get onto online dating sites looking for new people to talk to, or they find sites like Ashley Madison that actually cater to already married folk who are looking for something on the side. The fact that you are looking for someone to talk to should be a huge red flag.
Some may think that since you haven’t ever met this online person, then it isn’t cheating. But what if you start telling them things you don’t tell your spouse? Or what if you think about them more than your spouse? Or perhaps you both become so emotionally invested that you actually fall in love with each other?
This kind of online relationship is just as dangerous as talking to someone you know. Because they aren’t in front of you, dealing with day to day things, the relationship is easy. Convenient. You turn it on and off when you need it. There is no commitment or pressure because you don’t have to struggle or share the hard parts of life. You only really do the “fun” stuff of flirting and talking. Which makes it seem all the more alluring and easy to fall in love.
This can be a gray area for many people. How can pornography be classified as “cheating” when you are just looking and not interacting? But in fact, you are giving a portion of yourself to this encounter. Even though you aren’t touching or creating a relationship, there are physical and emotional reactions happening in your brain and your body. It’s an intimate act you are watching to fulfill a need that is replacing a need that could be met by your spouse.
Others may rationalize that because it is so easy to watch, and because so many people view porn, then it’s ok. But just ask the spouses of these people who watch it. How do they feel? And is the spouse who is viewing porn doing it out in the open, for their spouse to see, or are they hiding it?
Maybe you don’t feel like anyone is being hurt by these so-called innocent cyber activities, but think again. Anytime you are hiding what you are doing, and anytime you are replacing your spouse in some way, then you are betraying their trust and ultimately, cheating.
Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert and a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.