A friend of mine has a poll up where she asks is having cybersex cheating if you’re married? I voted – my answer was yes – but I wanted to spend a little time talking about my answer here on my own blog and have my own informal survey of readers about this topic.
First off, you’ll note that I changed the question to be about relationships, not just marriage, because I think that it’s critical to recognize that cheating is only cheating – in any form – if it happens within the context of a monogamous relationship. Married or otherwise, if you and your partner have an agreement that you can be intimate with other people, then it’s not cheating. My assumption, then, is that the question really revolves around “what is cheating?” in general.
I might have a romantic, even naive view of a committed, monogamous relationship (to be lazy, I’ll call this a CMR from now on), but if you’re deep into it with a significant other, then I believe that they should be significant, indeed, the most significant person in your life.
Yes, if you have kids they’re darn important, your parents might be on the top of your list, certain long-time friends, etc., but as a general expectation, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that the person with whom you have a CMR should be #1 in your life, and vice-versa.
Given that, if you have needs, emotional or otherwise, that aren’t met by your partner, but can be fulfilled by someone else of the opposite gender, then I suggest that there’s a problem in the fabric of the relationship. If I’m in a serious, long-term relationship – or married – yet feel I can better confide in another woman, not the one with whom I have the relationship, then maybe the relationship itself is not as strong, and we’re not as compatible, as I think.
Now let’s add the sexual dimension here. Just as with the emotional side, I believe that the sexual side should be met by your partner if you’re indeed in a compatible, sympatico, mutually wonderful relationship. Maybe a pipe dream (especially at this point in my life) but surely that’s what makes a good relationship good? After all, if you practice giving as well as taking, view intimacy as play and as a chance to fulfill your partners needs and wants in addition to (and, yes, sometimes instead of) your own, then that should add up to being pretty darn fulfilling for most of us, I’d think.
That’s why I have such a strong reaction to the question. There’s no question in my mind that cybersex – that even having an emotionally intimate relationship with someone of the other gender – is cheating if you’re otherwise in a CMR: It’s about what’s in your heart, not your erogenous zones or any other part of your body…
One easy test: if you don’t want to tell your partner what you’re discussing (or doing!!) with this third party and if you definitely do not want them eavesdropping, that’s a harbinger of big trouble yet to occur.
But I’ve always been a bit of an idealist about relationships, and I do strongly believe in what I call black and white morality: either something is right, or it’s not. With some issues, there’s no gray area. “Well, you were being a jerk, so I’ve been having a relationship with someone else via the computer / phone / whatever” is an excuse, a rationalization, not an explanation of why it’s okay to dally – even just intellectually – with someone else.
Am I looking at this too starkly? Are there times when a little e-nooky is okay even though you – and your partner – are in a committed, long-term monogamous relationship? Or is that all taboo, all cheating, whether you meet in person, have a tryst in a hotel room or trade show, or just exchange steamy email messages and an occasional R or X-rated webcam snap?