What's In This Article
Relationships are complicated, and technology can further impact relationships, adding more stress and anxiety to the dynamic between you and your partner.
One of the ways technology can complicate things is when people start texting other people behind their partner's back.
It's easy to do and can be hard to resist, especially if you feel bored or disconnected in your relationship. But is texting someone else while you're in a relationship considered cheating? And if it is, how do you know when to draw the line and say enough is enough?
There's no easy answer to these relationship questions, as every relationship is different.
Some people may be more comfortable with texting flings than others, and some people may feel that texting is only cheating if it leads to physical or emotional intimacy with someone else.
So, is texting someone else while in a relationship considered cheating? The answer, it depends. Here are five thought-provoking questions you need to answer to know the answer to that question.
1. Is Your Partner Doing This in Secret?
Infidelity is challenging to define, but most people agree that it typically involves some level of secrecy.
If your partner is openly and willingly texting someone in front of you, and there is no secrecy around who they are texting and why they are texting them, it is unlikely that they are cheating on you or looking to cheat on you.
On the other hand, if your partner is hiding their phone from you and making up excuses for why you can't see who they are texting, it's more likely that they are trying to do something shady or at least thinking about cheating.
Of course, some people simply desire privacy, even if they do not mean any harm or disrespect.
If you are constantly asking to see your partner's phone, this type of request can make your partner feel like they aren't trusted, leading to feelings of restriction and resentment.
Ultimately, if you have no reason not to question your partner, you shouldn't feel worried about who they are texting.
But if you're asking to see your partner's phone for a benign reason and they freak out, there might be more to consider.
2. What Is the Context of the Texts?
When trying to assess if your partner is cheating when they are texting someone else, it's essential to consider the context of the text messages.
In other words, what are the topics of conversation?
Suppose they discuss subjects that your partner would typically discuss with their other friends, such as sports, politics, hobbies, TV shows, and other interests. In that case, there is likely no need to worry.
They may also feel like this person is a good listener and has an interesting, unique perspective on something they're currently going through.
Sharing something more profound with this person is not necessarily cheating, especially if they are still just as, if not more, open and vulnerable with you.
If, however, your partner is talking about serious issues with this other person, such as financial issues, family concerns, or even relationship problems they're having with you, you might feel like this is crossing your boundaries.
You might also consider this a form of emotional cheating, specifically if you have asked your partner not to discuss these topics with certain people.
Though, if you have not had this discussion with your partner, you should give them the benefit of the doubt and simply discuss how this makes you feel and why – instead of labeling it cheating right away.
Finally, the most apparent form of cheating in the context of the tests is explicit flirting, sexual communication, and sexual pictures that your partner knows you would disapprove of.
If you have not agreed that this is okay in your relationship, you can label any form of sexual texting or “sexting” as cheating.
Read More: Does Pain From Infidelity Ever Go Away?
3. Who Is This Other Person?
Understanding who the person is can also help you determine whether texting someone else while in a relationship is cheating.
For example, if you have a boundary about talking about serious emotional issues with other people, but you're okay with your partner having these discussions with their closest friends, the context is less important if they are texting those close buddies.
Another example might be that you don't mind your partner engaging with online sex workers for fun, so you don't care if they text them for sexual favors.
But if they just met someone at a bar and are texting that person for sexual favors, you may rightfully consider that cheating, even if you're okay with the former.
An additional point to consider concerning who the person is that your partner is texting is whether you know this person or not.
If you've never met or heard of this person before and your partner is being shady about who they are, you may also consider this cheating.
But if they are someone you know and trust, or someone you and/or your partner are trying to get to know better, it might be less suspicious.
All in all, understanding who the person is that your partner is texting can help clue you into whether or not it's cheating.
4. Are the Texts Crossing Any Boundaries?
Arguably the most crucial question to consider when determining whether you or your partner texting someone else should be regarded as cheating is whether the texts are crossing any boundaries.
Because cheating is challenging to define, what constitutes cheating depends on the rules and boundaries you have outlined and agreed upon within your relationship.
So, is your relationship's general rule that texting someone else, specifically for emotional or sexual support, is cheating?
- Are there any boundaries in place, such as only communicating with certain people or about specific topics?
- Have you discussed what is and is not okay when it comes to texting others while in a relationship?
- If you have discussed this, do you feel like your partner respects your wishes and boundaries?
These are all important questions when considering your boundaries and your partner's boundaries.
If you do not know the answer to these questions, you may need to have more specific conversations with your partner to ensure that you are on the same page and prevent hurting each other in the future.
On the other hand, if you are both crystal clear about your interpersonal and texting boundaries, you will know if and how you or your partner have crossed the line.
For example, suppose you have determined that sending naked pictures crosses your relationship's boundaries. If you or your partner chooses to do so anyway, this should be considered cheating.
This is why it's so essential to have a boundary conversation earlier than later in your relationship and check in with each other as you continue to change and grow, as your boundaries and comfort levels may change as well.
5. Do You Trust Your Partner and Your Relationship?
Imagine that all of these questions mentioned above check out.
Your partner is open and honest about who they are texting, the contexts of the texts are clean and platonic, they are texting a harmless person, and the text messages are not crossing any boundaries.
If you would still feel a bit of anxiety or nervousness around them texting someone else, then maybe the issue is not the texts themselves but your level of trust in your partner and the relationship.
If this is true, then you may need to have conversations about trust and why you feel insecure before coming to conclusions about whether your partner's texting is cheating.
On the other hand, if everything lines up and you still feel weird about it, maybe it's time to consider whether you are truly ready for a relationship or if your partner is the right person for you.
It's important to intuitively trust yourself and your gut in these types of situations, especially if your partner has already broken your trust in the past.
But it's also essential to self-assess and look at any attachment concerns or unwarranted fears you might have that prevent you from trusting someone who has given you no rational reason not to trust them.
In conclusion, there are many questions that you can ask yourself and your partner to determine the answer to the question: is texting someone else while in a relationship considered cheating?
These questions include the context of the texts, whether any boundaries have been crossed, who the person is, how secretive the texting is, and how much trust exists in your relationship.
If you are still uncertain, overwhelmed, or have more questions about this topic, it may be good to have a conversation directly with your partner about what you would like to consider cheating.
At the end of the day, the best relationships define relationships and set boundaries on their own terms.
If you are still struggling with the texting issue or with trust in general in your relationship, it might also be a productive idea to seek the support of a relationship professional.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.