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Online Infidelity Is It Really Cheating?
'Innocent' Relationships Can Take Serious Toll On Marriages

LOS ANGELES -- It's a problem that can take its toll on married life and when left unchecked can sometimes lead to divorce. Television station KNBC looked into the growing phenomenon of online infidelity -- married people creating intimate relations through cyberspace. But is it really cheating?

"There is great debate whether this is infidelity or not," said Dr. Beatriz Mileham, who conducted an in-depth study of married people who go online in search of a romantic connection.

"It gives people license to be sexual with strangers while still maintaining their vows, at least they think they are maintaining their marital vows," said Mileham.

You can find all kinds of people at any time of the day logged into "married and flirting" chatrooms, he said.

"Right now there's 1,006 people, 11:30 in the morning," said Mileham.

Most people use screen names in order to remain anonymous. But some also post pictures, including photos taken with their kids.

"The No. 1 justification is that 'I'm not touching anyone,'" said Mileham.

No contact, no foul. Right? Or is it cheating?

"You're opening up a can of worms to bringing destruction to your marriage," one person told the station.

"I consider it slightly cheating, so to speak," said another person.

Still another person said, "I think it's a form of cheating. It's an invitation for something disastrous to happen to your relationship."

Some experts say if you can't tell your partner about it, it's cheating. Mileham says her study found 30 percent ended up in a real-world affair with their online partners.

"It can break marriages, actually. I found a source that said one-third of divorce litigation is due to online affairs. It starts as innocently, as, 'How are you?' and escalates from there," said Mileham.

According to a recent study conducted by the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, 52 percent of online sex addicts had decreased interest in sex with a spouse or partner. Mileham showed the station it doesn't take long to find a partner and for the conversation to quickly turn sexual. Within minutes, anyone who is bored with their marriage -- or just curious -- can find themselves intimately involved with a complete stranger.

One man, who is currently involved in several virtual affairs with married women, didn't want to appear on camera because he was concerned his real life girlfriend would see the story. He said he simply fills "an emotional deficit" in women's marriages and that their husbands have no idea he exists -- but that's what Mileham says is the problem.

When these online relationships are discovered by an unknowing partner, they often feel very betrayed -- even if the contact is restricted to the computer only. Mileham says that's because the person involved is still channeling sexual energy and emotional energy and is flirting and creating a little bit of an emotional bond that people feel should be reserved for them.

Full credit for this news article goes to: nbc san diego

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Affairs Fact

30% Of online relationships evolve into real-world affairs. A staggering nine out of ten women in relationships flirt with other men on a regular basis.

Affairs Fact

Studies find that more than one in five men do have an affair, at least once in their lives, and that women are now about as likely as men to cross the line.

Affairs Fact

In a survey 98 percent of men and 80 percent of women surveyed reported having a sexual fantasy about someone other than their partner at least once in the previous two months. Bet it's higher!

Affairs Fact

The chance of a married woman having an affair is highest within the first five years and falls off gradually with time. Men have two high-risk phases, one during the first five years of marriage and, the second, after the 20th year.

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