I recently saw a heart-breaking story in The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/fashion/in-a-divorce-the-clicks-of-a-mouse-modern-love.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&ref=fashion&src=me from a woman whose husband had been having an affair with a woman he met online, unbeknown to her. Perhaps even more tragically, this story is not that uncommon. In fact there are a number of statistics that reveal how widespread this has become:

Internet users devote three hours per week to online sexual exploits (MSNBC.com)

  • -Statistics show more than 72,000 sexually explicit sites on the web and an estimated 266 new porn sites being added each day. These sites alone generate a revenue of $1 billion dollars each year.
    (Harding Institute)
  • One in 10 respondents said they are addicted to sex and the Internet
    (MSNBC.com and Dr. Alvin Cooper)
     

It’s become overly simple to meet someone online for sex – in fact it’s more difficult to avoid these types of propositions than it is to take advantage of them, as the woman in the article found when, following her divorce, she did a little online sex research of her own:  

[After posting my ad] I refreshed my e-mail and a dozen more replies showed up. Within the hour I had more than 100. I was appalled but also flattered 

Needless to say, these types of encounters are easy to procure and appear much less high-risk than attempting to pick someone up in real life. However, the real life consequences are just as devastating. It’s a way of over-riding true emotions by opting for a “high” of a sexual encounter instead. It could be the case that people looking for casual encounters via the internet are seeking out a way to mask the fact that they don’t want to deal with their emotions or don’t know how to engage in true intimacy. It’s a way of acting out – not talking out – extreme feelings in a person’s life. People who utilize the internet for these types of “relationships” are typically just in it for the high the feel in the moment without examining what’s making them seek that high.  

When one person in a couple suffers from this need for thrill-seeking behavior it’s imperative that the person communicate with their partner – and with themselves – as to what’s leading them into this pattern. As I suggest in the documentary, Unfaithful (featured on the OWN Network), it’s imperative to dig deeper than indulging a momentary desire and learn what feeds the need to act in such a way.  

In this sense, the course of action for dealing with this behavior is the same as if it weren’t fueled by technology. However the ever-presence of sex online has made this type of thrill-seeking much more accessible, and seem much less risky. This perception is just not true. Engaging in an affair – online, offline or otherwise – is fraught with risk and reveals relationship shortcomings that need to be talked out, not acted out. 

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of the 2010 NY Times Reader’s Choice Award winning book Make Up Don’t Break Up with accompanying DVD Falling in Love and Staying In Love counsels couples considering breaking up, people who have committed adultery, and couples who want to strengthen their relationships damaged by resentment or unresolved anger, teaching people to “fight” to increase passion, bring back magic and restore the sizzle. Dr. Bonnie teaches Smart Heart Dialogue along with communication and connection tools, and counsels families and children.
 
Known as “The Adultery Buster” and the “No. 1 Love Expert,” she is the best-selling author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin (adapted into a Lifetime movie starring actress Kate Jackson) Coming Nov 2011 as eBook, Make Up Don’t Break Up, Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples (Revised edition Feb 2010, including DVD How to Fall in Love and Stay in Love for Singles and Couples), Can We Cure and Forgive Adultery?, How Not to (S)mother Your Man and Keep a Woman Happy, and Financial Infidelity.

Dr. Bonnie has appeared on a Discovery Health documentary titled “Unfaithful” and A&E on addictions. ABC’s Good Morning America, a three-day series on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show five times, a four day series on Fox TV regarding dating. She appears frequently on ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC News, The View, 20/20, and CNN. Visit Dr. Bonnie at http://www.DoctorBonnie.com.

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