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While men traditionally have been the more unfaithful sex, gender roles are reversing in some cases as more women experience cybersex.
“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.
Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week.
While TV viewing has remained fairly constant, time spent surfing the Web has increased more than 120 percent over the last five years.
If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?
“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.
It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, Ph D, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions.
“You can’t usually get rid of your computer in the house.
Several studies suggest that even when there is no in-person contact, online affairs can be just as devastating as the real-world variety, triggering feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy.
Therapy can be more complicated if the cheating partner doesn’t believe his or her online activities qualify as an affair, Ducharme says.
“The excuses are, ‘I didn’t have sex with this person.
The cool thing about fantasy relationships is they don’t require any work.” Therapy is similar for online or traditional affairs, with couples working on issues of trust, betrayal and forgiveness.
Hertlein also encourages couples to use the Internet to strengthen their relationships by enjoying pornography sites together or visiting websites for ideas about romantic dates or new sexual skills.