The Reasons Why Your Spouse Had an Affair Online

Are internet affairs different?

The Reasons Why Your Spouse Had an Affair Online

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. If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?

“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs. “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.

Women usually feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are more concerned about physical encounters, Hertlein says, but the gender differences are lessening.

“That is starting to even out in part because of the equality of opportunity that the Internet brings to everybody,” she says.

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. “Women are supposed to be the nurturers and the matriarchs in our society.”

Due to the secretive nature of online affairs, reliable statistics are hard to find, but a 2005 study of 1,828 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 ly to engage in cybersex as those who were single. But gender and age made a difference.

While men’s interest in cybersex decreased with age, women’s interest increased slightly, with 37 percent of women age 35 to 49 reporting cybersexual experiences compared with only a quarter of men in the same age group (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 3).

A 2008 Australian study offers more insight into Internet affairs.

It found that of 183 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 Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 2). More than half of the respondents believed an online relationship constituted unfaithfulness, with the numbers climbing to 71 percent for cybersex and 82 percent for in-person meetings.

Kimberly Young, PhD, who directs the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pa.

, says about half of the couples in her practice are seeking counseling because of online affairs or excessive use of online pornography.

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.

“The Internet is opening up these new ways of exploring your sexuality and that includes infidelity,” she says.

Right under your nose

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.

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.

“It starts in the home, which is very different than most affairs. It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, PhD, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions. “You can’t usually get rid of your computer in the house. Every time you walk by, you’re asking yourself if he or she is using it for an affair.”

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. “On the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. You can type, backspace, delete. You don’t have to be this constrained person you think you should be.”

Fantasy also is a huge factor in online affairs, and fantasy always trumps reality. “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.

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.

I didn’t go out and see anybody or catch any diseases,’” she says.

“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. A 2008 article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (Vol. 34, No.

4) by Hertlein and a colleague reviewed eight studies of Internet affairs and documented many negative effects from online romances, including less interest in sex in the committed relationship and neglect of work and time with children.

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.

Reasons behind cheating

Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity. “The Internet is extremely accessible no matter where you are,” Hertlein says. “You could be at home or at work or sitting on the couch with your partner chatting to someone online.”

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.

“It’s really difficult to track what your partner is doing,” Hertlein says. “There aren’t receipts for hotels or dinners or excursions.” With the faceless nature of the Internet, anonymity also is easy to come by.

People often feel more comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives to relative strangers because the relationship exists only in cyberspace, Ducharme says. “Things happen so quickly online,” she says.

“Some people really begin to think the other person is in love with them. They develop this intimacy and fantasy relationship. The cool thing about fantasy relationships is they don’t require any work.”

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 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.

“In terms of treatment, the first step is about the individual taking responsibility for the online affair,” she says. “But the couple also needs to examine what was happening in their marriage that led to one of them cheating online.”

Brendan L. Smith is a writer in Washington, D.C.


Emotional Affairs and Texting

The Reasons Why Your Spouse Had an Affair Online

This is the fourth article in our seven part Causes of Divorce series. Links to the other articles are at the bottom of the page.

Is Texting Someone You Find Attractive Cheating?

If you take a look around at the couples you know, it might seem cheating is rampant. Unfortunately, the statistics support this observation. One survey for the Institute for Family Studies showed that 20% of men and 13% of women report cheating on their husband or wife. 1

Maybe you’ve even had (or been) an unfaithful spouse yourself before. If so, then you probably know that emotional infidelity can be every bit as painful as sexual infidelity.

Nowadays, it seems we’re all glued to our phones. Frequent texting on the part of one spouse (even with a close friend of the opposite sex) isn’t necessarily a relationship red flag, but how can you tell where a close friendship ends and an emotional affair begins? 

Let’s explore the connection between emotional affairs and texting whether your marriage is solid or you’re doomed for divorce.

Signs of Emotional Cheating

So, you’ve been feeling some emotional distance between you and your spouse, but you’re not sure if it’s because another person has become the new object of emotional intimacy. 

Above all else, you’ll want to trust your instincts, because you know your marriage and your spouse better than we ever could. However, here are some hints that you may want to look for as you process your feelings and decide whether your current relationship is here to stay.

1. You or your partner has been hiding their phone.

Even if there hasn’t been any physical intimacy outside of the marriage, secrecy is a pretty reliable sign that what you thought was a platonic relationship may actually be something more. There is no innocent reason why a married person would instantly stash their phone as soon as their spouse enters the room. 

If this is a pattern that you’ve noticed your husband or wife engaging in, your suspicions are probably warranted. If this is something you’ve noticed yourself doing, then it’s probably time to examine how you feel about the friend you’ve been texting. 

Does the emotional bond you feel toward them rise above the level of platonic friendship after all? If not, then what exactly do you feel you have to hide from your spouse?

One thing to keep in mind is that this is probably only something to worry about if it’s been happening consistently for an extended period of time. Otherwise, maybe your partner is just planning some sort of surprise for you, or perhaps you and your friend have just been talking about a sensitive topic that you fear would hurt your wife or husband’s feelings. 

Hiding your phone doesn’t make a dear friend an emotional affair partner unless your main  concern is that your partner will see that you’re talking to them.

2. You or your spouse can’t stop talking about their new friend.

It’s normal to be excited when a new friendship really just clicks, and it’s normal to want to share your excitement with your partner. However, if this new friend has become the main topic of conversation, what does that remind you of? 

Chances are, you were approximately that chatty about your spouse when the two of you first met.

As a married couple, you and your partner are supposed to be each other’s primary relationship. If one of you seems positively obsessed with someone else, then that’s probably where they’re directing most of their emotional energy, and this “friend” might actually be their partner in an emotional affair. 

A possibly inappropriate level of emotional attachment doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your spouse are headed for divorce, but it’s an excellent reason to examine the level of intimacy within your marriage. 

A married man and woman probably won’t always feel head-over-heels for each other, but intimate conversation should be a staple in any committed relationship. We all crave emotional connection, so if you and your spouse aren’t getting it from each other, it’s very ly that one of you is engaged in an emotional affair.

3. You or your spouse has changed their work schedule.

Coupled with other signs of emotional cheating, a change in work schedule might occur because you or your partner wants to make more time for that questionable friend. This might indicate that the emotional affair has turned into a full-on extramarital affair, but it doesn’t have to. 

Whether or not the relationship has progressed to physical adultery, changing your work schedule with someone else in mind demonstrates a new level of commitment that we don’t normally make for our platonic friends.

This sign is particularly dicey, however, because there are so many other, innocent reasons why you or your partner would change their schedule. As a result, you really have to examine the surrounding circumstances. For instance, if your spouse is “working” a lot more than usual but there doesn’t seem to be any extra money coming in, then you probably have a cheating partner on your hands. 

At that point, it might not even matter to you whether it’s physical infidelity or a purely emotional affair.

4. You believe that this new friend understands you better than your spouse.

Of course, this fourth sign of an emotional affair only applies if it’s you who might be having one. After all, you can’t read your spouse’s mind, and this probably isn’t the sort of information they would volunteer unless they were in the process of asking for a divorce. 

The same logic applies to your own feelings, though — if this is a thought you’ve been having, then your relationship with your spouse might be nearing its end.

Feeling this way doesn’t just speak to the intimacy you’ve developed with your new friend. It also exposes a dearth of intimacy with your spouse, which is the real relationship red flag. Maybe this is even the real distinction between friendship and emotional infidelity — a friend is just a friend until they begin to replace your spouse.

What should you do if you find out that your partner is having an emotional affair over texting?

How you should react when you come face to face with your partner’s emotional infidelity depends on your needs and values. For example, some people might consider an emotional affair to be the greatest betrayal possible, while others might consider a physical affair to be much more serious.

Certainly, if you know that you value honesty above all else and don’t believe you’ll ever be able to trust your partner again after discovering their emotional cheating, then ending the relationship is the only real option. You shouldn’t stay in a relationship unless you have faith that it can be a happy one.

That being said, there is some data regarding how people do react when affairs come to light. According to a survey conducted by Health Testing Centers, when men admitted to cheating, they ended the relationship themselves 13.

9% of the time, and their partners ended the relationship 22.2% of the time. 2 Meanwhile, when women admitted to cheating, they ended the relationship 21.1% of the time, and their partners ended the relationship 10.9% of the time.


Assuming that most of the survey participants were in heterosexual relationships, these numbers suggest that women are more ly than men to end a relationship when infidelity comes to light. 

It should be noted that most of the survey participants admitted to physical cheating rather than a purely emotional affair, but it’s possible that this discrepancy occurs no matter the details of the intimate relationship in question.

What’s the difference between an emotional affair and friendship?

If there’s any good thing you can say about a sexual affair, it’s that it’s pretty easy to spot one. That just isn’t true when it comes to emotional affairs. There really is a very fine line between an innocent friendship and a threat to your marriage. 

The question it all comes down to is this: is one spouse’s new “friend” beginning to replace the other spouse? This can take many forms — the potential cheater might be spending more time with their supposed friend than with their spouse, or they might be talking about more intimate topics with their friend than with their spouse. 

Whatever the exact change is, you know that a friendship has crossed the line when it has become more, better, or deeper than the marriage.

Remember, though: just because you know it’s an emotional affair doesn’t mean your marriage has to end. If you and your spouse are committed to work through this, then you shouldn’t let any third party stand in the way.

Why do emotional affairs happen?

There is no single cause of all emotional affairs, but there has been plenty of research that might shed some light on this question. Most of the time, there is underlying dissatisfaction that prompts married people to seek emotional support outside of their partnership. 

According to research conducted by psychologist and infidelity expert Shirley Glass, 48% of men cited emotional dissatisfaction as the primary reason they cheated, while only 34% of women who had affairs said they were either happy or very happy in their marriage. 4

That isn’t very specific, but psychologist Mark Borg has some deeper insight. According to him, “The epidemic of emotional affairs coincides with a tendency that we have noticed for people in long-term relationships to defend themselves psychologically. That is, ironically protect themselves from anxiety-provoking aspects of love.” 5

So, if you want to prevent an emotional affair in your relationship, the best thing you can do is be vulnerable with your spouse, and maybe even give up a little bit of control.

How long do emotional affairs last?

The answer to this question also varies, of course, and there isn’t much data available regarding this exact question. However, we do know that the hormonally excited, “in love” stage of a new relationship “typically lasts six to 18 months, and occasionally as long as three years,” according to Denise Bartell, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. 6

We also know that affairs in general do not make a very good basis for a long-lasting marriage. Only 5 to 7% of affairs ultimately lead to marriage, and 75% of those resulting marriages ultimately end in divorce. 7 This makes sense intuitively, but relationship expert Stephanie Stewart put it best: 

Shame and guilt greatly overshadow a relationship that started as an affair, so it’s very difficult to be wholehearted. The longevity of the relationship is impacted by their emotional intelligence/management and reasons for being in an affair. Are they truly connected and in love, or are they each filling a void? 8

Do emotional affairs turn into love?

They certainly can, but that doesn’t mean that they always will. All of the same factors that determine whether any two people with chemistry fall in love apply here as well.

 Do they have shared interests? Are their values and lifestyles compatible? Do they want to fall in love? There is one major additional factor here, though: is it more important to the married participant to work things out with their spouse?

Even if the emotional affair does ultimately break up a marriage, that doesn’t mean it’s a love that will last forever. Sometimes an emotional affair begins because the guilty party’s spouse was not meeting all of their needs. When their spouse is the picture, they might realize that their new relationship doesn’t meet all of their needs, either. 

New relationship energy can be exciting, but the only way to tell if a relationship can stand the test of time is to wait and see.

Do emotional affairs turn physical?

They definitely can, but they often don’t. How do we know this is true? Well, in a massive, ongoing online survey (with well over 90,000 participants), 91% of women and 77.5% of men admitted to having an emotional affair. 9

Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality estimated that roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. 10  This discrepancy also suggests that many people do not consider emotional affairs to constitute infidelity, even if they might simultaneously think that engaging in an emotional affair is wrong.

In the next article of this series, we discuss when to walk away from a sexless marriage.




3) Id.





8) Id.


10) Buss, D. M., & Shackelford, T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193-221.


Добавить комментарий

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: