Before getting into whether or not online flirting is cheating, let’s ask the question: what is cheating?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of the phrasal verb “cheat on” is “to break a promise made to someone by having sex with someone else.”
But is this all that cheating really is? While the dictionary definition may only qualify cheating as having sex with another party who is not your partner, more often than not, your partner will have some more opinions about what counts as cheating.
Many people classify cheating or infidelity as any action that violates the relationship’s agreed-upon emotional and/or sexual exclusivity. But what does this mean? Basically, even if you never end up taking someone to bed, if you have been flirting with them and expressing your interest in them, this can count as cheating in most people’s eyes.
So, this brings us to our big question: is online flirting cheating?
The simple answer to this question is yes. According to our definition of cheating above, online flirting can definitely be considered cheating. But, just like anything else in a relationship, the true answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes.
This said, numerous consequences come with any type of flirting while in a relationship — including online flirting.
Before diving into these consequences, let’s highlight some common examples of online flirting since what is and is not counted as flirting can be different from person to person and relationship to relationship.
Examples of Online Flirting
Everyone has a different definition of what exactly counts as flirting and what doesn’t. But, there are often some generalizations that you can use to easily determine if what you are doing is flirting or not.
Some examples of flirtatious actions online are:
- Messaging people with winking or other flirty emojis
- Asking someone to meet you somewhere behind your significant other’s back
- Constantly messaging someone in a flirtatious way
- Any online activity or interaction you feel you are hiding from your partner
- Liking all of someone’s social media photos and leaving comments about their appearance
Of course, not all of these actions are definitively flirtatious, and this list is meant to be more of a guide rather than a strict rule set. However, a good rule of thumb is if you are doing something that you would not feel comfortable with your partner finding out, it is probably crossing into the flirting zone.
If in doubt of whether or not something is flirting, you can always ask your partner if they are uncomfortable with a certain action because, after all, the people whose opinion matters the most in this scenario are theirs and yours.
Now that we’ve looked at some examples of online flirting, let’s jump into some potential consequences of this type of activity on your relationship.
Consequences of Online Flirting
As mentioned above, flirting while in a relationship can have some very serious consequences for your relationship. Here are some of the consequences you may face in this situation.
Going Too Far
Most relationships start with flirting. Suppose you are flirting with someone else while in a relationship; you may go too far and develop feelings of affection or attraction to the other person. This can lead to instances of cheating and infidelity to your current partner and hurt not only your current partner but also the person you are flirting with as well.
Can Cause Jealousy
We are all familiar with the feeling of jealousy. We all know that it is not a fun emotion. So why would you want to engage in an activity that is very likely to make your partner feel jealous?
Intimate relationships are more than simple acquaintanceships. When we’re in an intimate relationship, we expect to be the exclusive partner and recipient of affection. However, this view can become challenged if you see your partner offering the same compliments and affection toward others. When this happens, it is very common for a partner to become jealous and even become more distant in the relationship — which brings us to our next point.
Reduced Intimacy with Your Partner
As human beings, we are generally quite adept at picking up on where people’s attentions are. So whether you notice that they are constantly spending more time with their phones than they are with you or not, this ability to pick up on the connection (or lack thereof) within your relationship can result in a more pronounced distance between you and your partner.
This is because when we feel ignored or less important than someone (or something else), most people’s response is to mimic the behavior. This means that if your partner is feeling ignored, they may respond by also ignoring you (or doing activities by themself that can occupy them without your presence), which can result in a larger emotional gap in your relationship.
This gap can also present itself in the form of less sexual or physical intimacy since many people may find a lack of emotional connection decreases their desires to be physically intimate.
Can Affect Your Career
This one mainly comes up as a consequence if the person you are flirting with is a co-worker or otherwise a work-related acquaintance. But, this said, flirtatious behavior in the workplace is a pretty common scenario, and it is no surprise since many of us spend 8 hours a day around our co-workers.
But keep in mind that flirting at work is always a risky move — even if you are not in a relationship already. This is because if something goes wrong and the interactions get too far or turn sour, you and that individual still need to be able to work together on a daily basis. So, it is often best to avoid flirting with co-workers, even if it is online, to spare yourself the possibility of making your daily job uncomfortable or unenjoyable.
Can Hurt Feelings
Not only can online flirting hurt your partner’s feelings, but it can also end up hurting the feelings of the person you are flirting with as well. This is because while you may be flirting with the person, you may have no intentions of taking the relationship any further — whereas they might. They may feel that if you are flirting with them, your current relationship is not happy, or you are already in the process of ending it and getting their hopes up about a future relationship with you.
Can Result in a Ruined Relationship
And finally, the last consequence of online flirting is, of course, the end of your relationship. Now, this is not to say that if you flirt online with one person once, your relationship is 100% doomed to fail. But, when it comes to flirting outside of your relationship, the end of that relationship is a very common and natural consequence.
This is because if your partner perceives your online flirting ass cheating or infidelity, they are unlikely to want to remain in the relationship because they may feel like they are not the recipient of your love anymore.
When in Doubt, Don’t Flirt!
We know it is much easier to say “don’t flirt” than it is to actually do it — especially if you are not trying to intentionally flirt with someone and they have perceived it as flirting. This said the best way to understand what is and is not cheating in your partner’s eyes is simply to ask them.
Having a serious conversation about your relationship, boundaries, and what to do if there is a question about those boundaries can be a great way to avoid any drama caused by online flirting.
Now, if you aren’t sure how to bring this topic up, you might find that talking with a therapist can be a great help. A therapist can provide you and your partner with a safe space to discuss these important boundaries to avoid the consequences of online flirting or cheating in your relationship.
So, if you are ready to draw out your boundaries when it comes to flirting and cheating with your partner in a safe and accepting space, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow.