Is Sexting Cheating in a Relationship?

Does sexting lead to affairs?
on August 17, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Sexting can be a fun way to spice up your relationship, with digital dirty talk acting as a fun form of foreplay!

However, since these conversations don’t include any physical contact, is sexting cheating? If your partner is sexting someone else behind your back, does it count as infidelity? Or is it just harmless fantasy and fun? 

Before you brandish the term ‘cheater’, it’s important to consider your own personal relationship boundaries and what you consider to be cheating in a relationship. 

What is sexting? 

Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit messages or images via text or other forms of social media. This term is a blend of sex and texting, involving suggestive messages shared between consenting adults. 

These flirty texts usually detail sexual fantasies that both partners want to do together, or can be reminiscing on their previous sexual experiences together. In some cases, these text exchanges can include suggestive pics or nudes, but this depends on what you’re comfortable with sharing. 

For some couples, sexting or digital dirty talk can be a fun way to initiate intimate conversations in a safe space. Exchanging these dirty messages can be a great way to start chatting about your fantasies, or can be a fun way to foreplay! 

Does sexting count as cheating? 

Everyone has different relationship boundaries, which means that cheating is subjective depending on the kind of relationship dynamic you’re in. 

While one couple may think sexting is the ultimate betrayal and is a serious form of cheating, other couples may view it as harmless fun. This is why it’s so important to discuss your relationship boundaries with your partner, so there are no blurry lines around what you consider cheating. 

Some couples view porn as cheating, while others think that it’s completely normal. However, since sexting involves the active involvement of two individuals (and is likely someone you know in real life), there are a whole other set of rules.

If you catch your partner sexting someone else, and you had previously made it clear that sexting was off-limits, then it absolutely qualifies as cheating as it’s a direct violation of your boundaries. 

It’s important to remember that even if you haven’t discussed it, most couples view sexting as a betrayal of trust and is generally considered cheating in a monogamous relationship. Even though these sexual conversations only took place over text, and no physical contact took place, it’s still a very intimate act to engage in when you’re in a committed relationship. 

Is sexting worse than cheating? 

Even though physical cheating didn’t take place, sexting could be viewed as an intention to cheat or as evidence of an emotional affair. If your partner views it as such, this could be considered as just as bad, or even worse than a physical affair. 

If your partner considers sexting as a form of infidelity, it also involves an emotional betrayal — disrespectful to their boundaries and to your relationship overall. 

Sexters may defend themselves against cheating allegations by saying that there is no physical relationship with the person on the receiving end of the text messages, or that no physical act took place. 

However, depending on the messages, this kind of contact could indicate an even greater red flag and that there is something more going on beyond just sexts. Therefore, your reaction to the sexts should be evaluated depending on the circumstances overall. 

“The reasons someone feels the craving to sext another person, who is not their partner is important,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“If this is clearly something they know will cause pain to their partner, the motivation for this behavior must be significant. Get curious and make space for what is happening in the relationship prior to the sexting.” 

Is sending nudes cheating? 

Sending nudes to someone outside of your relationship is not very respectful or healthy in any intimate relationship. 

Depending on your boundaries and your relationship status, exchanging nudes is generally considered a violation of trust and is considered a form of infidelity in most relationships. While lewd text messages suggest sexual activity, nudes or sexual videos take things a step further and could therefore be considered an even greater issue. 

In a healthy relationship, neither partner should do anything which could jeopardize your partner’s trust or overall wellness. If sending nudes to someone else is something that you do in secret, or that you actively hide from your partner, it’s a clear sign it violates your relationship in some way. 

What to do if you think your partner is sexting someone else? 

We always say it, listen to your gut and it will usually lead you in the right direction. 

If you feel that your partner may be sexting someone else, or is being unfaithful to you and your relationship boundaries, it’s not something to ignore. 

However, no matter how strongly you believe that something is going on, try and refrain from taking your partner’s phone or snooping through their messages. Invading their privacy in this way is a clear violation of trust and should be avoided in healthy relationships. 

If you’re worried about your partner’s behavior, try and have an open conversation about your concerns, laying your boundaries clearly on the table. In an ideal situation, your partner will come clean about their behavior or offer up to dismiss your concerns with proof. 

Based on this, you can decide whether to trust them or how to move forward.

Should I forgive a partner for sexting? 

No matter how you find out, being confronted with your partner’s sexting habits can be a very overwhelming experience.

"A normal feeling for the betrayed partner when they discover their partner is cheating is to feel like they are not enough,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“That feeling is normal, but I like to remind couples that it is not that someone lacks, but the relationship is disconnected in some way, you could not reach each other and one or both parties reached for something else to feel comforted, soothed, and meet a need.” 

There are a number of things to work through here, “Is it just sexting or is it something more?”, “How many people are they sexting?” or “Are they texting someone they had a previous sexual relationship with?”...

If you consider sexting as cheating, it can be very difficult to know how to move forward, especially if your partner believes they haven’t done anything wrong. 

"At this moment, if your partner feels like they did nothing wrong or dismisses your emotions, it could be worth pivoting away from right and wrong and talking about what the relationship you both want is,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Because that is what is coming into question in that miscommunication.” 

Sexting in this instance is a deep violation of trust and respect, as physical intimacy is usually a very private aspect of your own relationship —- and suddenly that is all stripped away. 

No one can tell you how to react to these circumstances, as only you can decide how to move forward. However, it’s important to give yourself time to process your emotions away from the situation and to decide whether you’re capable of forgiveness. 

If you do decide to forgive your partner, it can be a slow road toward trust, but if you’re both willing to work on the relationship — there is no reason you can’t move past it. 

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