Signs Your Spouse Is Having an Online Affair

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An online affair, or cyber affair, is generally considered a form of cheating. Cyber affairs are secret extramarital relationships that include intimate and sexual undertones. They're conducted online through chat, email, or social media, or they can happen via texting.

Like any form of infidelity, online affairs are damaging to a committed relationship, and they can trigger feelings of insecurity, anger, or jealousy in a partner. They are seen as acts of betrayal and can lead to a loss of trust. Ultimately, a cyber affair could cause a breakup or divorce.

There are several reasons people start cyber affairs:

  • Escaping from reality
  • Enjoying a fantasy
  • Getting a self-esteem boost
  • Avoiding relationship distress

These affairs also happen easily, as the internet provides accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.

Common Signs of Cyber Cheating

Are you concerned and suspicious that your partner is having an online affair? One clue would be that you notice an excessive amount of time spent on the computer and similar devices. But there are other, less obvious signs.

Your Spouse Seems Distant

If your spouse is showing a lack of concern about your marital relationship, it could be a sign of a problem. You may notice a lot of distancing, a feeling of disconnection, and problems with communication, and your partner may lose interest in doing things with you or in celebrating birthdays or holidays.

This can translate into intimacy issues as well. You may notice that your spouse shows very little enthusiasm during sex, or you may have less frequent sex in general.

Your Spouse's Behavior Has Changed

Sudden, unexplained changes in behavior can indicate infidelity. Your spouse may seem different, moodier, or more critical of you, and they may start ignoring their parental, household, or job-related responsibilities.

You may also notice that there has been a major change in your spouse's sleep pattern where they stay up later or get up earlier than normal—especially if this extra time awake is spent online or on a device.

Your Spouse Is Defensive

You may notice a defensive reaction from your partner if you've tried discussing some of the issues you've noticed. They may offer excuses and rationalizations for obvious changes in their behavior, or they may even deny them outright.

A defensive partner may blame you when they're confronted about things like the feeling of distance, lack of sex, or too much time spent online. They may also react by telling lies.

Your Spouse Is Secretive

In an effort to conceal their online affair, your partner may:

  • Change their passwords and remove your access to shared email or social media accounts
  • Move the computer to a more isolated location in your home
  • Protect their computer, phone, or tablet, even refusing to let you use the device
  • Demand more privacy
  • Refuse to talk about their computer usage
  • Abruptly shut off their computer or device when you approach or otherwise conceal the screen from you
  • Repeatedly clear their internet history

Healing After an Online Affair

If you suspect your partner is having an online affair, your first step should be to communicate your concerns with them. This will likely be a difficult conversation to have, so take time to prepare what you want to say and try to remain calm. It's important that you try to hear their reasons for the affair, as they might give you insight into your relationship.

Infidelity can be a symptom of another issue in your marriage, like:

  • Lack of communication
  • Financial problems
  • Lack of respect or appreciation
  • Sexual or emotional dissatisfaction
  • Low compatibility
  • Professional dissatisfaction
  • Major life stressors like moving or changing jobs

While you should not accept any blame or guilt for your partner's decision to have a cyber affair, you should look at your behavior to see if you are contributing to any issues in your relationship.

There could also be an underlying mental health issue or even an addiction involved. It is possible to develop an addiction to cybersex or pornography. If this is the case in your relationship, it's important not to let your partner's addiction negatively impact your own self-image.

Your spouse must be willing to cut off this affair immediately if it is happening. Ask your spouse for honest communication to resolve the hurt and to rebuild trust. You both will need to agree to communicate about the impact that the affair has had on your relationship.

If you're having trouble resolving the breach of trust and the issues associated with the cyber affair, you should consider working with a licensed relationship counselor.

A Word From Verywell

Repairing your relationship after a cyber affair is possible if you and your spouse get the chance to forgive and rebuild trust in your relationship. If you have decided to end the relationship, you will also be able to heal after caring for yourself and giving yourself the time you need to move on.

3 Sources
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.
  1. Adam A. Perceptions of infidelity: A comparison of sexual, emotional, cyber-, and parasocial behaviors. Interpers Int J Pers Relatsh. 2019;13(2):237-252. doi:10.5964/ijpr.v13i2.376

  2. American Psychological Association. Are internet affairs different?

  3. Laier C, Pawlikowski M, Pekal J, Schulte FP, Brand M. Cybersex addiction: Experienced sexual arousal when watching pornography and not real-life sexual contacts makes the difference. J Behav Addict. 2013;2(2):100-107. doi:10.1556/JBA.2.2013.002

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.