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Flirting Online will ruin your Relationship

Porn sites are not today’s sole web sites interfering with real relationships. Other online-overtures are also busy creating the illusion of a maximal availability of never-ending supplies of alternative partners and in that way secretly, clandestinely and through the back door undermine actual relationships. Flirting exchanges, chat rooms, news groups, online role-playing, and social networks – wherever one looks, everywhere alternatives to vanilla sex at home. It was never any easier to experience the security of a real relationship and the titillation of flirting and cheating at the same time. A tempting opportunity to thumb one’s nose at every day’s stress. My husband is more interested in the super bowl than in me and has once again forgotten to bring the soda along? Let‘s just see if I can’t find more willing partners for a conversation on Facebook. My partner is constantly griping at me and is rarely interested in sex? Why not register at Match.com just for fun, just to see what my chances are . . .

According to researchers, here the allure is primarily found in three aspects of the cyber affair. We already met the first two – anonymity and convenience on the subject online-pornography. The user also lives protected by a virtual identity, never must reveal him/herself, when things start to get uncomfortable, his dreams, desires can “disappear” with a click. In the real world the escapade leaves no traces – thus the danger of being found out is considerably reduced. Just as with the consumption of porn it is not even necessary to leave home in order to virtually stray. The boundaries of space and time have been removed. In real life a secret affair between someone from Hamburg and someone from Munich would involve an incredible logistic effort – not so in virtual space.

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For our subject the third aspect is of particular interest: Studies have shown that it is not primarily sexual gratification the makes a cyber affair irresistible for the user. Rather, the virtual affair primarily creates a high, the emotional and mental opportunity to escape from reality – almost comparable to a drug induced high. Instead having to deal with the dry reality of my relationship and the potentially irritating conflicts I seek refuge in a fantasy world where I have maximal control over the (prevailing) events. Obviously, that represents a high potential for addiction! One click, and my boring, stressful every-day relationship is a thing of the past and an exciting virtual world loaded with countless opportunities (and flirting prospects) lies ahead. Just a quick Google to see what happened to the ex-friend, as a student the partner in a passionate relationship . . . what could possibly be wrong with a little relaxing passionate cybersex-banter after a stressful day at work . . . or maybe even assuming an entirely new virtual identity and with it do everything that one would have never dared do in real life? In the U.S.A clever Internet-operators as for instance Yahoo already even offer platforms especially targeting married folks who are looking for a little excitement on the side (for instance marriedandflirtingchat.com).

At first blush these “little escapades” leaving every-day-life and the real partnership behind may appear to be harmless, but they are by no means that. By now many studies have demonstrated that the betrayed experience virtual unfaithfulness like the real thing. It triggers the identical feelings of an actual affair: Hurt, anger, humiliation and low self-esteem. In 2003 an Australian study revealed that an on-line affair affects the partner more deeply than watching porn. The realization that one’s own partner desires another person more than oneself triggers intense insecurity. At the same time such an act of virtual infidelity is more of a threat than the consumption of porn because the counterpart also appears to be more concrete as a person than some anonymous porn performer. In 2009 well covered by the media the relationship of a British couple broke up as a consequence of a virtual escapade: Lisa caught her friend John while he was engaged in the virtual community “Second Life” under the nickname “Troy Hammerthal” having Avatar sex with a man. John’s protestations that the entire matter was just a game and not real did him no good. Lisa terminated the relationship – for her the issue that John preferred virtual sex with a man to genuine sex with her was just too demeaning. It can only be guessed at how many relationships become unstuck in complete privacy and without media coverage due to these or similar circumstances – today reliable statistics about this are unavailable. At any rate, couple therapeutics all over the world report a dramatic increase in the subject’s growing presence.

Without a doubt at the present time just the tip of the iceberg is visible to us. For instance Mark Keenan, chief executive of “Divorce-Online” an info portal on the subject of divorces sounded the alarm as early as in December 2009: At that time a Facebook-Flirt that got out of hand was the reason for every fifth divorce in Great Britain – with the trend on the rise. Back then Keenan stated to the newspaper “Daily Telegraph” “The most frequent cause appears to be people inappropriately chatting about sex with folks with whom they should rather not do that.” Other countries are following. 2011 according to a leading Austrian attorney: “In Austria Facebook and the like already play a role in every 10th divorce – and that means: of 1.900 divorces annually. When something at home doesn’t work as expected only very few can resist the temptation to look for old infatuations or the first love. In those cases for many the question “what could have been, if . . . ?” represents the first step into the, at first virtual imagined and frequently also amorous escapade later converted to reality. An indication that this estimated number appears to be growing in leaps and bounds is demonstrated by the fact that it has already been the cause for the development of a lucrative business model: We are already aware of specialized computer companies earning their keep at cracking the password of a Facebook- (or other social network) account! In most cases, customers are partners who became leery and now want to catch their dearest at clandestine amorous activities on these platforms . . .

Cyber affairs are a frequently underrated threat to relationships – the standard excuse of those caught red handed is hapless John’s already quoted as: “Nothing really happened!” Obviously that is incorrect. Although it may be correct that no real (physical) cheating took place; after everything is said and done, a virtual betrayal is even more damaging to the partnership. People who are involved in a Cyber affair begin to increasingly withdraw from their real partner. They are emotionally distanced, disinterested and less prepared to invest in the relationship. Their every day engagement declines and they spend more and more hours online and have decreasing energy and time for their partner and their obligations at home. They react dismissively or aggressively and with increased withdrawal to inquiries or reproaches. Secrecies and lies increasingly characterize the communication with their partner. They are withholding their devotion, warmth, passion and intimacy from their real partner and devote them to their virtual partner. All those surveyed indicated that they eventually and increasingly preferred to share the things that truly moved them with their online rather than with their real partner. American scientists have coined the term “emotional cheating” for this behavior. Even when it does not culminate in “actual” infidelity, it is not without consequences for the relationship. Following a relevant study in 2004, Heather Underwood and Bruce Findlay at Swinburne University in Australia came to the conclusion that the preponderant number of those involved in online-affairs experienced the latter as a lot more satisfying than their real relationship: less habitual, sexually and emotionally more fulfilling. Although most of the surveyed disputed that their virtual relationship represented no danger to their real relationship, the objectivity of this assessment has to be subject to some skepticism.

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Occasionally an online affair is actually only the prelude to an actual extra-marital affair. According to surveys this happens most often when the virtual flirt rekindles a former love relationship. But in other cases at some point the banter on the net generate the need to have action follow the words. It is only understandable that resourceful business folks have already discovered a market that needs to be served: Namely escapade agencies on the Internet. Via websites such as www.ashleymadison.com the searchers are discreetly put in contact with national and international candidates for quick escapades on the side – in return for a juicy fee, of course! For instance german site C-Date presently boasts 225,000 paying members, the other two follow with 180,000 and 140,000 escapade ready and willing customers, respectively. Well, but then those are at least a few more options than having to wait for the postman ringing twice like in those grey days in the past, no? What is more, here one can even detail one’s very personal erotic preferences and receive references of suitable candidates in return! A dream, isn’t it? Especially when useful tips how to best keep the extramarital fun a secret are provided as a part of the entertainment package – for instance: “Never save the number of your escapade in your mobile phone under his/her name rather, use neutral designators such as AAA or life insurance!” – “While driving always observe the rules of the road to keep from having your picture taken while joy-riding with your affair!” – “Address your affair as rarely as possible by his/her first name because you don’t want the wrong name slip out during sex with your permanent partner!”

Still hesitating? Okay, why don’t you click on alibinetwork.com! Here you’ll find professionals who make their money by covering your tracks during your escapade. For lousy US$ 175 they’ll send you an “official” invitation as proof that you are urgently requested to attend an event. You can then leave it lying around at home for your partner to find and to make sure that he/she does not get the wrong idea. And best of all: There is even a telephone number where your partner can reach you in an emergency while away. An amiable “secretary” will then inform him/her that she has to find you and that you will return the call as soon as possible . . . You can book your love nest for the same price: Hotel bookings are not made under your name, but the agency’s postal address; and should you forget your toiletry bag in the heat of the embrace, that will also be discretely returned via the agency. In case money is no object and you need maximal freedom you can simply become an official member of the club of your choice. From then on you can always claim attendance at an urgent meeting. Well, and potentially at one point the arrangement will ruin your relationship, as well. But then those are obviously the risks of the Worldwide Web . . .