Vail Relationships column: Cyber-cheating and online sex
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series.
An online flirtatious connection may start out as curiosity, because you are bored, because you are not getting enough romantic or erotic energy at home or because you need to hear that other people still think you’re hot, sexy and desirable.
But if this online relationship becomes an emotional connection, you will be threatening your primary relationship. Furthermore, if the online relationship becomes one where you view explicit sexual materials, exchange sexual messages or do anything else that has the intention of helping you or another person to become sexually aroused, your intimate partner is likely to view your behavior as infidelity — even if you’ve never actually met the other person. The lack of direct physical or sexual contact during an Internet dalliance does not mean that your partner will be okay with you getting sexually aroused by someone else. And this most often includes Internet porn, as well.
Breeding Ground for Fear, insecurity
As a result, most people hide this behavior from their spouse or intimate partner or try to cover it up by camouflaging what they’re doing. If your partner discovers this secret, then it is predictable that you will be viewed as being deceptive, hidden, dishonest and untrustworthy — and your partner may develop a strong fear that you are no longer agreeing to be exclusive.
You can see how this behavior could dramatically impact a committed relationship, even if you have never actually met (or touched) the other person. The fear that others tempt you is all that is necessary to threaten your primary relationship.
So if you are sexting, sending provocative photos or videos of yourself, viewing provocative photos or videos of someone else, making sexual comments or innuendos to someone other than your partner — especially for the purpose of becoming erotically aroused — then your spouse or significant other is likely to feel threatened, fearful, insecure and angry. This behavior will reliably generate huge trust issues in your relationship. And trust issues are hard to get rid of and tend to stick around for a very long time.
You’ve Still Got It
Why would I do this to my relationship? Among other reasons, it is extremely reassuring to know that I am viewed as attractive, desirable and sexy, even if I’m not actually available for anyone else. The feeling that “I still have it” may give me the reassurance I need to know that if anything happened to our relationship, I would still be able to attract someone else. And it strokes my ego to know that others think I am hot.
How do you fix this problem? I will cover that question in next week’s column.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 24th year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website at http://www.heartrelationships.com. The second edition of his book: “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship,” has just been released and is available on Amazon.
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