Most households have access to the Internet and most individuals spend three to four hours a day (weekends included) online, and that's not during office hours. So it's not surprising that a lot of folks find their way to the approximately 40 million online sex sites.
Consequentially, a door has been opened granting access to online infidelity.
A study done in the Netherlands looked at the reactions of both college-aged students and the general population to online infidelity. Online infidelity means carrying on an illicit relationship or sexual activity (via webcams, etc.) on your computer or phone.
With the media coverage about the Anthony Weiner scandal, everyone is rushing to figure out whether or not his (or anyone else's) actions constitute cheating or not. Do couples handle it like regular infidelity? Are they less jealous? And who gets hurt?
The study found that men more often than women are more jealous and hurt by the physical action of an affair, while women are more jealous and hurt by an emotionally intimate relationship. It holds true regardless of whether the affair was off or online; so whether the affair is online or offline, it was still very upsetting.
Interestingly, the study chose to look at both college-aged individuals and individuals whose average age was 48. What this demonstrated was that younger women were more hurt by the emotional connection than the physical, while older women were more “masculine” in their responses.
This is possibly due to the fact that older, more experienced women are more confident, more assertive and more successful; therefore their responses are more akin to the male perspective.
Is an online affair cheating? This study makes it clear that to most, the answer is yes. Affairs have a devastating effect on most relationships in the way of loss of trust, a hurt ego, and sometimes a significant decrease in one's self-worth. While men and women may react to cheating differently, someone is bound to get hurt.
We're on shaky ground when it comes to Internet infidelity because it is all so new. The most important thing that you can do for your relationship is set boundaries and be honest with your partner. If you find yourself entering into dangerous territory, ask yourself: if I found out that my partner was engaging in similar activity, would I be upset? Be honest with your response; your gut is a pretty good gauge, so listen to it.