Denise van Outen on her break-up: sexting is cheating

Denise van Outen. (Getty Images)
Denise van Outen defines what counts as infidelity. (Getty Images)

Denise Van Outen split from her fiance in January after discovering he had been virtually flirting sexually – something she counts as cheating – her new book reveals.

The all-rounder actor, singer, dancer and presenter, 47, details in A Bit Of Me: From Basildon To Broadway And Back how her boyfriend of seven years Eddie Boxshall had been allegedly flirting sexually with three women, which she says was "disrespectful and devastatingly hurtful".

The pair had appeared regularly together on Channel 4's Celebrity Gogglebox.

Van Outen opens up about how she found pictures and Instagram messages on Boxshall's iPad, explaining, "Among photos was a screenshot... of a woman's breasts – and they definitely weren't mine!

"Also, there was a flirty text exchange between Eddie and this woman, which, of course, set off alarm bells."

Read more: Sexting: Two thirds of sexters send flirty messages 'for non-sexual purposes'

Eddie Boxshall and Denise Van Outen attend the annual Global Gift Gala London at Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel on October 17, 2019 in London, England. (Getty Images)
Eddie Boxshall and Denise Van Outen had been together for seven years. (Getty Images)

She said this all happened in a week she had booked for the pair to go on holiday together to Spain. "Eddie decided not to come to Spain because he didn't feel well," she recalls. "While sympathetic, I was slightly confused about why he couldn't chill with me beside the pool but could still manage to go to the pub."

The Strictly Come Dancing star found selfies of her partner with a woman in a bar on the same day he had said he was in London for business.

By analysing the photo, she realised she was not the same as the woman in the first photos. This then got worse, as she also discovered messages implying 'phone sex' with a third woman.

Van Outen decided to contact the third woman for more information. She said, "They'd never met in person, but she said the conversations had become sexual in nature reasonably quickly – some of the stuff I found on the phone seemed to support that."

Read more: Denise van Outen opens up about Eddie Boxshall split

She added, making her stance clear, "To me, sexual chats and continued communication over a long period of time amount to cheating.

"Especially when it’s done from a home I’d strived to build for us as a family. A home that Eddie found and I bought for us.

"A home we’d only just moved into when it all started. It was disrespectful and devastatingly hurtful.’

When confronted, Boxshall denied doing anything wrong, but Van Outen told him to leave. She said the thing she battled with the most was that it wasn't just one person, one mistake or a drunken night, but that it had gone on for more than three years, saying she felt "betrayed" and "in pain and shock".

She added, "If I hadn’t found those pictures, I’d be planning a wedding right now. Instead, I’ve simply got to move on."

Watch: Australia ex-captain to take 'leave of absence' from cricket after sexting scandal

So, is 'sexting' always considered cheating? It seems it depends on the opinion of the couple or, indeed, of the individual. Dr Gemma Harris, Clinical Psychologist, known as '@theexdoctor' on Instagram, says, "Sexting, along with other electronic means of establishing intimacy and connection, are still a relatively modern phenomenon, and many people find themselves trying to get to grips with the way they conceptualise this intimacy and make it safe."

While some people are very clear that, for them, sexting is cheating, she explains, others may view it as the start of a slippery slope of boundary shifts that damage the relationship.

Read more: Should you stay friends with your ex? Here's what the British public think

Rationalising it, she adds,"I tend to think about emotional intimacy with others presenting on a continuum of intensity and risk, and your preferred comfort zone of risk can be quite personal, linked to your attachment patterns, relationship expectations and emotional needs along with the current condition of your relationship.

"Essentially, your comfort zone of risk – how much sexting troubles you – can be linked to fairly stable factors in you and to variable factors regarding your relationship wellbeing and your resilience at that time."

In a nutshell, while those who view flirty texts as cheating are entirely valid in their opinion and those who view it as acceptable if paired with transparency, Dr Harris says, "There is no absolute right or wrong!"

Man texting. (Getty Images)
Do you think sexting counts as cheating? (Getty Images)