By Jenniffer Weigel
I was co-hosting a company-sponsored discussion last fall, open to the public, about coping with divorce. A member of the audience shared with the group that he had discovered his wife was involved in a cyber affair.
“Is that considered cheating?” he asked the room. “They never met in person. The whole affair was online.”
The man added that his marriage had ended partly because of it, but still, he needed clarification about whether that Internet relationship constituted infidelity.
He got the validation he was seeking. Several people in the audience nodded “yes,” followed by a response from our expert on hand, therapist and author Ross Rosenberg, who specializes in treating sex addiction.
“Cheating is when you are verbally, emotionally or physically intimate with somebody other than your spouse or partner,” said Rosenberg, author of “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us” (PESI Publishing and Media). “This can become an affair when there is a relationship … where two people are getting their needs met outside of their marriage or relationship.”
Such an affair may involve virtual sex, yes, but not necessarily. An emotional betrayal can be even more damaging to a marriage than a physical one, said marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, author of “Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship” (Three Rivers Press).
“I will have an easier time as a therapist if the couple walks in and the man or woman had random sex with a stranger than somebody who has found a best friend on the Internet and they haven’t even touched,” Neuman said. “That connection is a much greater rejection to the spouse, and it’s a much harder thing to heal in a relationship because the emotions have left the marriage and gone into the hands of someone else.”