The Reasons Why Your Spouse Had an Affair Online

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The discovery that your partner is having an affair can be upsetting. But if it is an online affair, it can also be confusing and bring up many questions. You might wonder if it meets the definition of real infidelity, why they sought an online affair when you were available, and what is appealing about having a virtual affair. You may also want to know whether an online affair is a sign of sex addiction, of which there are many types.

Online affairs can be difficult for both the injured partner to understand, as well as for the therapists who work with them (as they may be more accustomed to helping clients work through in-person affairs).

A growing number of couples are affected by cybersex infidelity. Online affairs can be difficult to understand for partners and the therapists they work with.

Your first reaction may be to get full disclosure from your cheating spouse in the hope of understanding why it happened but be patient. Discovering and understanding your partner's online affair is a process that takes time.

Factors Leading to Online Affairs

Here are some reasons that people in relationships may pursue an online affair:

  • Anonymity: Online affairs allow people who are in relationships already to seek out affairs without their potential partners knowing their real-life identity. You can hide behind a screen name and use a fake photo, creating a new persona. You don't run the risk of being easily identified by a friend, neighbor, or your partner. Meeting via an app or in a chat room eliminates the human aspects of meeting someone, such as facial expression, body language, and even physical appearance.
  • Convenience: Online affairs are easy to initiate, as there are many apps, chat rooms, and websites set up for this specific purpose. Smartphones have given the technology even greater flexibility, as now most people can access the Internet at no additional cost from wherever they may be, at any time of day. Initial curiosity can rapidly escalate into an online affair.
  • Escape: People who choose to have an online affair rather than an in-person affair may rationalize that it is not a real affair. The people concerned have not met, and may even live on opposite sides of the globe. It can feel like an escape from the mundane reality of relationships and activities in the real world, operating far more in the domain of fantasy.

Will It Last?

Online affairs may be short-lived, but there is no shortage of new partners with whom to start a new virtual affair. A person can slip into becoming addicted to online affairs in the same way they can get addicted to other behaviors. If you or your partner are compulsively seeking sexual contact online, you can and should seek help.

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.
  1. Varfi N, Rothen S, Jasiowka K, Lepers T, Bianchi-Demicheli F, Khazaal Y. Sexual Desire, Mood, Attachment Style, Impulsivity, and Self-Esteem as Predictive Factors for Addictive Cybersex. JMIR Ment Health. 2019;6(1):e9978. doi:10.2196/mental.9978

Additional Reading
  • Hertlein KM, Piercy FP. Essential Elements of Internet Infidelity Treatment.Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 2012;38:257-270. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00275.x. 

  • Carnes P, Delmonico D, Griffin E, Moriarity J. In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior. Second edition. Center City, MN: Hazelden. 2007.

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.