People who have experienced infidelity over the internet believe that it could be addictive, researchers report.
Academics from the Open University conducted an anonymous survey of people aged 20 to 73. Some respondents had used the internet to romantically or sexually communicate with people outside their relationship. Others discovered that their partner had done so. They were all asked to write detailed accounts of their experiences. Many of them believed that the internet made it easier to be unfaithful.
One woman said that the internet “massively facilitates infidelity”. She claimed that her ex-husband was “inherently a very shy man” but the internet had given him a confidence which attracted other women. Her husband “would not have had so many affairs without the internet”, she believed.
Others thought that online infidelity was both easy and addictive. One person who admitted to indulging wrote:
“I tried to stop but neither of us could … [a secret online relationship] was an amazingly comforting and sexy thing to have.”
The respondent compared such relationships to fast food, because they were “ready when we are, naughty, cheap” and do not come with “the exhaustion of social niceties”.
Psychology lecturers Dr Andreas Vossler and Dr Naomi Moller conducted the research. They found that differing views on what constitutes infidelity online could be a source of conflict in a relationship. Dr Vossler said that behaviour which “might be seen as casual chatting by one partner, is hurtful and disloyal to the other”.
He added that activities such as “cybersex, exchanging sexual self-images, online flirting and dating” could potentially have a “deteriorating effect on marriages and families”.
Dr Moller said that couples should discuss their views about online behaviour. She suggested the matter be treated like marriage, children and other important aspects of a relationship by “keeping it a topic for ongoing discussion”.