The word “virtual” tends to imply “almost, but not quite.” As in virtual reality, which isn’t reality, it just looks like it. So that begs the question, is a virtual affair the same thing as a real affair? And should it be handled in the same way as an actual affair?
Many people justify their online affairs by claiming that because the relationship isn’t happening in “real life,” and the sex is only a “virtual reality” relationship, it doesn’t count and should not have a negative impact on their marriage. But the spouses who are on the sidelines of these almost-but-not-quite relationships don’t feel that way. Which is why so many virtual affairs result in divorce.
The term “Internet Affair” has become so common, that it is now a recognized term on it’s own. The operational definition is essentially any intimate or sexually explicit communication taking place online between a married or otherwise committed person, and someone other than their spouse or significant other. Statistics reveal that adultery and infidelity is becoming more common in today’s society, and that includes virtual infidelity and internet adultery as well.
According to research that has been conducted on the driving motivators behind online affairs, the reasons aren’t quite as straightforward as they might seem. While the majority of people assume that it’s the sexual gratification that drives people to return again and again to their online partner, studies have shown that this is only part of the issue.
Engaging in online sexual encounters has been shown to provide those participating, with a type of “high”
This feeling is very addictive, and provides the user with a pleasurable escape. The could be similar to the rush when people take an adventurous risk like skydiving or zip lining. This sensation then serves to reinforce the behavior, which then leads to more compulsivity.
So while there are those who disagree with the theory that virtual affairs are real enough to do damage to a marriage, the majority of the mental health community has agreed that they are indeed real and damaging. The fact that they are usually kept hidden from one’s partner, which involves deceit, is a good sign that the affair is not harmless.
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.
Join us next time, when we will be looking at different perspectives on what constitutes “unfaithfulness” and what different professionals have to say about the dangers, or harmlessness, of virtual affairs, and why so many virtual affairs land people in divorce court.