Do Online Affairs Count as Cheating? (And Can They Lead to Divorce?)

A man sitting and looking at a tablet screen, smiling happily.
Chances are, if you wouldn’t divulge all the details to your spouse, then it counts as an affair…

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago we published an article about the Netflix Documentary ‘Life 2.0’ which follows several different people using the online gaming platform Second Life. One couple on the documentary were a couple who met online and had a sustained online affair before meeting in person to take their relationship to the next level. 

In the end, they both left their spouses, got together, and then discovered that love was very different in the real world. Ultimately their relationship failed. But that article raises a very interesting question – do online affairs count as cheating if you never actually meet in person? Or is it all harmless fun because there’s no actual sex? 

The nature of affairs has changed as technology changes…

Even just a decade or two ago, affairs happened between people who met each other in person and were attracted to each other. Usually at work, but on occasion in social environments as well, two people would meet and discover that they shared chemistry that they weren’t willing to deny. Thus: infidelity. But that’s no longer the case. Courtesy of the internet, the modern affair is a rather more digital animal, no longer requiring that the people involved meet each other first. Or in some cases, at all. 

Many people justify their online affairs by claiming that because the relationship isn’t happening in “real life,” the sex is only a “virtual reality” relationship. Therefore, it doesn’t count and shouldn’t have a negative impact on their marriage. (The term “virtual” carries the implication of “almost”, so virtual sex doesn’t sound as bad.) However, the spouses on the sidelines of these almost-but-not-quite relationships don’t usually feel that way. Which is why so many virtual affairs result in real, actual divorces.

Most marriage counselors will tell you – it’s as real as a “real” affair

According to a number of marriage counselors, virtual affairs are the equivalent of emotional and psychological affairs. They come with all the same intensity, excitement and raw emotion that new relationships offer, but without any of the potential downsides that actual reality offers. Which is what could make them even more dangerous than most people would think.

Numerous studies show that a surprising number of people believe that virtual sex and online affairs are not the same things as cheating. However, it’s worth noting that the overwhelming number of people who hold that view are the people participating in these relationships. Their spouses may feel very differently! And consider the fact that statistics show that cybersex, virtual affairs, and other forms of online sexuality are playing more and more of a role in divorces these days. 

If your spouse has been unfaithful and you’re ready to move on…

We understand. Discovering that your spouse is engaged in an affair is heartbreaking and many people can’t move past that. Even if they’ve never actually met the person they’re cheating with in person, knowing that they’ve had such a personal and intimate secret can feel like an enormous violation. For many spouses, knowing that your partner was involved in a virtual affair is enough to make them decide to end the marriage.

If this sounds like your situation, and you’d like guidance on what comes next in the divorce process, call 866 766 5245. Our skilled and experienced family law attorneys can walk you through every aspect of your divorce, from alimony and asset division to child support and custody concerns. We’ve got decades of experience, a long-standing reputation of success, and can be there for you from start to finish.