God is so grieved by infidelity in marriage because not only does it violate trust between partners, sexual sin also violates the covenant made before God. Adultery is not just sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not his or her spouse. Adultery begins with the eyes and in the heart long before the actual physical act happens. In the past, extra-marital affairs involve clandestine meetings, secret phone calls or booking into a hotel under a false name. Today, with the advent of technology and the internet, adulterous activities have become rampant online.
Andy Merrett in Family Relationships Magazine wrote, "The internet offers certain advantages for the cyber-cheater: relative anonymity, ease and affordability of access, and a huge selection of services to use and people to meet. " These relationships often start in social networking sites like Tagged, which is popular among middle-aged people looking for "friends" online; dating sites and chatrooms.
As Beatriz Mileham, a researcher from the University of Florida, has said, "never before has the dating world been so handy for married persons looking for a fling. The internet will soon becocme the most common form of infidelity, if it isn't already."
According to Mileham, cyber lovers quickly move from exchanging messages to photo-swapping, intimate confessions and cybersex. It can become consuming as a real relationship. Tell-tale signs of cheating online, says the Center for Online and Internet Addiction, are sitting at the computer into the early hours, moving it into an office and locking the door, becoming obsessive about passwords, ignoring chores and spending less time engaged in other activities.
There's no clear profile of who cheats online and why. Some studies suggest they tend to be tertiary-educated, professional men who feel unfulfilled and isolated in their relationship or want easy sex. Like offline cheaters, they might be narcissistic.
"Many online cheaters eventually meet up with their cyber lovers," says Monica Whitty, an Australian psychologist and researcher with Queen's University in Belfast. A study of 75 adults involved in web affairs by another Australian researcher, Helen Underwood, found most knew what their partners looked like, most had contacted them by telephone, and a third had met them.
While the internet can be used for many good things, married persons need to be wary of its overuse. They should continue to open communication about their relationship, bringing up problems and issues quickly, instead of going online and look for "friendships with benefits."
*I posted this in A Woman Speaks on May 16, 2009.