As I read the piece, I delightfully found that it wasn’t just a rehash of the usual trashy women’s magazine tidbits on “signs you may be cheating.” Close, but fortunately there were a few intriguing perspectives on the psychology of what may be considered unfaithful response behavior to what you may not even see as “cheating.”
Without a doubt, all the gadgets and toys we have at our fingertips make communicating much easier – and there’s no question that for some of us, they remove the barriers of shyness and social awkwardness. Texting and email provide the opportunity to share, suggest and say things that would normally make us blush in a face-to-face moment.
But at the same time, all these things open a Pandora’s box of hidden temptation and escapism from what may seemingly feel like a “routine” relationship in our offline lives. As such, the biggest and most obvious factor is not so much about what you are doing – but how you hide it from your partner, and why you may not let them in on what is going on.
Secrecy“Experts agree that secrecy is the number one sign that your chatting may amount to cheating. If you close computer windows when your lover walks in, delete your browsing history or erase messages and emails, you may want to consider whether or not you're being honest with your partner (and yourself) about your online relationships.
“But some degree of privacy is natural, so how do you know if your secrecy is a sign of infidelity?
“According to infidelity expert Katherine Hertlein, it's really about how your partner would react if they knew what you were up to. ‘If your private chat was revealed and your partner would feel hurt by both the content of it and the fact that you purposely concealed it, you're probably bordering on unhealthy secrecy.’
“Dr. Sheri Myers, author of Chatting or Cheating, agrees. ‘Being secretive is a sign that you're having an affair. Flirtation can be fun and it's harmless if it's out in the open. The dangerous part is when it crosses the line into secrecy. Flirtatious text messages, self-revealing chats, and intimate confessions can fuel a unique cocktail of brain chemistry that can turn a platonic friendship into an addictive, all-consuming affair of the heart.’
“If you find yourself being secretive about an online friendship, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what toll this friendship is taking on your primary relationship.”
Is there a clear solution to finding a balance between the excitement beyond the traditional boundaries of marriage and blowing it all up for the sake of answering the eternal “what if” question? Not really.
Where we can gain a lot of ground towards the open door is through constant communication with our partner.
I’m no expert, but a lot of this does ring true in my own life. I have a great deal of freedom to explore and flirt, however I also understand that it can be a very precarious balancing act. It can be very easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget yourself in the moment. Then, when the dust settles you begin to see that perhaps there were some things that should have been shared/discussed/thought-out. What may have been to one person an insignificant exchange of texts or emails, may be seen as something deeper by the partner left out of the moment.
Which brings us to the emotional aspect of it all …
Emotional Get-off“Research suggests that the mere thought of receiving an email or text message can create a natural high for regular text and email users, as our dopamine levels spike. It follows that the thought of receiving a potential flirtatious message would also create an instant high and the desire to seek more gratification. Recognizing the difference between excitement for the unknown and the desire for emotional and intimate fulfillment is essential.
“’Though your sexy chats may produce a sense of relief and pleasure,’ Dr. Sheri warns that you may be idealizing your online relationship on account of chemical changes in the brain. ‘Biochemical research has shown that the effect of these love chemicals is twofold: they are released in response to your friend, and they bond you to him or her.’”
I have dabbled a great deal online – especially in the last 10 years as I began to explore more about my sexual interests and as my website grew into what it is today. Along the way I have chatted with many great guys, a few women and a few … well, let’s just call them “intriguing individuals.” Naturally, a number of those conversations and emails have been of a sexual nature and the door has always been open for my partner to ask – even participate – in them.
I admit it was fun and exciting in the beginning stages, but as we discover with certain things in life, routine can settle in and the thrill diminishes. These days my online chatting has been limited to a few very good friends – and, of course, the fun nonsense that has emerged from Twitter and my blog.
But I believe a lot of that can be carefully managed by being open with your partner – and including them in the excitement that it creates. Because it is very true, that when things get hot, heavy and sexually-charged, we all tend to become more inwardly-focused and possessive of our own satisfaction. And that can lead to the secrecy of it all, which will quickly bring about the polar opposites of emotion: hurt and betrayal.