As our lives have moved increasingly into the virtual/digital arena, the once-clear line between sexual fidelity and cheating has gone blurry. Consider the following:
- Does sexting with a person other than your mate qualify as infidelity?
- Does using porn qualify as cheating, and does it matter if there is masturbation in conjunction with that porn use?
- Does it matter how much porn you’re looking at, or how often you’re viewing it, or if your partner knows about it?
- What if you’re chatting with people on hookup apps but not actually meeting them in person?
- What about engaging in mutual masturbation via webcam with someone who lives thousands of miles away?
- Is chatting with an ex on social media a form of cheating?
In our increasingly digital world, the question that begs to be answered is this: Is live, in-person contact required for sexual infidelity, or does digital sexual activity count equally?
To answer this question, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, Dr. Charles Samenow, and I conducted a survey of people whose partners were engaging in significant amounts of online and/or real-world extramarital sexual activity. The most important finding of our study was this: When it comes to the negative effects of one partner having sex outside a supposedly monogamous relationship, tech-based and in-the-flesh behaviors are no different. The lying, the emotional distancing, and the pain of learning about the betrayal feel exactly the same to the cheated-on partner.
The results of this study confirmed what I’ve stated for many years, that it’s not any specific sexual or romantic act that does the most damage to the betrayed partner and the relationship. Instead, it’s the lying, the secrets, the emotional distancing, and the loss of relationship trust.
Help Is Available
Seeking Integrity hosts Weekend Workshops for Couples trying to heal after infidelity. These workshops are facilitated by renowned couples and sex addiction therapist Paul Hartman. Space is limited to four couples per session. Call Seeking Integrity at 747.234.4325 for information, pricing, and availability.