The Growth of Internet Affairs

Emotional affair

The internet has created many new opportunities for cheating. Some think if they aren’t having sex with someone else, they can’t be cheating. Unfortunately, there are so many avenues on the internet for people to engage in inappropriate behavior. For some, it starts with sending emails or messages that they wouldn’t want their partner to see. Some develop a sex addiction given the number of free or low-cost ways to be unfaithful online. For the partner who is betrayed, an internet affair is every bit as traumatic as any other.

Some create online profiles where they can pretend to be who they want and glorify the people they communicate with. A purely online relationship doesn’t come with real relationship issues like arguing over the toilet seat position. Sometimes a partner engages in communications with an ex that turn inappropriate. Sometimes a partner prefers anonymity and develops an emotional connection with someone else who may not be the person they claim to be online. A person can begin an emotional affair with a glorified persona while presenting a glorified persona themselves.

Some partners may look at pornography, and their partner may or may not approve. Like any possible infidelity, a key is whether there is secrecy. Does your partner close their browser the instant you walk by? Do they spend a lot of time on the internet without explaining why? The following quiz from Shirley Glass, author of “Not Just Friends”
(2004) may help shed some light on whether an online relationship has become too friendly.

Quiz: Is Your Online Friendship Too Friendly?

  1. Do you find yourself coming to bed later at night because you are chatting on-line?
  2. Do you ever exit a screen because you do not want a family member to see what you are reading or writing to a chat room member?
  3. Have you ever lied to your spouse about your personal internet activities?
  4. Would you feel uncomfortable sharing your Internet coorespondence with your spouse?
  5. Have you ever set up a separate e-mail account or credit card to carry on a personal correspondence with an individual on-line?
  6. Has your Internet correspondence had a negative effect on your work or household tasks?
  7. Have you ever lied in response to a question from your spouse about your e-mail correspondence?
  8. Have you ever exchanged photos of yourself with a secret e-mail correspondent?
  9. Since beginning a secret e-mail correspondence, have you experienced either a loss or an unusual increase in sexual desire with your spouse?
  10. Have you made arrangements to talk secretly on the phone with your e-mail correspondent?
  11. Have you made arrangements to meet with your secret e-mail correspondent?

Scoring Key:

Two or more yes answers to questions 1, 2, 3, 4 indicate a potential Internet romance is developing. It is time to either share your online correspondence with your mate or break off the correspondence and begin to examine how to improve your marriage.

A yes answer to any of questions 5, 5, 7 indicates you are crossing a boundary from an Internet friendship to an Internet romance. Acknowledge this relationship for what it is about to become and take action to preserve and enhance your marriage.

A yes answer to questions 8 or 9 indicates you have begun a fantasy romantic relationship with your online correspondent. Even if it never moves to a physical stage, this relationship has great potential to damage or destroy your marriage.

A yes answer to questions 10 or 11 indicates that you have taken positive action toward initiating an extramarital affair. Consider the impact this will have on your marriage and your children and take steps to sort this out with a professional.”

Individual therapy for relationship issues or couples counseling for cheating may be necessary if you believe that one partner (or if that partner is you) is having an online affair. Building trust takes time, but it can be done and eventually lead to a better sex life.