Online cheating is infidelity even without physical contact, says expert
No matter how others might justify it, experts agree that online cheating is infidelity. It doesn't matter if there has been no physical intimacy.
Infidelity comes in many painful forms. There are those who have sex with someone other than their spouse. While there are those who carry on flirtatious exchanges, justifying the harmlessness of it, unaware that they are already treading on emotional cheating territory.
One form of emotional cheating is online cheating. It can be in the form of suggestive chatting to full blown cybersex; whatever form it takes, it is definitely a form of cheating that can be damaging to a marriage, writes psychologist Elizabeth Hartney.
Cybersex, though not involving physical touch, is not simply talking about sex, it is a form of sex. It is an encounter that, much like actual intercourse, involves arousal, masturbation, and even climax. If this sexual stimulation leads to emotional attachment, then it becomes an even deeper problem.
According to Marriage.com, cybersex can cause someone to take family responsibilities for granted. It can also cause a disinterest in sex with their partner as well as sleep and behavioral problems.
What do real couples think about online cheating?
For some couples, cybersex does not really count as "real" cheating. About 60% of couples surveyed by Psychology Today believe is a form of sexual expression that can be used to prevent "actual cheating."
"My wife doesn't care if I have relationships (even sexual) on the Internet. It's like it's not real. I can get away with it. But I'm sure she'd get upset if we were to meet for a drink or something," wrote a 41-year-old married man in Love Online.
For others, engaging in cybersex without telling your partner is a form of cheating because it involves the element of deception. They believe openness with one another while engaging in sexual encounters on the internet is a form of fantasy fulfillment, which can even spice up their sex life.
But there are those who have been hurt by spouses because of the emotional investment that so often comes with online sexual encounters.
"I recently found a love letter my husband sent to a woman via email," said an anonymous reader who sent a message to Psychology Today. "I know there has been no physical contact because she lives across the country, but I still feel betrayed, humiliated, and hurt."
Though it is up to couples to define what sexual and emotional boundaries are best to make their marriage work, it is important to remember that anything that involves deception could deeply hurt your partner and destroy what you've built over the years, no matter how "harmless" you believe it is.
What do you think? Is online cheating really cheating?