When Does Flirting Become Cheating?

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When Does Flirting Become Cheating?
In the world of online communication, the boundary between flirting and cheating can be hard to spot

This guest article from Psych Central was written by Therese J. Borchard

According to psychologist Michael Brickey, author of Defying Aging and many other relationship experts, playful bantering or gentle flirting with someone outside of your marriage is harmless if proper boundaries remain intact. Those boundaries differ with each relationship, of course. What would be considered a violation in one marriage might be perfectly acceptable for another couple. Difference of opinions even occur within a marriage.

For example, I know a woman who recently asked her husband to either give her his Facebook password or close out his account after she found an email that he had sent to a former classmate that she found to be rather suggestive. He disagreed and thought it was perfectly appropriate.

Social media sites and online interaction are pushing this issue to dinner tables across the country — much more so than in the past. Katherine Hertlein, a licensed marriage and family therapist interviewed by DiscoveryNews.com, explains, “You don’t actually recognize that you’re growing closer to someone on the Internet because it just looks like you’re having a conversation, and that’s why I think it could be really seductive in some ways.”

Hertlein belives that cyber cheating is especially appealing to women because they can get their emotional needs met behind a computer in the comfort of their home. However, many polls indicate that seemingly harmless online friendships often develop into intense emotional and physical affairs that can devastate marriages.

So, when does flirting cross that invincible line from innocent bantering to dangerous dialogue? After researching the topic and talking to a few family therapists, I pulled together the following 9 red flags.

1. When it’s secretive.

If you are deleting your emails—either to her or from her—that’s a red flag. Because by deleting you are guessing that your spouse would be upset if she read them, and that you are covering up something. Moreover, ask yourself this question: “How would I feel if I knew my wife (or husband) was corresponding to an attractive man in the way I talk to X?” If you feel an uncomfortable knot in your stomach upon answering that question, there you go.

2. If it has a sexual agenda.

This isn’t always obvious, of course. But if you notice that your correspondence with this person feeds your sexual fantasies about him, then you are probably in dangerous waters. If the communications consist of subtle sexual overtones, watch out. If it feels like foreplay in anyway, that’s not good.

Next: More Boundaries...

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

John M. Grohol

Psychologist

Dr. John Grohol is a mental health expert and founder of Psych Central. He has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues, and the intersection of technology and psychology since 1992.

Location: Newburyport, MA
Credentials: PsyD
Website: PsychCentral
Other Articles/News by John M. Grohol:

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