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Cyber infidelity occurs when a partner in a committed relationship uses a computer to violate agreements of sexual exclusivity (which, in some dyads, could involve solitary cyber-sex.) An Internet affair uses interactive computer chat to create exchanges for the purpose of sexually arousing oneself or others, and creating shared sexual excitement often culminating in simultaneous mutual masturbation. Resurrecting sex: Resolving sexual problems and rejuvenating your relationship.
Many of our clients' Internet affairs involved sexual engagement or emotional sharing with others, a desire for romantic involvement supposedly reserved for their spouse, and other signs of emotional investment such as fantasized or planned real meetings.
Growing up in an emotionally volatile or sexually/physically abusive household accentuates this normal anxiety arousal-sexual arousal pattern into a dominant sexual response (Schnarch, 2002).
Given that a third of women are sexually abused growing up, we believe this explains the large number of women, in particular, who have Internet affairs.
Internet affairs often go through progressive steps: non-sexually-explicit flirting, sexual innuendo and explicit repartee, scheduling sex-laced chats, discussing sexual preferences and fantasies, simultaneous masturbation online, and planning or (in fewer cases) conducting face-to-face meetings and physical contact.
In some cases, the original contact was not about flirting or sex, but started as getting acquainted and emotional sharing and proceeded through increased sexual involvement.
Another survey of 7000 people indicated 60 percent did not consider cyber-sex with another person to be infidelity, likening it more to pornography and less like a real relationship.
However, such rationalizations are negated by reports from those who have Internet affairs that "intimacy," "closeness," and personal disclosures make cyber-sex seductive.
We find women are as likely to engage in cyber-affairs as men, including many who in daily life had never had an emotional or sexual extramarital liaison.
Internet affairs are the epitome of self-presentation (i.e., presenting yourself the way you want to be seen) and the antithesis of intimacy (self-confrontation and self-disclosure in the presence of a partner (see Schnarch, 1991).
Elsewhere we have written that "...a cyber-relationship may approximate a real relationship-but then so does sex with an inflatable doll.
People who are dependent on their partner's validation and acceptance "go underground" and keep their secret erotic side hidden from their mate. Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An integration of sexual and marital therapy.
But while the prospect of sex and intimacy without anxiety, vulnerability, or risk of rejection or embarrassment appeals to many, Internet affairs rarely develop into satisfying long-term emotionally committed relationships.