Online Flirting – When does it become Cheating?

Flirting is a natural part of life, not just for singles, but also for people who are in official relationships. Yes – many people in committed relationships flirt all the time, mostly without even realizing they are doing so.  For many, flirting is so natural that it becomes part of bonding and communicating with other people, and therefore part of their actual character. This is especially true when it comes to those friendships which are nurtured online.

Many people argue that what happens on the internet ‘is not real’, and that what takes place online is separate from what happens in everyday life. Yet, it is also true that people have broken up over particular Facebook friendships/conversations/issues; there have been reported murders and suicides caused by things which happened on the net; and countless people lost their jobs because of online content. On the other hand, people have met, fallen in love and married thanks to Facebook, lives have been saved because of information sharing, causes were taken up, embraced and supported through online polling – in other words, lives, people, and society itself, was changed by the internet.

In a nutshell, our e-lives are much too intricate and complicated to not be real. The internet can provide a space for complete anonymity.  People can lie about any and all aspects of their lives and who they are.  Men can pose as women and vice versa.  Adults can pose as children.  Married people can pose as single – it never ends.

It is a well-known fact that cyber-cheating is more appealing to women, as this involves mostly cheating from the emotional, not physical perspective. Harmless online friendships can develop into intense emotional affairs, and people who feel that their partners do not give them enough time or attention, often turn to possible online relationships in order to fill-in that particular emptiness within their own ‘real-life’ relationship.

So, when does online flirting become cheating?

When you are behind a computer screen, it’s generally much easier to say and express feelings which you are not gutsy enough to do ‘in real life’. It is much easier to hook and chat up someone online than it is in the world out there, mostly because most of the time, you can keep telling yourself that it is ‘not serious’, and that it is not something which is really happening, because you are not actually talking to a ‘real person’, but just to a screen. When does innocent flirting and joking stop being harmless? When does it cross the boundaries and actually become unacceptable?

Of course, every relationship is different, therefore these boundaries differ depending on the individuals concerned. Mostly however it is pretty obvious, that if you feel the need to hide and be secretive about your online friendship with a specific someone, if you close the chat window every time you hear your partner come into the room, if you feel the need to justify and rationalize, saying it’s ‘just friendship’ – it obviously isn’t. Pushing further, if you feel like you have to message and contact this person more than once a day, if you spend hours and hours online every day chatting to them before you go to sleep – more time, in fact, than you spend with your real partner, and if your light flirting turns into sexual banter or the acting out of sexual fantasies, there actually IS something going on.

Most likely that person you are talking to – that wonderful fantasy man who seems perfect, terrific, funny, and kind, without any horrible traits or irritating habits, is in reality, a person who does not exist. It is easy to edit one’s words and change the truth when typing in chat. A real man, with all his faults, can never measure up to a fantasy and one cannot compare a fictitious relationship to a real one, however the point is, if you are investing so much time on someone you don’t even know, instead of on your real relationship with your partner, you should really stop and think about the reason.

A committed relationship is not just physical, it is also emotional, in fact, intimate involvement has more to do with emotional honesty and sharing than it does with sex. If you are feeling emotionally passionate towards someone who is not your partner – if you can’t wait to get to your computer to chat with another man, chances are you are not finding what you need in your actual relationship, as you prefer to spend time with someone you cannot even see, than with your significant other.

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