**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
Communicating is easier than ever. A variety of apps, platforms, and services allow us to stay connected with the people in our lives. But keeping the lines of communication open can also have its disadvantages.
It recently came to my friend's attention that her boyfriend of three years has had inappropriate exchanges with several women on WhatsApp.
"We were in bed, and he thought I was asleep," she told me. "He obviously didn't realize that I could see his phone. What I saw was very disturbing."
My friend gasped when she saw several revealing selfies, explicit messages, and professions of love and admiration toward other women. It felt like a punch in the gut.
When confronted, her boyfriend did not attempt to downplay his inappropriate behavior. "He came clean," she said. "He admitted that he had been sexting with several different women before we got together and continued after things got serious between us."
Because the women lived in different parts of the world, he didn't consider it was cheating. "How could he think I would be okay with that?" my friend wondered.
They're in the process of sorting out their issues. But this experience has left my friend feeling vulnerable and betrayed.
"If you discover that your partner is sexting someone else, you may feel sadness, confusion, loneliness, and anger. You might even feel a sense of vengeance and desire to hurt your partner as much as they hurt you." —Nicole Arzt , LMFT
Is Texting Cheating?
There is no definitive line between flirting and cheating. It's a very personal, subjective thing. But couples should prioritize discussing their thoughts and feelings about what cheating is or isn't before any problems arise.
It's also important to remember that communication isn't just about words but actions as well. My friend's boyfriend may not have been physically cheating, but his actions still created distance in the relationship.
"Similarly, there are multiple types of cheating. Sexting falls within the larger category of cyber or online affairs. Even if physical intimacy isn’t involved, emotional affairs and online infidelity can be just as damaging, as they are inherently flirtatious and intimate." —Nicole Arzt , LMFT
Virtual Infidelity Creates Mistrust
My friend's experience has made her more aware of how technology can harm relationships. She now realizes that it's not just about what happens offline but online as well.
This experience has made her more conscious about what's important to her in a relationship. "I want someone who respects my boundaries and values me enough to keep their communication with other people appropriate," she said.
She also acknowledges that she and her boyfriend failed to discuss boundaries and expectations before they got together. "It's hard to be angry at someone for not following rules you never put in place," she said.
My friend and her boyfriend are trying to figure out a way to move on from this experience. Still, this experience has shaken the foundation of their relationship.
What do you think? Is texting cheating? What should couples do to ensure a healthy and honest relationship? Share your thoughts in the comments.