Is sexting without actual sex cheating? 

Flirting isn't breaking vows, but it is stretching them to the breaking point

I've been married for 20 years. I'm bored. My sex life is dull and predictable. Then, last month, I met a guy at the local Starbucks who clearly has a thing for older women. Oh, my God, I haven't had anybody try to pick me up in years! We exchanged numbers and since then have been texting each other like mad, with the messages becoming increasingly suggestive. We haven't met up again but he's urging me to. I'm not even sure I want an affair but the thought of losing this excitement scares me more. What do I do? Is it wrong to want a little sexual excitement? And at what point do I cross the line (or have I already)?

— Help!

Dear Help,

Is sexting a fling?

If you're the spouse sending and receiving sexy texts, you probably think it's not because hey, nothing actually happened, right? But if you ask, oh, let's say Brett Favre's wife what she thought of her husband's sexy texts to a Jets sideline reporter? You might get a slightly different answer. An answer distinguished by its decibel level.

The same could be said for Sandra Bullock. When she picked up In Touch magazine and read the transcript of the texts her husband Jesse James sent to that walking Petri dish Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, I'm pretty sure she didn't say, "Well, boys will be boys."

The truth is, where there's smoke, there's usually two zippers on fire. But not always. If you ask me, sexting is not the new lipstick on the collar. It's the application of lipstick before you get it on the shirt. As such, sexting doesn't qualify as a fling. Don't confuse the waving of a gun with the shooting of it.

There is a difference between warming the path to an infidelity and actually committing it. You haven't broken your vows, but make no mistake, you're stretching them close to the breaking point.

It's pretty clear that there's a romance deficit in your love life. You seem to be craving the excitement and anticipation more than actual physical contact. Compared to the dullness of your domestic life, these texts have awakened in you what has been buried after years of wifery, motherliness and domesticity.

You're craving admiration, affirmation and validation of your beauty and desirability. Since you're not getting it at home, you're responding to it from an outside source. Let's face it, it's hard to turn down a chef-prepared meal when you've been on a peanut butter and jelly diet.

It would be so easy for me to toe the party line and tell you stop texting this guy, talk to your husband and try to inject more excitement into your marriage, but let's get something straight: In most cases, that won't work and you'll go back to your life of quiet, unromantic desperation. Mostly because guys are clueless and they're not going to change unless the marriage's very existence is threatened. And even then ...

Ladies, you know exactly what I'm talking about. How many have you tried to change your partners into somebody you wanted? How many countless hours have you talked to him about upping the romance quotient? How much money did you spend on couples therapy? And how much effort did he put into it?

I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to your husband about what's going on and try to fix it. If I were your husband, I'd want you to do that. But for millions of wives, bringing that subject up is a BAD idea for all sorts of reasons.

Sometimes life requires you to do the wrong thing to arrive at the right decision. This was beautifully illustrated in a novel by Nick Hornby called How to Be Good. The protagonist is a woman facing the choice between an affair that lights her up like a pinball and a decent, loyal husband she does not want to hurt.

Sound familiar?

The subtext to the novel is clear: Sometimes you have to break your vows in order to save them.

Mike hosts HBO's "The Sex Inspectors," blogs at and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie. Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at

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