Every week I receive lots of letters from women complaining that their boyfriends or husbands are engaged in a little online lust-fest. Is cybersex really cheating? Does it mean he loves me less? Is looking at porn on the Internet as bad as flirting with someone anonymously in a chat room?
Most of the women who write to me believe that cybersex is cheating. Here's the rub: a surprising number of men (54% in fact, according to Divorce Magazine,) believe it's not.
Sure, typing words on a keyboard is not exactly the same thing as making out with a stranger in a bar after too many cosmopolitans, or sleeping with a coworker on a business trip. Unfortunately, what women seem to understand that men frequently do not is that online relationships mean intimacy between two real people, whether they are in the same room (or Jacuzzi) or not.
Lots of guys use Internet flirting or cybersex as a sort of interactive girly magazine, and frankly, they leave their emotions at the bathroom door. The problem is that to women, both the woman in their lives and the woman on the other end of the DSL, the interaction is real. A cyber-relationship holds promise, and to a wife or girlfriend that promise feels like a very real threat.
There's more. According to recent studies, (Greenfield and Rivet - Internet Use & Abuse Survey 1999) evidence proves there is a high correlation between online cybersex and subsequent real-time sexual affairs. The same study stated that a whopping 31% of people have had an online conversation that has led to real-time sex.
Which means that cybersex, whether you think of it as cheating or not, poses a real hazard to relationships.
So, what can you do to protect your relationship against cyber-nooky? Well, your best defense is to let your partner know exactly what your position is. He'll either respect your feelings, or he won't. (Which is telling in itself.) But either way, you'll know where you stand, and exactly the type of person you're with.