The Sex Doctors are In

Is sexting cheating?

Posted by Ian Kerner

Is "sexting" really cheating? Well, if, like Congressman Anthony Wiener, you're married and sexting someone other than your spouse (and without your partner's knowledge or approval), of course it is!  With its easy accessibility and novelty, the Internet enables us to easily tune out and turn off to our partners, when we should be making an effort to tune in and turn on.


The instant gratification of these technologies stimulates reward centers in the brain, and soon we find ourselves craving the quick hit of an instant connection or lamenting its absence.

Real relationships take time and patience, whereas sexting a stranger or engaging in a flirtatious Facebook friendship brings us a quick thrill and requires a lot less work. And the more technology becomes a personal accessory that renders us always on, the more likely we are to become novelty seekers in search of the next ping.

We live in an era when many consider sexual infidelity to be the ultimate personal betrayal. But there are those who believe that if infidelity doesn't involve a physical component, it's not really cheating--and that's just not true.

The accessibility of the Internet means that we need to be more vigilant of emotional infidelity, and seemingly benign activities that nonetheless have a sexual and secretive component.

In her seminal book on emotional infidelity, "Not Just Friends," the late psychotherapist Shirley Glass implores readers to "maintain appropriate walls and windows. Keep the windows open at home. Put up privacy walls with others who could threaten your marriage." She contends than an emotional affair is marked by three distinguishing qualities:

- Close friendship and emotional intimacy. An emotional affair often begins as friendship and gradually drifts into something more. While friendship alone isn't enough to qualify as cheating, a feeling of shared closeness and understanding is the starting point for an emotional affair.


- Sexual attraction. An emotional affair is fueled by feelings of attraction between two people. 


- Secrecy. Here's where friendship and attraction cross the line into emotional cheating. In an emotional affair, each person stops sharing certain aspects of the friendship with his or her partner, and starts confiding more in the "friend" and less in his or her partner.

We're all living, breathing sexual beings. Attraction doesn't end once we're in a relationship. Even the most happily coupled people are going to feel the familiar buzz of attraction when someone catches their eye or laughs at one of their jokes. And as I discussed in another piece on negotiated monogamy, some couples are even willing to expand the boundaries of flirtation and accepted behavior within their relationship.

Relationships often start out in the "fast lane," but eventually we find a comfortable cruising speed in the middle lane, and sometimes switch over to the slow lane.

Some relationships run out of fuel altogether, and every couple needs a jump-start every now and then. Instead of seeking that jolt of excitement from outside your relationship, make more of an effort to seek it within.

As I discuss in my book "52 Weeks of Amazing Sex," "Technology can be a powerful way to enhance a relationship: Sexting, engaging in phone sex, playing on Skype, and sending flirty emails are all great"-- just do them with your partner, not with your Twitter followers.