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Help us improve your experience by providing feedback on this. Historically, men have been more likely to cheat, but cybersex may be changing that, research suggests. The growth in steamy chat room conversations and cybersex also has triggered a rethinking of the meaning of infidelity. If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair? 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. While men traditionally have been the more unfaithful sex, gender roles are reversing in some cases as more women experience cybersex.
Due to the secretive nature of online affairs, reliable statistics are hard to find, but a study of 1, Web users in Sweden offers evidence about the prevalence of cybersex and online affairs. Almost a third of the participants reported cybersexual experiences, and people in committed relationships were just as likely to engage in cybersex as those who were single. But gender and age made a difference. A Australian study offers more insight into Internet affairs.
It found that of adults who were currently or recently in a relationship, more than 10 percent had formed intimate online relationships, 8 percent had experienced cybersex and 6 percent had met their Internet partners in person Australian Journal of Counselling PsychologyVol. More than half of the respondents believed an online relationship constituted unfaithfulness, with the s climbing to 71 percent for cybersex and 82 percent for in-person meetings.
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. 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 percent over the last five years.
With the burgeoning use of the Internet, many practitioners are seeing more couples because of online affairs and are addressing new issues in therapy, psychologists say. While most relationships are hampered by such workday realities as household chores and paying the bills, online relationships exist in an electronic nether world where strangers can construct their own identities, Hertlein says. You can type, backspace, delete.
Fantasy also is a huge factor in online affairs, and fantasy always trumps reality. 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.
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. As costs for Internet access have dropped, online affairs are also very affordable. They can be easy to conceal, as long as the cheating partner deletes the Web browser history and any incriminating e-mails.
People often feel more comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives to relative strangers because the relationship exists only in cyberspace, Ducharme says. They develop this intimacy and fantasy relationship.
Therapy is similar for online or traditional affairs, with couples working on issues of trust, betrayal and forgiveness. Hertlein also encourages couples to use the Internet to strengthen their relationships by enjoying pornography sites together or visiting websites for ideas about romantic dates or new sexual skills. After an Internet affair, couples often Is chatting with someone online cheating 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.
up now ». Feature Are Internet affairs different? By Brendan L. Smith MarchVol 42, No. Cite this. Smith, B. Are internet affairs different? Monitor on Psychology42 3. Right under your nose Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week. Smith is a writer in Washington, D.
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