There is a very fine line between harmless fun and hurtful infidelity when it comes to maintaining relationships.
Given the relatively new nature of online dating platforms, many people are still unclear on whether it’s ok to maintain active profiles or flirt with other people online while in a relationship.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at online flirting, when it constitutes cheating, why people do it, and how it could affect your relationship.
Is online flirting considered cheating?
Is online flirting shady?
But does flirting count as cheating?
Well, it depends.
I know it is frustrating to get such a vague answer for something so sensitive – it’s just the unfortunate reality of the situation.
For things to make more sense, you have to understand the scope of online flirting, when it crosses the line, and how it is related to emotional cheating.
What does online flirting look like
Online flirting takes all shapes and forms. You may have unwittingly done it yourself.
On the soft end of the spectrum, things tend to be more casual. It could be the constant liking and commenting on social media posts. Sometimes it is the occasional private message that usually never gets too deep or lasts too long.
On the other end are the real eyebrow-raisers that probably brought you here. The best example here is that of long-term, deep conversations with people online. This is particularly problematic when the content of the messages is deeply emotional or when things get sexual.
When it’s not cheating/when it is cheating
There is a fine line between innocent online friendships and shady flirting that constitute cheating. It boils down to 3 things:
- Your relationship status
- The content of the correspondence
- The time factor
For example, despite how invested and committed you are, it does not count as cheating if the two of you have not made things official and agreed to be exclusive.
It’s probably also not cheating if the content of your communication is on surface level innocent, i.e., they are chatting about business, opportunities, or shared experiences like dealing with trauma.
Finally, it is not really cheating if the communication is infrequent and has not lasted very long.
However, in an exclusive and official romantic relationship, it is cheating if there is any sexual agenda, the content is heavy on sexual flirting, and the communication is frequent and long term.
The problem, however, is that whether or not it starts as cheating, it often leads to an emotional affair. This happens as two people get to know each other more and bond. So whether it starts as thirsty comments on posts or an innocent text relationship, you have every right to be concerned in the long run.
What is emotional cheating?
By definition, emotional cheating means forming deep emotional bonds and sharing intimate details with someone you are attracted to outside of your exclusive relationship. The culprit often finds themselves growing fond of this new person. They open up about deep secrets and get vulnerable.
Things get tricky when your partner starts to feel more connected to the other person than they are to you. They feel like they can trust them more and are more comfortable on that side. If this ship leaves the dock, then you, my friend, are dealing with an emotional cheater.
Short of getting the messages between your partner and their emotional boo, not much evidence gets left behind in an emotional affair. It’s not like you can catch them in the act of feeling, right?
The good news is that there are often several subtle tells you can use to pick this out:
- They get emotionally cold and shut you out for no good reason.
- They always seem happier while on and after using their phone.
- Reduced physical and emotional intimacy.
- You spend less and less quality time together despite schedules remaining the same.
Unfortunately, with emotional cheating, things usually just go downhill. At some point, whether or not there is physical infidelity, you may end up losing your partner.
Why do people flirt online?
So why do people do it?
Why do people engage in flirty behavior on Facebook while in a committed relationship?
What would make you want to have that cake and still eat it?
The reasons vary from person to person. Maybe you like the attention. Perhaps you want to attract a married woman. It could be that you get more from flirty interactions with strangers online than you do from your committed partner.
It all depends on who you are and what you want. However, there are a few reasons that pretty much cut across the boat for most people who choose to walk both paths.
Here is why they do it:
Sometimes you want to know what is out there. The environment around you has probably become somewhat monotonous and too familiar. Maintaining an active online presence means that you get to see what is available without necessarily having to act on it.
You are at home all alone and bored, and you choose to set up an account and get swiping just to pass the time. A lot of these situations start this innocently and blow up into major scandals, especially if your partner or even online flirt companions find out.
You may also be doing it just for fun. There is no denying the thrill that finding a match online gives you. It is, therefore, no wonder that so many people keep coming back for that ego boost and adrenaline high that the whole experience provides.
How online flirting could affect your relationship
It flares up insecurity
If your partner is insecure about herself or your depth of affection, then this would be like pouring gas onto a raging fire. It makes them feel like they are not enough, which is something you never want someone you love to feel.
It could destroy hard-earned trust
Some partners react by getting angry and losing trust in you. It could take a long time to build bridges and get back to where you were. That is why it is not worth it.
It makes you discontent
Knowing that there is something seemingly better out there makes you less appreciative of what you have. Unfortunately, most people learn too late that what they already had was pretty awesome.
It shows a lack of complete commitment
If you are still out and about chatting up sexy singles, then you, my friend, are not ready to settle down. Do yourself and your partner a favor and end things. That way, you get to figure out what you want without having to drag some poor and innocent soul into your emotional shenanigans.
There is more temptation than you can probably handle
You might think that you are the strongest and most self-controlled person on the planet, but trust me, you are a match for the internet.
Somehow these forbidden fruits have a way of making people in the relationship feel the need to cheat. It will be fun at the moment, but reality will come to bite you in the bum soon after.
What to do when you find your partner flirting online?
Finding out your husband or boyfriend flirts online with other people can be really devastating. However, if things are salvageable, there is no reason to throw the whole relationship away!
If you do decide to continue with the relationship, the first thing you need to do is establish boundaries.
Communicate your expectations in terms of exclusivity. If you are not comfortable with them sliding into other people’s DMs or having something like a functional dating profile, you need to be clear about this.
That way, if you catch them on it again, there is no debating about whether or not it is cheating because you already articulated your disapproval.
It is also important to work on existing relationship problems that may have driven your partner away. It could be constant arguing, lack of accommodation, or abuse of any kind.
Sometimes, it is all their fault for having a shady set of morals. In this case, you need to work together to make sure your beau figures their stuff out before they drag your relationship into the mud with them.
So, is Facebook flirting cheating?
In conclusion, flirting online while in a relationship is super shady. However, defining it as cheating depends on so much more than those online receipts.
Remember the golden rule of the three, where there has to be a combination of commitment, incriminating correspondence, and frequency for it to count as cheating.
Whether or not it has crossed the line of harmless flirting, your feelings of discomfort in the situation are more than valid.
To fix your relationship, it’s essential to address these feelings and work on setting solid boundaries. This allows your partner to know when they are going too far if their actions were unwitting.
With these steps, you will be in a position to focus and put in serious effort to make things work, which will leave you with a happy and healthy relationship.