Internet infidelity - Online Infidelity is wrecking many relationships

With technology ruling our world, it is little wonder that it would enter into areas we never dreamed possible. Ten years ago, would you have ever thought it possible to pursue a relationship with someone, or even fall in love, sight unseen? But that is exactly what is happening to many - over the Internet. And while there is nothing wrong with Internet dating, it takes on a whole new meaning when it comes in the way of an existing relationship.

In fact, Internet infidelity has actually been cited as a reason for divorce in many cases. It is the sign of a new trend in how online relationships have assumed a new importance in today's world. So is it really harmful?

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There are some (mostly the ones indulging in it) who take the point of view that it is harmless - after all you're just having a conversation with someone, nothing more. But is that all there is to it? There are others who opine that as long as you are spending time, sometimes hours, with another individual of the opposite sex, discussing personal details, even flirting or conversing with sexual undertones, how innocent can it be?

And just like an alcoholic or a substance abuser starts with a few drinks or a trial experiment, chatting and emails lead to exchange of photographs, calls and finally meetings. And very soon it has become a full-blown affair. Internet infidelity has crossed geographical boundaries too where those involved have been willing to negotiate distances and contend with secretly meeting without their spouses' knowledge, to take the relationship one step further.

And what if it happens to you? What if your partner is indulging in Internet infidelity?

There are three angles to this:

1. When should you suspect?

If you suspect your partner is cheating on you with someone online, be extra vigilant. For example, if you know he/she uses the computer at a certain time, try and ensure you are around at that time. Chances are slim that they will indulge in it while you are actually hovering around, but sometimes people are careless.

If they leave the machine idle to go into another room, you could hit the "back" button to check on what they were last up to. Scrolling through sites visited on the browser could also give you an indication on chatrooms visited. Other signs of internet infidelity that could make your antenna go up, are switching screens when you enter the room (in fact, frantic mouse clicking has been associated with guilt!), demanding privacy when on the computer or even spending an inordinate amount of time on the computer (and its not work related.)

2. How can you be sure?

If you are fairly certain that you might be a victim of Internet infidelity, don't feel that technology is only working against you. You might want to have hardcore proof of the crime before you make any accusations. There are various spyware packages to aid electronic spying or sites that provide details on surveillance products.

These programs facilitate tracking of all activity on a computer including emails, online chats, web sites visited etc. Reports are mailed to the installer. In some cases, you must own the computer to be legally allowed to install the software. The reports will give you concrete evidence whether or not you have a case of Internet infidelity on your hands. There are even devices which record all data typed so you have details like login names and passwords to carry out further research. Or even specially designed keyboards that record all keystrokes.

If you don't have the means to install such software, simply confront the issue head on. Go right out and ask your allegedly cheating partner if he/she is being unfaithful online. If they deny it, ask them for their password and check on their emails, chat names etc. That should give you an indication of what they are up to. If they refuse to reveal these details to you they probably have something to conceal and you will have to decide how you are going to deal with it.

3. If Internet infidelity is destroying your relationship.

It could mean that your relationship has stopped offering something that your partner seeks elsewhere. If you have managed to nip the online affair in the bud and it hasn't progressed too far, you might like to give your relationship another chance. Talk to him/her and get them to reveal what they were looking for. Attention, conversation, excitement, alleviating boredom, loneliness, whatever it is, reassure them that you are ready and willing to provide it.

Seek professional help if required, to sort through issues. If your partner was spending too much time on the computer, it could be an indication that either he was neglecting you or you were neglecting him. Remedy that instantly. Make it a priority to spend time together and focus on each other.

Also remember that just like a chain smoker craves nicotine and goes into withdrawal when denied it, so too will your Internet junkie. It is an addiction and you will have to be there to help stave off the cravings. So provide a distraction, if necessary, indulge in a new interest that you both enjoy and will provide a greater opportunity for you to spend time together. And let your partner know that if he or she is truly committed to strengthening your relationship, they have to cooperate.

4. What should you do if you were being unfaithful online and you want to stop?

Ultimately no one can help you unless you want to be helped and help yourself. If you were indulging in Internet infidelity, don't pass it off as harmless and justify it by saying you were only chatting. Why can't you chat with your spouse or spend that time with him/her?

The first part is acknowledging and admitting that it is damaging your relationship and has upset and hurt your partner. You are looking elsewhere to satisfy some craving for attention or sexual excitement that you lack in your relationship.

Spend time with your spouse doing things together and restrict Internet usage to business or personal emails to friends. Do not get into chat rooms of any kind, and if you were using a certain email ID previously, change it, so that you are not tempted by any further communication from potential chat mates.

To avoid getting drawn into Internet infidelity again, avoid getting online when you're on your own. Do it in the presence of your partner until you can trust yourself again.