Many relationships and marriages are put into crisis by one or both partners embarking on an affair or sexual encounter at one time or another. The betrayal occurs because there is in place prior to the betrayal either an explicit or implicit agreement or pact of monogamy and dedication to the partner at an emotional, spiritual, mental and physical level.
An affair may be defined as a sexual involvement outside a committed relationship in whatever form that the couple has intended. The key to affairs are the betrayal of that commitment and the usual act of secrecy in doing so.
Betrayal need not be physical as it may be a relationship carried out on the internet, over the phone, via letters, or even as a fantasy in one’s head. Internet or online affairs fall under this definition. Relationship issues result from one or both partners increasingly spending more time online on the internet, either surfing websites, or becoming involved in adult social networking sites such as FaceBook, YouTube, Tinder, Snapchat, relationship, contact and forum sites.
If a pattern develops such as where a partner is going out socially while the other stays home on the computer, or one goes to bed alone more often than not while the partner stays up late on the computer, then an issue may exist.
When partners and family become frozen out of the affected person’s life then a triangle has developed. This is where there is the affected person, the partner or family, and the internet or computer in a ongoing dynamic that affects intimacy, communication and the very relationship itself.
Many people find there is a temptation to interact with people online, where they can create an alter ego that appears to overcome felt deficiencies of the self. This can grow to take risks an safely express desires and risk expressing the needs and wants of being desired without the risk of face to face rejection.
The risk of this diversion is enhanced when a person is already looking to escape from frustrations, dissatisfactions and social disconnection in the “real world”. This allure can lead a person to firstly spending time on the internet in a general “surfing” mode, until one finds an “addictively” appealing site or type of site that hooks a person in.
Sex sites are rated the most common “addictive” site types by researcher Dr Al Cooper, who refers to online pornography and sex contact sites the “crack cocaine” of sexual compulsivity. By this he means that one experience can “hook” a person into an addictive compulsion to return over and over again to such sites.
The key outcomes from cybersex addiction and any entanglement with online pornography or online initiated real life affairs, is the destruction of real relationships, family, job performance and BodyMind health. Real life partners will not evoke the same heightened adrenaline rush or arousal of the illicit internet experience.
The addict will withdraw; become hostile or silent, lose interest in communication, and social activities. Partners who become alienated usually become suspicious and find out about the online betrayal.
The addict will normally lie, deny or minimise the extent of involvement with their activities. The broken trust will struggle to be rebuilt in the midst of an ongoing but denied addiction.
Further exposures by the partner normally result over time as the addict becomes less concerned or able to cover-up their activities as the addiction and risk taking deepens. At this point the relationship either ends, or the crisis brings the couple into therapy. Internet and cybersex addicts will normally “survive” relationship breakdown by going further into their unreal world of online reality, cybersex and pornography.
They can become hermits and live increasing amounts of time online, retreating from responsibilities, family and jobs.
Some basic questions to ask yourself to ascertain whether you have a online sexual addiction are:
- Do you spend a lot of time online on the internet searching for sexual sites and/or for the purpose of finding cybersex or connections to others?
- Do you feel safe or feel preoccupied with using the internet to find cybersex or actual sexual partners?
- Do you act out sexual fantasies with others on chat-rooms, emails or use anonymous email accounts to make contact or engage in sexual fantasies you are unable to conduct or share in real life?
- Do you hide your behaviour from others?
- Do you get an initial “rush” or masturbate as a result of the online activities and then feel shame or guilt about your online activities?
- Do you get aroused or anticipate with excitement or pleasure your next online session of exploration, fantasy or contact?
- Have you started out with curiosity and then gradually slid into behaviours that go step by step from cybersex, to phone sex to actual agreements to meet for real sex?
- Can you exercise restraint once you get an impulse to go online and explore or connect again?
- Have you stopped being able to engage in sex or orgasm with your real life partner and instead can now only masturbate or orgasm as a result of online activities and exposure?
- Are you distancing yourself from your partner, family, friends and social engagements and spending more and more time alone online?
- Have you ended real life relationships and retreated into only connecting with others through the internet?
If you can answer yes to 5 or more of these questions then you are at risk of developing a online internet based sexual addiction, or acting out an online affair.
Counsellors and therapists are reporting teenagers and couples from all age groups coming for guidance due to the impact of computer usage on their relationships and home life.