Preface: this isn’t about everyday interactions that happen over apps. This is about the personal, one-to-one, and private messages people send with intentions they’d rather keep concealed. There is a vast difference. Often, only the person with hidden intentions or desires knows for sure. People in relationships must be on guard to protect themselves.
It’s also about people who are in love, married or committed. Casual dating is a separate set of expectations and rules. Once you’re committed and monogamous, the expectations morph. The label by which you refer to your relationship isn’t what determines these changes.
I don’t know how to address connections through work or other scenarios adequately. We all know hundreds of stories wherein someone begins to morph a previously business-only exchange into something intimate. That’s what access and proximity do. As Hannibal Lecter quipped, “We covet what we see.” People in relationships need to be aware and prepare for those scenarios too. The most straightforward point to stop it in its tracks is the first time your instincts are triggered. It gets more challenging after that point.
There are a lot of lonely people out there. They have unlimited time and a lot of motivation to make connections. Someone is always going to see something in your partner, whether it is sexual attraction, creativity, or a sense of humor. Some of them will act on it and initiate conversations.
And since I’ve learned these lessons through hypocrisy, my partners will have access to my phone. I don’t have hidden apps, passcodes they don’t know, or anything similar. So if you write me and tell me that you want to eat me alive, my partner could see it.
I’ve been surprised by some great marriages or relationships being imploded because of all this. It only happens when there is a lack of transparency.
If someone reaches out by texting, DMing, or communicating with your partner, that’s normal. It’s no different than someone telling your partner, “Geez, you’re good-looking!” on the street. They might not know your partner is in love or their story. At least that possibly inappropriate or exuberant statement made in public is made in the sunlight openly.
People will cast their nets, take their swing, yolo, and all that. The biological urge toward intimacy and sex is already overwhelming. Apps and cell phones have made such access impossibly easy. What matters is how your partner responds the first time someone does. It reflects everything you need to know about love, respect, and understanding how relationships work in their heads and hearts.
If you’re lucky, neither of you has experienced the agony of being on the wrong side of this. If you have, it leaves scars – and those scars make you suspicious of almost all interactions your partner has. They pay for your previous trauma even when they are behaving appropriately and without concealment.
If they’ve engaged once, much less multiple times, the person trying to insinuate themselves sees an invitation. It’s code. You have to answer the door before someone can get inside.
Access is impossible to control.
Clarity, once it happens, is impossibly simple and elegant. “No thanks.”
A lot of people fail at this point. Whether they are looking for someone else, need validation, or enjoy someone being complimentary, they engage the other person and provide access. It’s not harmless. Just because someone knocks at your door does not mean you need to answer it, much less open it.
It’s a great analogy. “Hello. No, I’m not interested, especially since I’m with someone. But thank you!” That’s perfectly nice and acknowledges the other person – but sets the boundaries.
Imagine if your partner received such unwelcome advances and responded, “Hey, I’ve said no thanks. Does your partner know you’re writing the opposite sex on these apps? Have them call me, and maybe we can be friends.” You know darn well how that would go.
Of course, the texting person’s significant other doesn’t know!
It’s easy to get angry at the other person reaching out to your partner, whether they are in a relationship or not. It is cheating if they are casting nets, even without physical contact. They can deny it all they want. That’s part of the game. They are building a foundation toward intimacy or physical connection. Intimacy, even through the internet, is dangerous to your actual relationship. They’re somewhere in a relationship spending their energy, focus, and time attempting to connect elsewhere. All those comments, jokes, wishes, aspirations, sexual innuendo, and observations? Those could be spent with your actual partner because they are your person and would love to share those interactions with you.
If your partner engages in it, you have to assume they are well aware of the motivations of those doing it. If they are not, take the time to explain it to them – and that it’s hurtful and counterproductive in a committed relationship. It’s hard to imagine in this modern age that someone isn’t aware of the possible hidden agendas of the opposite sex. To be clear, this is NOT always the case. But it so often is. And at the beginning, there is no smoking gun, no direct way to show your partner that you’re right about it. Again, the test is whether that person texting has shared their interactions with their partner: it’s doubtful. And if you’re partner hasn’t shared them with you, that should be a warning sign.
The looming problem is that your partner now has a connection to someone. If you don’t know about it, you can be confident that your partner knows it would hurt you to know or read those messages. It’s how many affairs start—words, innuendo, hidden motivations. People get to know each other, and unwanted behavior blossoms. Fantasies, traded jokes, things that your partner isn’t aware of.
The other person is siphoning your partner’s time and possibly affection. People can be entertaining and engaged through these communications. Your partner might be attracted to having someone light, witty, and perhaps sexual. That’s what “too friendly” means. That mental picture they are creating of the other person isn’t wholly accurate. Generally. Our largest sexual organ is our brain.
Another person talking to someone else’s partner may have only platonic intentions. But the frequency, timing, and content of those messages will reveal such purposes if they are entirely and transparently shared with one’s partner. If your partner reads them and sees something you don’t – or don’t want to believe – you should default to your partner’s interpretation. That’s hard to grasp because you’re too close to see it. But if your partner is concerned enough to admit it, fire lurks in that smoke.
Many men approach their texting targets by slowly revealing things about their lives. They hide subtle or clever innuendos in their texts and wait to see if the person getting them responds in kind, amplifies, or shuts it off. They only need to find a crack, a small willingness, or something missing in that person’s life or heart to escalate.
If either of you is discussing problems in your current relationship, this is a massive red flag and a signal to cut off communications immediately. Once it reaches that stage, one or both of the people engaging in such communication has more than platonic feelings.
The same is true for sexual jokes and innuendo. Once the person gets your partner to allow, much less participate in or encourage, sexual banter, the danger dramatically increases. We’re sexual beings. Banter like that is fun and dangerous. Anyone who underestimates how our biology affects us that way is susceptible to engaging in inappropriate behavior.
Everyone starts by being friendly or being friends.
It all starts with access.
It’s the interaction that opens the door.
For toxic people, they know this and don’t hit the door with a battering ram on the first approach. They knock softly and follow the signs and signals.
It’s not mean to tell someone texting you that you are in a relationship and don’t welcome anything untoward. It is the only healthy response if you’re committed to your partner. One, because your partner is communicating openly to the world that they are in love and committed. Two, it establishes expectations and boundaries with the person reaching out. Three, it’s vital that your partner shut off any further communication once they feel that the line has been crossed.
Above all, share this with your partner, okay? Even the benign messages. But especially the ones that went wonky. If you do that, you will actively demonstrate respect, honesty, and love to your partner. If you don’t, if something suspicious ever occurs, it will be difficult for them to trust you when you talk about what happened.
It’s no crime that someone thinks your partner – or you – is attractive. That’s normal. Communicating it is a delicate situation that easily crosses boundaries.
You don’t accidentally text someone repeatedly. Concealing the time and content of that kind of communication takes effort.
It’s the concealment that triggers the worry.
If your partner sees that you’ve left the door open, it’s hurtful.
It would be best if you were transparent and immediate when someone reaches out to either of you.
Sunlight, above all, for both people’s sake.
Love is supposed to be easy and it’s supposed to be kind. Love is easy but daily living distracts us from the essential nature of a one-on-one relationship. Love is easy as an emotion and much more difficult as a commitment and an action.
I think all of us expect transparency. We just don’t know how to get there. I believe this is especially true for younger people. You achieve it by doing it first. If there’s no reciprocity, that’s something you will have to learn to accept, change, or learn from. In my experience, I have learned that it’s impossible for things to get sideways for either of you in a relationship is transparency is the foundation.
Never catch yourself behaving in a way that would hurt you if your partner did it.
Remember, I confess my hypocrisy.
I’ve seen the danger.
Beware, but love openly and fully.
Protect your partner and your relationship.
It starts with access and ends with concealment.