Is “Sexting” Cheating? Is it Inappropriate or Bad Behavior?

by | Feb 13, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

If you think that sexting another individual when you are in a committed relationship is purely an innocent act, read this before you hit the send button.

What exactly is “sexting?” This term is classified as dirty texting, which is increasing in popularity in our culture. It certainly makes straying away from your significant other easier, but if it’s virtual, does it constitute infidelity? Many people seem to think that it does. In fact, sexting has been the topic of many recent scandals in the news, involving celebrities, government officials, and athletes. This subject matter has also been on the rise since the creation of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. This phenomenon is more common than you may think.

There is limited research and statistics on adults and online “sexting” relationships, however, both men and women equally participate in this act. Experts state that many people turn to online and cell phone relationships to escape the everyday pressures and weaknesses of their lives, reveling in the anonymity of this secret act. Some people may experience a dangerous sense of detachment, and convince themselves that once their computer is shut down, they have not completed any wrongful acts. Either way, research shows that virtual infidelity and sexting can be just as emotional as a physical fling.

Are you walking on the bubble of online infidelity? If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions: Do you often hide your cell phone bill and cover up your chat history on your computer? Are you afraid of a loved one showing up unexpectedly and seeing what you have on your screen? If yes, then it’s infidelity. Cheating does not need to be a physical relationship; sometimes emotional betrayal is just as destructive to a relationship. When a partner is emotionally involved with someone else even without the physical connection, the dynamic of the relationship can get very blurry.

There have been a few current surveys that depict our country’s current standing on the sexting issue. In a 2004 ABC Newspoll, 64% of adults felt that if a person is married or in a committed relationship and participates in sexting with others, that is considered unfaithful. On the other hand, 33% did not agree with this statement. In addition, a survey completed in May 2010 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 15% of adults received sexually suggestive photos or video within the past month, and 6% of adults had sent a text similar to this fashion. It is quite obvious that over the past decade, our perception of sexting has not improved; in fact, it seems as if we are accepting the unfaithful act.

There are several issues to consider when setting “sexting” boundaries with your significant other. Is it cheating when you flirted heavily in that last Facebook chat message you sent? What if you never want the sexting partner to become a physical one?is it still cheating?

To simplify this subject matter, a married individual should not be flirting online, in the workplace, at the gym, or in any place. This demonstrates a clear unfaithfulness to your partner or spouse. If you are sexting, you should realize what you’re doing, ask forgiveness, and then see if your present relationship can be saved.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
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As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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