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.Every time you walk by, you’re asking yourself if he or she is using it for an affair.” While most relationships are hampered by such workday realities as household chores and paying the bills, online relationships exist in an electronic nether world where strangers can construct their own identities, Hertlein says.“On the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to be this constrained person you think you should be.” Fantasy also is a huge factor in online affairs, and fantasy always trumps reality.After an Internet affair, couples often need to move the home computer to a public space, such as the living room, and install tracking or blocking software, Ducharme says.But to build lasting trust, couples must dig deeper in therapy.Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity.
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“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.People often feel more comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives to relative strangers because the relationship exists only in cyberspace, Ducharme says. “Some people really begin to think the other person is in love with them.They develop this intimacy and fantasy relationship.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.
“It’s really difficult to track what your partner is doing,” Hertlein says.