“With the Internet, we’re moving away from just physical ideas about infidelity and acknowledging emotional infidelity.” While there is no universally accepted definition, an Internet affair frequently involves intimate chat sessions and sexually stimulating conversation or cybersex, which may include filming mutual masturbation with a Web camera.
Several studies suggest that even when there is no in-person contact, online affairs can be just as devastating as the real-world variety, triggering feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy.
Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week.
While TV viewing has remained fairly constant, time spent surfing the Web has increased more than 120 percent over the last five years.
After an Internet affair, couples often need to move the home computer to a public space, such as the living room, and install tracking or blocking software, Ducharme says.
But to build lasting trust, couples must dig deeper in therapy.
It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, Ph D, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions.
“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.
“In terms of treatment, the first step is about the individual taking responsibility for the online affair,” she says.
She's wearing a little black dress and drinking merlot from a shatterproof wineglass one of her viewers sent her after she'd broken a real one on camera.
“But the other partner often feels such an emotional betrayal that they are going through the same feelings as if their partner was having a real affair.” Online affairs can contribute to divorce and child custody fights as the involved partner becomes more enmeshed in the online relationship. Almost two-thirds of the participants in one study reported they had met and had sex with their Internet partners; only 44 percent of them reported using condoms.
Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity.
If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?