Excerpt From: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Infidelity is commonly understood as a violation of the marital agreement, a betrayal of one’s trust, and a threat to the marital bond. Infidelity research has addressed two types of betrayal that occur: Sexual and emotional infidelity, with online infidelity being the latest area of research. There exists a wealth of literature on the topic of online infidelity in the west, which is in sharp contrast to the lack of any published article on this issue in India. The aim of this article is to introduce the concept of online infidelity and sensitize mental health professionals to this emerging new trend. It further illustrates the occurrence of this problem in marriage using a case vignette and presents treatment strategies that were employed in working with the couple.
Definition of online infidelity
With the development of the Internet, the definition of infidelity now includes a romantic and/or sexual relationship with someone other than the spouse, which begins with an online contact and is maintained mainly through electronic conversations that occur through e-mail and chat rooms. The emphasis is on the process whereby individuals already involved in a committed relationship seek to be involved in computer synchronous, interactive contacts with members of the opposite sex. A cyber affair can either be a continuous relationship specific to one online user or a series of random erotic chat room encounters with multiple online users. There exists a debate on whether chat room contacts constitute ‘infidelity’. Mileham has defined it as amounting to infidelity based on three factors: First, the institution of marriage involves emotional and sexual exclusivity and hence, sexual involvement with someone other than the spouse is considered unacceptable. Second, it typically occurs in secrecy, and is usually kept hidden from the spouse. Third, the consequential nature of chat room liaisons and the breach of trust it can create, substantiate their classification as infidelity. Most spouses feel as betrayed, angry, and hurt by online infidelity as they would if skin-to-skin adultery had taken place.[3,4] Mileham also specifies that in cases where chat room activities are not hidden from one’s spouse, this definition does not apply.