Internet Infidelity: Does it Really Count as an Affair?

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Steamy chat room conversations.

Lewd joking, flirting, exchanging intimate or even sexy emails.


All online. With someone you never met in person… someone other than your spouse.

If there is no physical contact or real sex involved, does it actually count as cheating?

Some people feel there is no difference between physical and online affairs. Others would disagree.

The Many Faces of Infidelity

Due to the ever increasing influence of the internet, our ideas about infidelity are shifting away from just being physical to including emotional and verbal aspects as well.

Cheating is defined as verbal, emotional, or physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse. If this is a relationship where two people get their needs for intimacy met outside their marriage, it becomes an affair.

Thus, having a secret intimate connection to someone other than your partner online can also be defined as cheating. This contact may simply be of an emotional nature, but it involves secrecy and channeling attention, time, and energy into someone outside your marriage.

But it can also be of a sexual nature and include viewing explicitly sexual images of each other or having sexually stimulating chat sessions with the goal to become aroused. It could also go as far as cybersex, utilizing verbal, audible, or visible (via a web camera) stimulation for mutual masturbation.

In either case, it’s a form of betrayal of loyalty to your partner.

The Allure of Internet Infidelity

The growing instances of people getting entangled in online affairs can’t be ignored. Why is there such a strong enticement for individuals of all walks of life to engage in this practice?

Briefly, consider a few ways internet cheating is appealing:

1. It’s so easy – anyone can do it!

With more and more people going online, everyone is simply more available via various forms of electronic devices—be that computers, tablets, or phones. Which also means that internet affairs involve less work and fewer expenses. You can meet anywhere at any time. Moreover, being online offers a certain anonymity and freedom from reality.

2. It’s a total rush!

In the heat of the moment of engaging in sensual and naughty conversation—or more—your blood rushes anywhere but your brain. A completely exhilarating surge of emotions and instant gratification can be irresistible and addictive.

3. It’s not “real” – it’s just fantasy!

The defense that there’s no substance to an internet affair—that it’s just talking about sex, not actually engaging in it—is a welcome reason for many to try it. In general, getting involved in lewd conduct on the Internet is seen as a lesser degree of betrayal, since it’s more imagination than reality. In fact, the aspect of fantasy is what creates such a big draw. You can be anyone you want to be, completely unconstrained. And since fantasy always trumps reality, people get so wrapped up in it that they totally forget the reality.

The Big Deal About Online Infidelity

This leads us back to the crux of the matter: Is online infidelity really just fantasy? Or does it truly count as cheating or an affair?

While many may not like to admit it, to some degree—consciously or subconsciously—they understand that their sexual encounters online are real. How so? Because they have a high level of psychological reality.

For example, when people engage in intimate chatting or cybersex, they experience emotions similar to those connected to offline relationships. Their encounters often involve feeling desire, attraction, sexual arousal, and even orgasm and satisfaction. Those are all very real and passionate components of intimacy.

In the end, the emotional betrayal involved with having an internet affair—virtual sex included or not—can cause just as much damage to your relationship as a physical affair. That’s because the most damaging aspect of an emotional affair is the whole matter of deception and rejection. Not only has trust been broken, but the feelings that once existed between spouses have now transferred to somebody else.

For those who have been deceived and betrayed in that manner, the lack of physical contact doesn’t lessen the sense of violation they feel. If it was all so harmless, why did their spouse try to conceal it in the first place? That’s why the betrayed partner usually doesn’t consider it simply fantasy or just an anonymous interaction with a computer. For them, it often is a highly emotional matter that can trigger insecurity, jealousy, and anger.

Yes, internet infidelity has real consequences because it involves real people and real feelings. Feelings that can get hurt so much that it could lead to the complete disintegration of your marriage. Is it worth taking that risk for a fantasy?