Cyber-cheating: Infidelity in the Age of Technology
While technology has made it increasingly easier to access information, purchase goods, and communicate with family across the globe, technology has also made it extremely easy to be unfaithful in a relationship. Through email, text messaging, video chat, and social networking sites, your spouse has the opportunity to establish inappropriate contact with virtually anyone.
What is Cyber-cheating?
Cyber-cheating is the act of using online means to be unfaithful to a spouse or lover. While a cyber-cheater's inappropriate behavior online does not always lead to physical contact, the sexual connection made CAN develop into a real-life affair.
Because many people have different views on what type of contact constitutes "cheating", some may argue that cyber-cheating isn't really infidelity. In that respect, it all depends on what you think betrayal looks like. When you've come across evidence of disloyalty in a relationship, you'll know; and if what you've found has unfolded via the internet, you're dealing with cyber-cheating.
Forms of Cyber-cheating:
- Flirting and/or intimate conversation
- Sending sexual messages via email, IM, or text
- Sharing/receiving sexually explicit photos
- Chatting via webcam
- Asking for sexual favors and/or committing sexual acts during online contact
A Cyber-cheater's Playground
It seems like everywhere you turn there is a new opportunity to connect with someone at the click of a button. Smartphones, notebook/tablet computers, and other portable WiFi-capable devices have made instant communication a breeze. Consequently, cyber-cheating takes very minimal effort.
Here are some of the many different places where you'll find a cyber-cheater:
- Social networking websites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.)
- Adult dating sites (AshleyMadison, AdultFriendFinder, Fling, etc.)
- Online personals (Craigslist, classifiedads, etc.)
- Video chat (Skype, Cams, ooVoo, etc.)
- Web portals (google, yahoo, hotmail, etc.)
- Online gaming portals (Xbox live, PSN, etc.)
7 Signs of Cyber-cheating
While a lover's instinct is often the first warning sign of infidelity, there are many actions and behaviors that can trigger a red flag in your relationship:
#1 - Secrecy/Sneaky Behavior
Be wary if your significant other has changed his/her online passwords, physically moved the computer to a more private area, clears the internet history after every use, hides his/her phone, keeps phone records private, and/or deletes text messages and phone history daily. These are often signs that inappropriate contact is occurring.
#2 - Lack of Intimacy
Not seeing as much affection as you're used to? Has it been a while since you and your lover had sex? Unless there's a specific reason for the lack of intimacy (i.e., pregnancy, illness, physical injury, etc.), this is definitely a warning sign that there is something amiss with your relationship.
#3 - An Empty Bed
Many cyber-cheaters use the late-night and early-morning hours to communicate online. If you've noticed that your spouse prefers to use the internet while you are fast asleep, this can be a sign that s/he is using your resting hours to be unfaithful. You should also be cautious if your loved one has frequently been away from home due to spontaneous and/or unexplained "work-related" business.
#4 - Physical and Emotional Detachment
Someone who is cyber-cheating can become both physically and emotionally distant. If your lover has been spending excessive amounts of time away from home, withdraws from your sexual advances, loses interest in conversation and/or declines outdoor activity with you, it may be a sign that s/he has been sharing those moments with someone else.
#5 - Unexplained Purchases
Has money been missing lately? Have you found odd/unexplained account charges or random receipts for unusual purchases? Many dating and sexually-explicit webcam sites require charge card information for monthly membership and/or special website features. Cyber-cheaters may also purchase gifts or pay for face-to-face dates.
#6 - Defensiveness
A lover who has been abiding by the rules of your relationship will have no problem giving you access to their online contacts and phone call/message history. Thus, an immediately hostile response to inquiries about internet use and/or access to email/phone passwords can signal that your spouse has something to hide. Be especially wary if, upon confrontation, you are chastised for being a snoop; passing the blame is often a coping mechanism for people who have been caught doing something wrong.
#7 - Tension & Anger
Guilt can often trigger irritable and/or aggressive behavior. If you've noticed an increase in arguments in your relationship, it is just cause for investigation. A cheating lover may become overly critical, easily annoyed, and overtly detached when around you. Cyber-cheaters can even use these negative moments to justify their dishonesty.
Cyber-cheating Confirmed.... What Should I Do?
When you've found out that your partner has been unfaithful, you're likely to fly off the handle. However, sometimes it's wiser to reflect instead of react. Here are a few tips on how to ensure the best results when confronting a cyber-cheater.
Before entering any confrontation, it is important to get your facts straight. Make sure to gather as much evidence of your partner's infidelity as possible. Search through both email and phone contacts. Read through all sent and trashed messages, and be sure to look through photos and recent downloads. Forward, print, and file any written documents that can prove cyber-cheating has occurred.
You might even be able to solicit information from involved parties, provided that you are willing to make a non-threatening request for information. Many cyber-cheaters keep their online partners in the dark about being married or attached; your spouse's online fling may be helpful in collecting the facts.
Don't Jump the Gun!
If you confront your spouse about cyber-cheating before investigating the situation completely, you may lose the opportunity to access proof of infidelity. Messages can be expunged and phone/internet history can be cleared. A cheater who is caught will be quick to get rid of all evidence of their betrayal. By having hard-copy proof, you'll be able to dispel any claims of innocence and/or misunderstanding. The less time you spend arguing about whether or not inappropriate contact actually happened, the faster you can make a decision about what to do next.
Know Your Goal
Is the relationship really worth saving? Although this question is a tough one, it's one that must be answered before confronting a cheating lover. While marriage can make leaving an unfaithful partner difficult, living with broken trust can be even harder. If you know that you want to end the relationship, your presentation of evidence (and the conversation thereafter) can help bring immediate closure. However, if you choose to forgive and move forward, your relationship will need to evolve and boundaries must be set. No matter what you decide, you will always live with the fear of betrayal. Just know that this heartbreaking experience will help make you a stronger and more intuitive person.
In order to get the best results from your confrontation, it is vital to remain calm and diligent. Telling a trusted friend or family member about the situation can help prevent you from losing your cool. Not to mention, it is highly recommended that you alert an ally prior to confronting a cheating spouse. It is imperative that you choose someone reliable who will follow-up if they don't hear from you immediately after the confrontation has taken place.
Be Specific & Stick With It
When confronting your spouse, it's best to be concise in your findings and clear about expectations for the future. Don't waste time arguing about dirty dishes or random annoyances that happened months ago. Adding unrelated issues to the table will only distract from your desired outcome. If you want the cheating to stop, you must be blatantly clear about what you expect from your loved one. Boundaries must be set, lines must be drawn, and sanctions must be discussed (and enforced.) Most importantly, you must stay true to whatever rules are set in place. Revenge, animosity, and lack of follow-through will prevent the relationship's wound from healing.
Anticipate Anguish, Expect Support
Know that, no matter how positive the future of your relationship may be, there will always be times when you are troubled by doubt. A lover's betrayal can make one depressed, paranoid, angry, overly-protective, vulnerable, and in need of constant reassurance. If your spouse truly wants the relationship to work, s/he must be as understanding and supportive as possible. Rebuilding broken trust is a task that should not be taken lightly. While the road to a solid, healthy relationship will not come easily, both you and your partner can move forward and establish a stronger bond if you both work hard to maintain it.
Helpful Links & Resources
- Group Therapy: What to do about cyber cheating
A "Biggest Marital Problems Post"...The question: Are sexual emails cheating?
- Top 10 Signs of Emotional Infidelity (article) by Stephany Alexander
A list of emotional infidelity warning signs.
- Lying and Infidelity in Romantic Relationships - Truth About Deception
Information and advice on lying, cheating and infidelity.
- Infidelity and How to Get Through It :: Best Marriages
Affairs Happen... now, how do I survive?
- 7 Stages To Getting Over Infidelity [EXPERT] | J. Cameron Gantt | YourTango
A step by step plan to getting over the discovery of a cheating mate.