Cyber-Cheating: Is Cyber-Sex Infidelity?
Many of the reasons why people in relationships seek out cybersex is for the same reasons that people cheat in the real world offline. Some do it because they're bored or dissatisfied with their relationships. Some do it for the excitement--for its forbidden nature or for the thrill of having a "secret". Some do it to hurt their partner--whether or not their partner even knows it's going on.
Cybersex is made even easier by the fact that internet sex is so readily available, a major factor in its preponderance. In the same way that bars, night clubs, strip clubs, and other such establishments make opportunities for infidelity so easy to obtain and so hard to resist, so does a computer and an internet connection in every home and office with limitless adult websites all accessible at the click of a button make cyber-cheating such an easy temptation to give in to and such a difficult one to resist.
It is because of this that many types of cyber-affairs have come about:
- people secretly communicating online with people they already know;
- people meeting others online;
- people patronizing the many online sex services available, such as webcam chatrooms and online porn.
To answer the question of what is cyber-cheating, then, it comes clear that we first have to define cybersex. And as we make that attempt, we soon see that what constitutes sex is more subjective than we may have thought. A lot of cybersex users say that if there isnt' any touching then it isn't cheating. The more realistic answer, however, is that sex and infidelity are defined by the two parties in the relationship. It doesn't matter what other people consider to be sex, what other people consider cheating; it matters what you and your lover believe--for it's your lovers feelings at stake, not anyone else's. Consent and concealment are at the core of the issue here; and at the core of matters of consent and concealment is a fundamental matter of trust.
Viewing online porn is a perfect example: some people would consider that cheating, while others would find it perfectly natural, and may even encourage their partner to do it as a "safe" way to satisfy certain needs and desires that may otherwise lead a person down the path of temptation to infidelity.
Another factor that makes cybersex such an easy temptation for unhappy partners in relationship is the relative anonymity of the internet. People can ease their way into affairs, starting out by simply, innocently chatting up people they meet online, deceiving themselves into believing that they're in control, that they're only having some innocent fun, because it's all anonymous and they can log off from their computer at any time. This sounds strikingly like the argument people use to rationalize certain other unacceptable behaviors as well, does it not?
Whatever one's take on the debate over cybersex as cheating, it remains that cyber-cheating is now an increasingly prevalent cause of divorce in America. To grasp the scope of the problem, all you really need to do is take a look at all the electronic surveillance software now being sold online, to help boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, spy on their lovers and spouses, and perhaps catch them in an incriminating act by monitoring their emails and internet activity.
Of course, if you're currently in the position where you feel the need to resort to such tactics to catch a potentially cheating lover or spouse, then one thing is for sure--your relationship is already in big trouble, whether they're cheating or not.
Use of electronic surveillance software to spy on your spouse or lover is not only a dirty and deceitful way to suss out suspect behavior, but it is also of questionable legality. In the case of a divorce, this means that much of the evidence of cyber-cheating that you collect this way may be inadmissible in court. Here a legitimate private eye and/or a lawyer can help you much better (albeit not as inexpensively).
The best way to deal with suspicions of infidelity--online or off--is to ask the other person about it. If you don't have communication in your relationship--the ability to approach each other and openly, honestly, and safely broach concerns and issues like these--then you don't have much of a foundation for a relationship to begin with. At least by asking the person, you give them a chance to come clean and be straight with you. If you want to save your relationship, that's the best place to come from. Then you won't be seeking out an attorney and a judge's ruling; you'll be seeking out couples therapy and a romantic getaway for two instead--a much better option.
The hardest situation regarding cybersex, perhaps, is when the act is out in the open, but one party thinks it's a problem while the other does not. If two people in a relationship don't agree on what constitutes cheating, they open themselves up for serious problems down the line. If you're in a relationship and you haven't already done so, a conversation on what type of internet activities are acceptable and which aren't may be in order. Otherwise, what amounts to an innocent and harmless way to pass the time to one person may come as a crushing betrayal to the other.
About our WomanSavers.com feature writer: Growing up, Josh always felt anxious about dealing with women. At 23 he was still a virgin and never had a girlfriend. That is when he decided something had to change. After devoting himself for 5 years to learning everything he could about relationships - Josh is now the man his buddies come to for dating advice. 300 books or so later, and countless conversations with women, he now publishes Free Dating Advice on the web to help others who are looking for love.
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