Is maintaining continual close relationships considered online cheating in marriage?

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Answered by: Shawn, An Expert in the Conflict Issues in Marriage Category
You have just liked a new picture Steve has posted, and you are about to send an ironically comical meme to Brian. Alex has told you that he will text you later tonight. Like many of the 213 million North American users of Facebook, you are staying in close contact with friends past and present, literal and digital. The widespread assimilation of social media into our daily (or, for some, hourly or momentary) lives allows us to stay in contact with many whom, without the constantly sliding morality scale of social media, we would find contact questionable. Many, however, do so without questioning whether or not maintaining continual close relationships is considered online cheating in marriage or long-term relationships (LTR).

Imagine now the not wholly unlikely scenario in which Steve is an ex-husband, Brian is your closest male friend, and Alex is the overly flirtatious co-worker whose lunch break, more often than not, coincidentally coincides with yours. You have never physically been disloyal with them while in your current marriage or LTR, yet you have and privately acknowledge some kind of bond that exists with all of them. Are you cheating?

Here are a few tips and strategies for dealing with online relationships in your marriage or LTR:

1. Be overly communicative with your spouse or partner. If these relationships truly are platonic, then why couldn't or wouldn't you tell your dearly beloved spouse about them?

2. Follow the Hypocritical Oath - If I would be angered, hurt, or betrayed if my spouse engaged in this kind of relationship, I should not engage in one myself.

3. Think deeply about the reasons for your contact. Most of the time cheating is not physical. It is mental and/or emotional. It stems from some sort of perceived need or void that we have within ourselves. Consider what those extra-marital bonds do for you and discuss the pertinent issues with your spouse in hopes that they may fill those voids instead.

4. Set boundaries with your spouse. Every relationship has a different set of boundaries. Whatever yours are, let them be spoken and mutually agreed upon so that they are perfectly clear. You may both agree that everything up to the line of physicality is harmless. You may agree that an emotional relationship is much worse than a physical one and takes a longer toll on the marriage.

5. Prioritize. Even if your spouse sees no harm in a bit of online flirtation, remember that they are your spouse. Relationships need time together. Try not to trade potential quality time with your spouse for more hours on social media. Life is short and the human relationships you cherish most will be those you have put the most into throughout the longest duration of your life.

Whether or not you believe maintaining continual relationships to be online cheating in marriage or a long-term relationship, the issues have certainly permeated through society and relationships in ways that can be potentially destructive. The American Bar Association recently stated that Facebook was the source of the most evidence in their divorce cases. The boundaries have become blurred and the ability to engage in disloyalty has challenged society's morals and values in epic ways. Who will you be texting today?

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