In our previous article about virtual affairs, we talked about what exactly constitutes a “virtual affair,” and discussed whether or not they are actually harmful for a marriage. Although many mental health professionals and marriage counselors say that they are, not everyone agrees with that standpoint.
John Portmann, author of the hotly contested paper “Chatting is not cheating”, puts forth the argument that cybersex is nothing more than talk about sex in an online setting, but isn’t the same thing as actual sex. In his explanation, cybersex is far more akin to flirting, than to a real affair, on the grounds that no actual sex ever takes place.
This perspective is supported by at least one online survey which asked people whether or not they consider cybersex to be a form on infidelity. According to the results, more than 60 percent of participants claimed that cybersex is not in fact cheating. In addition, many of them held the belief that cybersex was what kept them from cheating, in that it allowed them a sexual outlet – much like the use of pornography – that didn’t involve having an affair.
But while some consider virtual affairs to be entirely acceptable, there are a number of people who believe that it’s only acceptable if it’s done with the full knowledge of their spouse. This way, by removing the element of deception or hiding, they are free to engage in cybersex without the guilt, concealing and lies that often accompany hidden affairs.
Different people have different beliefs about what constitutes cheating.
It is worth noting however, that despite the fact that many people hold to the theory that virtual affairs are not cheating, that perspective may be a little one sided. Statistics show that cybersex, virtual affairs and other forms of online sexuality are playing more and more of a role in divorces these days.
Recently, data from the General Social Survey was analyzed by Elizabeth Allen of the University of Colorado and David Atkins of the University of Washington, which revealed some interesting facts about adultery and divorce.
According to Allen and Atkins, they compared the marital histories of people who reported having an extramarital affair to those who did not, and were then able to calculate the probability of a divorce following an affair. The conclusion they reached was that “More than half of individuals who engage in extramarital sex do, in fact, divorce or separate from their spouse.”
So the question remains, does a virtual affair count as extramarital sex or not? The truth is that while many people may believe that virtual affairs will not lead to divorce, the statistics are a little hard to ignore. Far too many unhappy spouses, after discovering their partner’s online fling, seek the help of a divorce attorney. That would lead one to believe that virtual affairs aren’t quite as virtual as one would have hoped they might be.