Do you know someone who has had an online affair? Is it still considered an affair if there is no physical contact? The reality is that Internet infidelity is on the rise and triggers the same feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy for the partner that a real-world affair causes. An article written by Brendan Smith for the APA Monitor discusses the differences with typical affairs versus cybersex. Katherine Hertlein, Ph.D. reported that women are more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are concerned with physical connections. Sadly, these affairs occur literally under our own roof and can wreak havoc on marriage and families. For many, the fantasy that one can create from this virtual relationship is a huge draw. Several studies cite drivers for online affairs, namely, accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. The focus of therapy remains the same as with traditional affairs including trust issues, betrayal and forgiveness. In my experience, unfaithfulness is often tied to individual issues such as restlessness/boredom, seeking a conquest/challenge, need for acceptance/affirmation, and power/control. Marriages that lack emotional and physical connection, unresolved conflict/emotion, and limited time for fun/connection are also more vulnerable for an extramarital affair either of an emotional or physical nature. I’d suggest taking a proactive approach by feeding your marriage regularly and addressing any individual issues that create a greater risk for failure. Acknowledge your fears and insecurities openly so that you can move towards healing. Communicate your needs directly and accept responsibility for changing yourself. Marriage takes work, but can be the best relationship you’ll ever have.
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