THE BLOG
04/07/2014 02:37 pm ET Updated Jun 07, 2014

Has Your Flirt-Texting Turned Into Cheating?

Dean Belcher via Getty Images

Flirty texts and emails may never become physical, but that doesn't mean you're not having an affair. Messages that blur the line between teasing and intimacy, or that replace feelings you should be getting from your partner, can quickly violate relationship boundaries, even if you don't recognize the situation as dangerous. So, when does simple flirt-texting become cheating? Here are five warning signs.

1. You Text in Secret

If you are deleting your flirty texts, you already know, consciously or not, that your partner would be upset if they read them. Put the boot on the other foot and ask how you would feel if you found this message on your other half's phone? Suspicious? Uncomfortable? If the messages undermine trust, you shouldn't have sent them the first place.

The simple fact is that people who cheat, lie. If you're covering your tracks so your partner can't catch you in the act, you're having an affair, whether sex is involved or not.

2. Your Texts Are a Relationship Surrogate

Your banter may be as sexual as discussing the latest episode of "Master Chef," but if you're spending more time texting your friend than you are with your partner, it's time to ask yourself why. If your texting companion is feeding your ego in a way that partner doesn't, beware. You're using the flirtation to plug the holes in your relationship in a cheap and unsustainable way, rather than having the difficult conversations with your partner.

3. You're Rationalizing

Telling yourself "he's just a friend" is a tacit admission that he isn't. You're playing the "technical" game here (technically, we are not intimate; technically, we do not date), when cheating is all about intent. Safe friendships need no such justification. Even if they did, wouldn't a truly committed person forfeit their text-flirting out of respect for their relationship?

4. You Have Lax Boundaries

Innocent flirting has many advantages. It makes you feel young, attractive and noticed. When the world is out to get you, flirting can boost your fragile ego and put you back on your A-game. In the workplace, professional flirting can oil the wheels of industry -- no harm, no foul.

The key word here is innocent. Most people are capable of deciphering when the risks of flirting outweigh its rewards. Others are compulsive flirters who constantly seek the attention of others in order to feel good about themselves.

If you have a deep-seated need to flirt, stop texting now. The truth is, many behavioral-flirters have lax boundaries. What begins innocently enough is pushed and forced to its bitter conclusion -- possibly a fully-fledged affair -- because you simply can't help yourself. Better to remove the temptation before you cause incurable damage.

5. It's Deliberate

Deliberate flirt-texting is usually done for one of two reasons: to test the waters for a potential relationship, or to provoke a reaction from your partner. If you're looking for love elsewhere, taking time out to reappraise your relationship is the only kind thing to do. Salvaging a troubled relationship is tough; saving one that has suffered the stigma of an affair is tougher still -- and you'll never manage it while your emotions are invested elsewhere.

Flirt-texting to provoke a reaction is cruel. Perhaps you feel that your spouse doesn't find you attractive anymore or pay you enough attention. Having someone else tell you that you're sexy, smart and funny can make your partner sit up and take notice. But it's also manipulative. Your partner will likely feel used and you'll struggle to regain the power you've lost in your relationship once you've strayed. There are healthier ways to validate your self-esteem without undermining the years of trust you've established with your spouse or partner.

Establish healthy boundaries for your relationship. If you have the desire to flirt text for attention and to boost your ego, try sending a sexy text to them -- you may just re-ignite a fire in your relationship.