Couples and sex therapist Dr. Eve talks about the growing epidemic of online cheating and the psychology of people who deliberately communitcate in secret through texts, chats, e-mails and dating sites, even though they are in a close real-life relationship.
Below are notes and statistics exclusively provided by Dr. Eve from her new book, "Cyber Infidelity":
Do you think that more women than men cheat or is it about equal?
20-40% heterosexual married men
20-25% heterosexual married women
70% dating couples
Source: Henderson C.A New Infidelity Phenomenon, 2007
50-60% married men
45-55% married women
Source: Atwood J.D. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy 4(2-3):117-134
This increase in infidelity by women began as a result of women’s liberation when women got into the work place. Now it is equalizing itself across genders. There are still more risks for women than men with traditional infidelity: loss of security, reputation and stigma.
No one will know numbers of people committing Cyber Infidelity (CI) as it’s done online and in private. One of the primary unexpected outcomes of my research was the large presence of women who are engaging in CI: emotional, sexual, or viewing pornography.
What makes people cheat even when they are in a good relationship?
Traditional (in real life) infidelity reasons are different from cyber infidelity. Traditionally, it was because the wife did not understand him, her husband neglected her, and he wanted and felt entitled to sexual variety, bought, or freely available.
People online have no intention of committing infidelity — they are online already, as are the majority of the world’s population, and due to the technology itself, their chats very rapidly progress into personal disclosure, and then hyper personal disclosure. Before long, you are keeping the chats secret from your partner, and once there is secrecy, infidelity is occurring.
There’s also the “Triple A Engine”: affordable, accessible, and anonymous when cheating online. CI has become a new form of relationship that we did not know existed before we held a device in our hands.
Why some people engage in sexual talk online even though they have no intention of physically cheating on their partner?
My research shows that the feelings one gets cyberchatting, cyberflirting, and cybersexting results in both men and women feeling positive about life. They say their online relationships / connections are more satisfying than their IRL (in real life) relationships — which is what keeps them online.
And in addition they feel more sexually satisfied – even without the physical contact. It makes sense, since IRL is about domesticity, familiarity, and conflict. Online is conflict free, interactive, and imaginations are stimulated. Women feel unregulated and liberated in this online space and men feel less judged and better understood.
It is the “hyper personal Intimacy” that develops in a rapid progressive manner that is the seduction. After a few chats, people can feel this person is less of a stranger than their own partner.
If a relationship can be salvaged after cyber cheating?
It takes much more courage to process and recover from CI than recovering from IRL / traditional infidelity.
The reasons are:
- Potential exposure to visual evidence via reading text messages / sexts exchanged.
- Trust is incredibly difficult to rebuild, as partner has devices around all the time. How do you live without constant monitoring of you partner’s devices?
- Partner feels like a stranger as the online persona only exists online and is unknown to the primary partner so reading messages is devastating. You may question the authenticity of this person and your entire relationship.
- The partner’s sexuality is disclosed online. Your partner may be have a low sex drive when in bed with you, and yet online there is evidence of greater desire.
How to spot an online cheater and when someone is lying or misrepresenting themselves?
Everyone who holds a device is vulnerable to CI—unintentionally.
You can spot a partner engaging in what you may define as betrayal. If they keep their mobile attached to them 24/7; if they have a password on all devices to which you cannot access; if they protective about their devices; if they spend more time than usual online; if they become defensive about their online use; if, when you confront them, they divert the conversation to you invading their privacy without addressing the real issue — which is: what are you doing online that needs to be so private?