The discovery that your partner is having an affair is shocking, upsetting and painful. But if it is an online affair, it can also be confusing. Many questions may be going through your mind. "Was it really an affair?" "Why would my spouse want an affair when they have me?" "What is the appeal of an online affair?"
Growing numbers of couples are affected by cybersex and online affairs. These may be a sign of sex addiction, of which there are many types. Online affairs can be difficult to understand, both for the injured partner and for therapists who are accustomed to working with couples affected by in-person affairs. While your first reaction may be to try and get full disclosure from your cheating spouse in the hope of understanding why it happened, be patient. Discovering and understanding your partner's online affair is a process that takes time.
Here are some reasons that people in relationships may pursue an online affair:
Online affairs allow people who are in relationships already to seek out affairs without worrying they are going to get caught. Whereas with a regular affair, they might worry that their partner, a friend, neighbor or acquaintance may see them with another sexual partner, online, people can create their own identities. Meeting in a chat room allows the cheating spouse to hide behind a screen name, without having to deal with the human aspects of meeting someone, such as facial expression, body language, and even physical appearance.
Online affairs are easy to initiate, as there are many chat rooms and websites set up for this specific purpose. The technology required to access the internet is increasingly cheap, accessible, and flexible. Someone considering having an affair can quickly get drawn into a secret world of online infidelity, as initial curiosity can rapidly escalate and the cheating spouse can get caught up in the excitement of the moment.
People who choose to have an online affair rather than an in-person affair may rationalize that it is not a real affair, because the people concerned have not met, and may even live on opposite sides of the globe. It can feel like an escape for the mundane reality of relationships and activities in the real world, operating far more in the domain of fantasy.
Will It Last?
Online affairs are typically short-lived, but with the ever abundant source of willing partners at their fingertips, the cheating spouse can slip into becoming addicted to online affairs in the same way they can get addicted to other behaviors. If you or your partner are compulsively seeking sexual contact online, you can and should seek help.Sources
Carnes, P., Delmonico, D., Griffin, E. & Moriarity, J. In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior. Second edition. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
Young, K., Cooper, A., O'Mara, J. & Buchanan, J. "Online Infidelity: A New Dimension in Couple Relationships with Implications for Evaluation and Treatment." Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7:59-74. 2000.