What Counts as Cheating?
Poor Huma Abedin.
I have no idea what she is like in private, but I cannot help but feel overwhelming sense of sympathy for her each time she stands by the side of her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and current NYC mayoral candidate, as he explains his habit of sending racy messages and pictures of his genitalia to other women.
All joking aside—and it’s hard not to in this situation, given that Weiner’s most recent conference took place on National Hot Dog Day, of all days, the last name of the woman he supposedly sent the messages to is “Leathers,” and his beyond cheesy handle “Carlos Danger”—the situation has left me and others to wonder: is sexting actually cheating?
Legally, speaking, the answer is probably no. After all, there is no actual sex taking place. Emotionally, though, that is another story.
Recently, I took an informal, non-scientific survey, and, overwhelming, the people I asked answered that question with a resounding “yes.” One person even said that she would be more upset over a sexting affair than a one-night stand. Another noted that once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in. Per her “once one relationship taboo is broken, then it’s so much easier to go a little further each time.” Words become pictures, pictures become calls, calls turn into “What if we met? Just the once, just to see… ?” And then soon after, you have a full blown physical affair on your hands.
I agree with her.
However, I also know others who don’t see sexting as cheating.
About a year ago, I became acquainted with one woman who, despite having briefly left her husband for another man, she “fell in love with” primarily over email saw sexting as a tool to “keep the passion alive” in her marriage. In her case, she and another man who lived across the country exchanged racy photos and texts on a regular weekly basis. I don’t know if her husband knew about this, but I thought that at the very least, the relationship she and he had was not nearly as great as she claimed it was given how she reached out to other men on two separate occasions. I don’t think it was necessarily sex either.
While she and others maintain there is no cheating if there is no physical contact, I argue it is and far from spicing up a marriage; sexting is a clear sign that there are serious problems in a relationship that go well beyond sex.
At the very least, there is a level of deceit going on. Telling your spouse that you have a friendship with another person is a lot different than telling him the two of you are exchanging sexually explicit words and pictures. I have never had a problem if any of the men I have been involved with had friends of the opposite sex, but just the idea that they were exchanging in the sort of behavior that Weiner has would be enough to make me see red.
Frankly, I would prefer my partner have sex with that other person, because at least then he would have to acknowledge it was cheating.
While some may argue that it’s not that much different from watching porn, it is. At least when someone pops in a Jenna Jameson DVD they never realistically expect to meet or establish any sort of relationship with Jameson. They know she is a fantasy. Sexting, no matter how “light” the relationship, is still a relationship much in the same way that it’s still a relationship even when people agree to meet just for sex.
In today’s world where everyone and their grandmother is plugged in and online, you hear a lot of people lament the lack of intimacy and contact between people.
I have a different take.
I don’t think the technology is to blame.
Rather, I think it reflects the loneliness and disconnect that many people have felt throughout human history. Being in an unhappy relationship is not new. Cheating spouses are nothing new either. While technology may have made it easier to allowed the other spouse to find out about the cheating and unhappiness, an argument can be made that maybe it’s for the better. As much as it hurts to be lied to and find out that your partner was not the man or woman you though they were, it also forces you to face the reality of your situation and decide if you want to stay or not.
Whether or not someone decides to stay is a personal choice. However, I tend to believe it takes a lot of help including help from a professional to re-establish those bounds of trust.
Even if you could, would you want to go through your significant other’s phone, computer, etc. and see every single electronic messages they are sending?
Also, if you happen to be the one sexting you need to be honest and ask yourself what is missing in your current relationship that makes you want to reach out to others?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to the questions that I pose and the “delete” button doesn’t always make everything go away.
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Ed: B. Bemel