Published in Uncategorised by Dr Andreas Vossler of The Open University on October 18th 2021
Since what's acceptable online behaviour is particular to each individual and couple, it is important to have a conversation about each other's boundaries.
It’s clear from the research that what’s seen as problematic or cheating online behaviour is highly subjective. For more information, see our ‘what is cheating online?’ page. This means that online activities that are OK for one partner in a relationship may not be OK for the other partner, and vice versa. It is therefore important to not just assume that your partner's idea of cheating online is the same as yours but rather talk openly to your partner about these issues. Having a conversation about these issues will help a couple to negotiate boundaries in regard to what is acceptable behaviour online in their relationship and what not.
Sitting down with your partner and talking about sexual and intimate online behaviour can feel a bit awkward at first. To start the conversation, it might be a good idea to look at examples of potentially problematic online activities together and discuss how each partner would feel if the other were to engage in these.
In the section below you’ll find a checklist of online activities that you might want to discuss with your partner. It’ll be important to make the communication two-way and share concerns and feelings with each other. The aim should be to try and understand what each other is saying without judging, attacking or criticising. Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this conversation.
The aim should be to try and understand what each other is saying without judging, attacking or criticising
When talking with a partner about what’s OK online, and what isn’t, it can be helpful to go through a list of online activities. The Online Activity and Behaviour Checklist (OABCL) is based on previous research and it covers a broad range of online activities which could potentially be problematic:
How would you feel if you partner were to:
1. Get involved in sexual activities online:
2. Use the internet to exchange images with someone else:
3. Get emotionally involved with another person online:
4. Hide the fact that they are in a relationship online:
5. Use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to meet up with other people:
6. Spend a lot of their time with activities online:
7. Plan to and meet online contacts in the ‘real' world:
8. Use the internet to secretly view sexual images:
Which of these online activities would you perceive as cheating in committed relationship? Which of these are OK? How does your partner feel about this?
To see the full list of research references which have informed the content on this page, please see our research references section.