Do sexy texts constitute cheating?

A new book warns that even solid couples need to watch for cellular red flags

Read this before sexy texts make you an ex


Innocent texts that morph into full-blown affairs are now so common that one Los Angeles-based family therapist advises all married couples to have a conversation about what constitutes cheating. “Do not assume that everything is okay and that you’re on the same page,” says couples counsellor Sheri Meyers Gantman, whose new book, Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship is “a wake-up call” to spouses to become “affair aware.”

“It’s getting your head out of the sand and looking for red flags. Is your partner on the Internet or BlackBerry all the time? In this day and age, it’s really important to have a conversation of, ‘What is cheating?’ Sending a sexy text? Well, if it’s not okay in real life, why is it okay in cyberspace?”

Flirty texts and emails are “like a drug, and makes us want more,” says Gantman. “First, we go into fantasy, then we go into, ‘I wonder what it would be like if I were with this person?’ And then we start wanting to make it real.”

It can happen to anyone, even people in solid relationships. “You’re at a soccer field with an available parent, and you’re just talking and what you have is so innocent because you’re just sitting there chatting, and you start relating and communicating, and then you start looking forward to seeing that person, and then you start getting up and putting your makeup on to look a little more attractive. We don’t even think we’d have an affair, ever, because we’re so loyal, but before we know it, it overtakes us.”

Plus, it’s in our nature to bond with people, she explains. “We just want to love and connect.” With technology, meeting, staying connected, getting intimate and cheating has never been easier. “Suddenly, without realizing it, more and more of your attention, time, excitement, and affection is focused toward your new friend instead of your primary partner.”

In the book, Gantman provides a list of questions to ask your partner. A yes should set off “blaring alarms.” Ask: “Have you ever exchanged personal information with an online friend that I do not know about? Have you ever sent or received a flirtatious text or email?”

Next, look for behavioural changes. “Your partner may stiffen when you enter the room, or put the phone away suddenly. Is there a shift for no apparent reason in how your partner is treating you? More critical, grouchy, or conversely extra nice?”

Are there changes in your sex life? “Usually women become less interested in sex unless they’re operating a fantasy life. They might want more sex if they’re closing their eyes and thinking of the other person.” One husband told Gantman his wife initiated a fantastic night of lovemaking. “It was totally out of character for her and puzzled me, but I figured I’d roll with it. After being intimate, she got up . . . and her phone buzzed with a text message on the nightstand beside me. It read, ‘I miss you, sexy.’ ”

Before confronting your partner, gather proof positive. “Otherwise you sound like a babbling idiot,” says Gantman. “Be super-extra-cautious not to get caught snooping. Otherwise, you’ll be the one put in the hot seat and accused of being jealous, crazy, and a distrusting lunatic.” Also, without proof positive, your partner will know you’re watching and hide their tracks, she says. “It’s better to be patient and gather the proof.”

When confronting your partner, stay calm, and don’t hit them with all the evidence. “Sometimes you want to suck them in with kindness. Not attack,” she says. “A confession is what you’re after. Once you have a confession you can work at a solution.”

Gantman suggests approaching with the intent to encourage conversation. “Say, ‘I love you. I’m really concerned. This is what I know. But I want to talk to you about it because I want our relationship to work.”

If there’s any hope for the relationship, the truth has to come out. “There has to be illumination. That’s the basis of rebuilding. I do believe that couples can rebuild and be stronger.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.