When does an innocent text turn into cheating? We ask an expert…

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  • Your smart phone is a great place to find escapism, especially when it comes to scrolling through social media.

    But when does “liking” a photo or direct messaging someone who’s not your partner cross the boundary into texting cheating? And what about chatting to someone via WhatsApp?

    We asked Jessica Leoni, sex and relationship expert for the extra-marital dating site IllicitEncounters.com, who has been counselling couples who’ve gone through infidelity for the past 20 years, to help eradicate this grey area…

    When flirty texts are innocent

    “Context is everything when it comes to texting,” says Jessica. “Are you texting flirtatious messages because you’re a natural flirt and enjoy having banter with friends of the opposite sex? If so, carry on texting and flirting. Life is too short and this really is a bit of harmless fun. Your partner probably won’t enjoy reading your messages, but they know you’re a flirt and they also know that you have strict rules and won’t cross the line.”

    How do flirty texts turn into texting cheating?

    “There’s a very simple rule when a flirty text crosses the line into texting cheating,” says Jessica. “It’s when the flirt is clearly intimating that they want to take things further, such as meeting, swapping sexy pictures, masturbating to mutual dirty talk (lots of people do this, believe me), by phone, FaceTime or Skype. The basic rule is: flirt by all means, but don’t take action.”

    A “kiss” if you’re texting cheating is the same as one in real life

    Even though you’re not necessarily in the same room (or even country sometimes!), if the intention to cheat with someone is there, it’s just as bad as in real life. “If you use text banter as a way to turn a friendship into something more intimate, then show a bit more respect to your partner,” says Jessica. “Texting is just as bad as kissing if it’s part of a strategy to get the recipient of your flirty texts into bed. In that case, putting a kiss (such as using an ‘x’ or emoji) at the end of a message really is as deep a betrayal as a kiss on the lips.”

    Why a flirty “like” on Facebook can lead to texting cheating

    “Social media is a hotbed for affairs,” says Jessica. “At IllicitEncounters.com, 15% of our male members and 13% of our female members have slept with an old friend who they have re-engaged with via social media – particularly Facebook. That boy that you snogged at the school disco 20 years ago – well, he is divorced now, he has aged well and, like you, he is very keen to take things further now that you’re both grown up and it is legal!”

    Watch out for late night texts

    An easy way to tell if someone is sending potentially cheating texts is the time they send them. “Usually, the later the texts, the more sinister the intent,” says Jessica. “All the late night banter is probably the prelude to a booty call.”

    Don’t just block someone

    Suspect someone is messaging you and the reason is not entirely innocent? How you react could be key to it turning into texting cheating. “It really depends if the flirting is unwelcome,” says Jessica. “If you’re attached and the other person genuinely has got the wrong end of the stick, then just be straight with them and tell them honestly that you’re taken and you would rather not cross that line. Most people will respect the fact that you’re clearly setting boundaries. If they ignore that advice, there’s no need to block them – that will just antagonise them. Just ignore their messages.”

    READ MORE: The most popular alibis for cheating partners have been revealed

    Hiding a phone is a sign of cheating

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    How to tell if your partner is texting cheating

    “There are lots of obvious signs that your partner has just started cheating and communicating with their lover through email or text,” says Jessica. These include:

    • Changing their pin on their phone.
    • Being very careful about their phone ever leaving their side (including always charging it next to them at night).
    • They make little changes in their routine so they can spend more time messaging their lover.
    • They may be a little bit more off-hand with you, such as not so affectionate and even a little short-tempered. It’s a myth that cheaters are nicer to their regular partners because they feel guilty about their cheating.

    If you’ve caught someone texting cheating, can you trust them again?

    “For me, it’s a deal breaker because of the breach of trust,” says Jessica. “Why do I want to stay with a liar? Anyone sending inappropriate message will be leading a double life and trying to hide things from you. If you’re not ready to walk out on the relationship, give them a final warning and insist on future access to the phone. I’d also ask for proof that that they have cut off contact with the person they have been messaging.”