Is 'sexting' the new-age version of infidelity?

13 June 2011 - 00:23 By SHANTHINI NAIDOO

Huma Abedin is the pregnant wife of "sexting" US Congressman Anthony Weiner. She is a tall, good-looking woman. Abedin is also the woman behind the woman: an aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton. A dream wife, one might say.

Her husband, the unfortunately named Weiner, has admitted to inappropriate telephone, email and twitter conversations with six women over three years. He sent explicit photos of his crotch to a woman who was not his wife.

Weiner said he did not break any laws and will not resign from office.

Where does that leave Abedin?

The 34-year-old Abedin was absent from a humiliating press conference, and then left on a diplomatic trip later in the week.

A close friend quoted in a UK paper said: "She loves her husband very much. She is committed to her husband and her marriage. I think people have weathered worse."

Relationship expert Ali Murray said Abedin has a tough call to make.

The first thing she must do is decide if her husband cheated or not.

"The big question here is whether online virtual sexual activity and viewing pornography is cheating on your partner. While some people would definitely view this as cheating, others see it as a way to pep up their tired, monotonous sex lives in a safe and germ-free way," Murray said.

She said Abedin may have been aware of her husband's activities.

Clinical sexologist Leandie Buys said while flirting can make people feel good about themselves, hidingflirtatious behaviour from your partner is cause for concern - online or not.

Buys agreed with Murray that cybersex can have benefits in a long-distance relationship or to live out fantasies with your partner.

"But cybersex with a stranger can be very dangerous. You don't know who's watching or reading the communication, and you may find yourself a victim of Internet pornography. Cybersex can become a 'substitute' for a real relationship and may cause problems in your social interactions in real life. In some cases, it even becomes an addiction," Buys said.

For singles, the lack of physical and emotional connection also means cybersex may leave a person feeling "empty" due to the lack of intimacy. So even if Weiner didn't actually have sex, Abedin's issue is one of trust, rather than infidelity.