Updated 07 November 2014

Cybersex – is it cheating?

Does the romantic message in the Inbox wreak the same kind of havoc as the lipstick on the collar?


Hello Goldilocks,
Thought of you all of last night. Hope you were thinking of me.
Love u lots – yesterday was great. Tons of love
Magic boyl”

If this note fell out of your wife's jacket pocket, how would you feel? And if you found it in her e-mail Inbox? Or on her phone?

What is infidelity?

Twenty years ago people were sure about what constituted infidelity. A husband seen in a restaurant with his secretary, pink lipstick on his collar, strange silent phone calls, unexplained absences.

Now, with the advent of the Internet age, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home for your dalliances. Neither does your partner or spouse. But does the romantic message in the Inbox or the SMS wreak the same kind of havoc as the lipstick on the collar?

Is an Internet affair like the real thing?

Judging by the number of letters from jealous and desperate, neglected partners to agony columns in magazines and on the Internet, the answer to this is a resounding ”Yes”.

What is it that makes partners jealous and frustrated? “Three things”, says Cape Town psychologist, Ilse Pauw. “Firstly, feeling neglected and overlooked by your partner; secondly, having your partner share intimate details with an outside person and thirdly, watching your partner’s focus switching from your relationship to one with some idealised online character.”

The argument that people use who are involved in online dalliances, whether explicitly sexual or not, is that they are not real and that they are not really important to them.

Yet, they tend to react fairly strongly when their real-life partners demand an end to their cyber affairs. The point is not how the person involved views or rationalises their situation, but how the person feels whose life is affected negatively by this.

The end results are the same

And whether your wife is salivating online or is out with an old boyfriend, your situation is very similar. You are lonely, you feel your emotional and sexual needs are unmet and you are landed with the bulk of household chores and babysitting duties.

The attraction of online relationships is that they remove the difficulties people have with face-to-face communication and also allow people to recreate themselves in a world of fantasy.

Shy people can become bold and forthright; fat, bald and unattractive 50-year-olds can become gym instructors with washboard stomachs and dowdy housewives can be transformed into sex kittens at the click of a button.

Sexual hang-ups can be overcome as cybersex is a lot less threatening and intimate than the real thing. You also have the option to go offline at any time you want to, which is not a possibility in real life.

“It’s ironic that we had to build million dollar machines to do something as natural as sex” says futurist Howard Rheingold. He also predicts the use of teledildonics – full body sensory suits which allows lovers to meet in cyberspace and make virtual long distance love.

So why are they called 'virtual' affairs then?

The word ‘virtual’, though, still implies something which is not real even though it resembles the real thing. But if a spouse leaves a 10-year marriage and children for the ‘perfect’ online partner, chances are that the union was about to topple anyway, says Ann Landers, probably the world’s most famous agony aunt.

And generally ‘perfect’ online partners turn out to be everything but in real life. They also suffer from bad moods, have halitosis and insufferable family members, debt and sick children.

What to do if your partner’s online affair is driving you crazy:

  • Remember that it is your partner’s behaviour, not yours, causing the problem.
  • Stress how your partner’s behaviour is making you feel. Concentrate on your feelings
  • Constant nagging and recriminations will just serve the purpose of making the online partner appear more attractive
  • Don’t try and get even by getting yourself an online partner – it will only give your partner more reason to continue with hers
  • Don’t let your partner minimise your feelings of anger and jealousy by insisting that you are overreacting
  • Insist that you share the same e-mail address, as this will limit the lascivious nature of his or her e-mails
  • If all else fails, you can always get online yourself and chat with ‘magic boy’ yourself. It is possible that she does not even know that you exist. A few hard facts about ‘Goldilocks’ might serve to dampen his fervour.

If your partner is completely unable to comprehend your point of view, it might be time to hit the road and find someone who will have a real relationship with you.

Read more:

Cybersex and soulmates
Any questions? Ask our sexologist


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