LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - You might like texting, frown upon sexting, but now comes "chexting" -- and it can lead to big trouble. Just ask Tiger Woods and Jesse James.
Golf superstar Woods and TV celebrity James, who is married to Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, have seen their lives unravel amid revelations of cheating on their spouses, in part by arranging liaisons via text messages.
Their affairs have spawned a new word in pop culture, chexting, and raised the question of whether it really is cheating on a spouse. The experts say, you bet it is.
"It's lipstick on the cellular -- digital proof that becomes evidence you've been unfaithful," says Peter Dedman of Predicto Mobile, the largest paid mobile community in America.
In today's digital age, where cell phones come equipped with their own typing keyboards separate from the number pads, texting has become more popular than e-mailing for some, and sending a text from a small phone can be done almost anywhere.
It is instant gratification and contact, but for those who have a hard time staying faithful, texting has become medium to facilitate their cheating.
Los Angeles family law attorney Stacy D. Phillips says she's seeing more and more divorce cases involving spouses being unfaithful through technology -- including Internet chat rooms, instant messages and texts.
Part of the allure, she says, is that the "chext" is not finished when both parties stop sending messages.
"The person can keep re-reading the texts throughout the day, getting titillated all over again," she said.
Victoria Namkung, co-founded of the website MyVeryWorstDate.com -- where people submit their worst dating experiences -- says half of the website's submissions involve issues of betrayal through digital technology.
She cites the story of a woman who was on her fourth date with a man who excused himself to use the restroom. Moments later, she received a text from the mens room with a picture he had taken of himself in a compromising position.
The woman was horrified, but no more than the man when he learned what happened. He apologized and just as she was about to accept his mea culpa, he admitted: "I sent it to the wrong person in my address book!"
The date soon ended.
But if you send the right chext to the right person it is probably titillating, which keeps an affair going.
"It's giving them a rush - it's exciting," said clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist Stella Resnick. "The fact that they are not telling anybody else and sneaking around on their partner adds to the excitment."
Resnick likens this behavior to that of a teenager rebelling against their parent.
"If you're married, going against your spouse is asserting your independence. That feels sexy. If you're under somebody else's control, breaking out of that gives a feeling of exhilaration and power."
But don't be fooled into thinking you're safe. If you've sexted and chexted, you might soon be "exted" by your spouse.
Dedman said one of the first places a suspicious spouse may look for evidence of cheating is a cell phone contact list.
And deleting a chext doesn't mean it is no longer stored in a phone's memory, said Michelle Jerson, who hosts a radio relationship show on New Jersey 101.5.
"There's software you can download to retrieve erased data," she said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte.