Addiction Addictive Behaviors Sex The Truth About Online Cheating Even if bodies never touch, you can seriously harm your relationship By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 01, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Mint Images / Getty Images In the past, infidelity was a matter of clandestine meetings, lies about "business trips," awkward excuses about the scent of perfume on a dress shirt. Now it's possible to become involved with someone other than your spouse or partner by hooking up online. But while it may seem innocent enough—after all, you aren't in physical contact—online cheating really is just that: cheating. If you've been grappling with this question for any reason (you've been "seeing" someone over the internet or you're looking for a sexual outlet and are considering surfing around online for it), here's why you should think twice before you log on if you're married or in a committed relationship. Cheating Is Cheating, Even If It's Online Online infidelity is a kind of emotional affair in which the people involved develop a sexually intimate relationship without actually meeting—what's known as cybersex. In fact, they may never even see each other's faces or hear each other's voices. Without actual physical contact, then, intimacy via the internet may not seem like a real affair. However, an online affair is very much like a physical fling, one that can do lasting harm to a relationship or even an entire family. It can distract the unfaithful partner's attention from his or her real-life partner and children, robbing them of important time and attention and causing them to feel neglected and taken for granted. And like traditional affairs, those that take place over the internet inevitably involve secrecy and lies that have the potential to destroy the trust that's necessary to hold a relationship together. Even if the person being cheated on never discovers what's been going on behind his or her back, the bond of trust is broken when a spouse or partner is unfaithful. People having affairs also tend to get angry with their real-life partners, which can lead to further hurt. The Danger of Going Too Far Once two people begin having cybersex, they can quickly and easily get carried away. Some people even become addicted to online sex, which adds another dimension of difficulty to the situation. For a person addicted to cybersex, time spent in front of a computer or screen will likely take up more and more free time, leaving less time and attention for spouse or partner, and family. Another danger of cybersex is that the two people engaging in the affair decide to meet in person. At that point, of course, online infidelity can become physical infidelity, which takes cheating to a different level. It's important to keep in mind that online infidelity, like real-life infidelity, is often a sign that there are problems in a relationship and so ending an online affair may not be enough to put the incident to rest or prevent it from happening again. So rather than turning to the internet to try to find happiness or whatever you feel might be missing from your current relationship, talk to your spouse or partner. Consider couples counseling or therapy for yourself if you can't seem to stop engaging in sexually compulsive behavior. You will save your loved ones from being deeply hurt and yourself from living with guilt or shame. Is Watching Porn Cheating? 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Online Infidelity. By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. 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