The dawn of digital infidelity: How to spot and stop it

The most popular time for online infidelity is either late at night or early in the morning.

The most popular time for online infidelity is either late at night or early in the morning.

What you need to know:

  • A sudden change in the time your partner goes to bed or wakes up is the first tell-tale sign that they could be involved in cyber infidelity.
  • One of the major excuses that digital cheats offer is that cheating digitally is not equivalent to physical infidelity.
  • As the digital relationship develops, the risk of getting disconnected from the main partner emotionally and physically becomes real

Technology has impacted relationships in both positive and negative ways. On one hand, technology has made communication easier and even couples who are in long distance relationships can easily interact. On the other hand, technology has birthed a new form of cheating known as digital infidelity. Through the Internet, a partner who is bent on cheating can do so easily do and cover their tracks.

“The digital space provides a whole new twist to relationships. People have unlimited access to social media, pornography, chat rooms, instant messaging, interactive webcams, adult apps, and dating websites designated for married couples to cheat. On the Internet, a philandering partner can easily flirt, sext, or have cybersex with another partner thousands of miles away without getting busted,” says psychologist Karen Kawria.

Here are telltale signs to watch out for, to safeguard your relationship from digital infidelity.

The first red flag

A sudden change in the time your partner goes to bed or wakes up is the first tell-tale sign that they could be involved in cyber infidelity. According to Martin Graff, the author of The Rise of the Cyber Cheat, these changes correspond with the time when cyber interactions for cheats are very active. “The most popular time for online infidelity is either late at night or early in the morning. An individual with an online sexual liaison will either start staying up late at night or waking up at odd hours,” he says. In addition, while it is unlikely that your partner will engage in online infidelity during the day, chances of this occurring are not far-fetched.

How it happens

There will be little sexual chats at the onset. Slowly, you become comfortable talking about personal issues, exchange contacts, and start relating at a personal level on other digital channels such as WhatsApp. Soon, you begin to prefer flirting and discussing your daily life with your new online friend instead of your real life partner or spouse. “The interactions will not be about the weather and jobs. They will be more personal and they will start exchanging intimate thoughts and gestures,” says Graff. On more direct channels such as adult apps, chat rooms and websites, the interactions go straight to the point because individuals are clear about what the apps are about when signing up.

The excuses behind it

One of the major excuses that digital cheats offer is that cheating digitally is not equivalent to physical infidelity. For example, a partner who is engaged in digital infidelity will construe that correspondence of sexual videos, texts or photos with someone other than their spouse does not hold the same kind of consequences that engaging in actual sex outside the relationship would have. “The thinking is that the relationship will not be impacted as long as there is no physical contact,” says Dr. Zack Carter, the author of the Clear Communication series.

Disconnection

At first, digital infidelity may seem like harmless fun. But as the digital relationship develops, the risk of getting disconnected from the main partner emotionally and physically become real. “In most cases, the partner who gets engaged in digital infidelity gradually becomes emotionally detached from his or her relationship because of the new connection that they are developing online,” says Carter. Although the cheating partner may never engage in physical coitus with their online partner, their online engagement could spur the development of an emotional affair, further creating a wedge between them and their spouse.

The effect on the affected spouse

The hurt that a victim of digital infidelity will sustain will not be any less than it would be if the infidelity was physical. “A cheated-on partner will almost always find out, and when they do, it’s not the online sexual liaisons that will hurt the most, but the fact that their trust and belief in their partner has been shattered,” says Robert Weiss, the author of Sex Addiction 101. There is usually a tendency by the virtual cheater to downplay their actions. Many of them assume that their partners cannot leave their relationships because of a cyber-partner who might very well be the work of artificial intelligence. But Dr. Weiss says that regardless of where, how, or with who the online infidelity took place, learning about it will be just as traumatic for the partner being cheated on as it would be if they busted you on an actual bed.

What to do

The key to nipping digital infidelity in the bud is to have a candid talk about what infidelity entails for each partner. “This will help you understand how your partner views cheating, what it involves, and what it doesn’t,” says Ms. Kawira. For example, to you, cheating might mean befriending an ex, viewing pornography, or having sex-oriented chats on Messenger and Webcams with strangers or call-girls. But it might only mean physical sexual engagement to your partner. “In your discussion, explain to your partner politely and firmly how any of these occurrences might hurt you,” says Kawira. This is echoed by Shirley Glass in her book Not Just friends who advises that you must put up privacy walls to prevent such interactions that could threaten your marriage or long term relationship.

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