Therapy can be more complicated if the cheating partner doesn’t believe his or her online activities qualify as an affair, Ducharme says.
“The excuses are, ‘I didn’t have sex with this person.
“Your primary partner will never be able to compare with the fantasy partner,” Hertlein says.“They will never win.” According to Young, people with low self-esteem, a distorted body image, an untreated sexual dysfunction or a prior sexual addiction are more at risk to develop addictions to cybersex or online pornography.“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.The typical affair used to start in the office and move to a seedy motel room, but the vast reach of the Internet has brought infidelity into many couples’ homes over the past decade.
The growth in steamy chat room conversations and cybersex also has triggered a rethinking of the meaning of infidelity.While men traditionally have been the more unfaithful sex, gender roles are reversing in some cases as more women experience cybersex.“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.People often feel more comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives to relative strangers because the relationship exists only in cyberspace, Ducharme says. “Some people really begin to think the other person is in love with them.They develop this intimacy and fantasy relationship.Young sees more women who are online cheaters, in part, she says, because women gravitate toward erotic chats and webcam sessions while men often are drawn to pornography.