General Question

wundayatta's avatar

If your spouse virtually cheated, would you feel as bad as if he or she physically cheated?

Asked by wundayatta (58693points) June 25th, 2009

I did both, but my wife actually said she felt worse about the virtual cheating because I claimed to be in love. I know I felt like I was in love at the time, but now I feel like I was deluding myself due to unhappiness with my relationship with my wife, and due to being in a frame of mind unduly influenced by mania and depression (I was bouncing around with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, at the time).

I am asking this about your (imagined, or from experience) personal feelings, not about how you would judge others who do this. I’m not asking for any judgments about this kind of behavior, at all. Believe me, I’ve done an awful lot of destructively harsh judging of myself, and I’m pretty sure anyone else who experienced this has done the same.

If you can, can you try to trace the causes of why you would or do feel the way you do? What experiences lead you to believe that this is how you would (or have) responded this way?

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54 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

For me cheating virtually would fall in the realm of fantasy. Everyone fantasises about something.

DeanV's avatar


Probably because it would probably like this or this. It’s just more fantasy than anything else.

But good question.

Whispy's avatar

My husband did also both like your wife i too was more afected with the virtual affair because i saw all his messages to the other woman, i think what made me feel this was because i saw everything he said like that he loved her they were planning there future life together as oppose to the physical thing which i did not see

Dog's avatar

The only difference to me is that I would not feel the need to get a VD test. The other pain would be real.

casheroo's avatar

Since I’ve never experienced it, I can only go by what I think I would feel.

I think both would hurt me the same. Both would be a breach of trust, both would be disregarding our marriage. I think physically seeing it typed out might be more painful to look at though.

cookieman's avatar

My reaction to my wife would be the same. Cheating is cheating.

My reaction to her paramour would differ in that the “real life” one would be easier to track down and…eliminate.

Judi's avatar

Both would be devastating, but between my husband engaging in a deep emotional relationship with another woman or to buying a hooker, I think I would feel more threatened by the deep emotional relationship. (although both would be deal breakers)

DeanV's avatar

Well, fuck. I misread this question. I took it a bit differently.

My real answer is more of a yes, it would hurt me, but I would not dump the person for cheating on me online. That’s more of a counseling type thing. It’s a breach of trust for sure, though. I guess it kind of depends on the person…

I need to start reading details of a question.

Facade's avatar

I think it would make me feel equally as horrible because they probably had some deep emotional connection. Cheating emotionally is worse, to me, than physically cheating.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I would not like it at all. I do not know if it would be a deal breaker for me, but I would be very hurt. If it was a full-blown relationship ala the internet, then yeah, I think I would break things off. If, however, it was only cybersex, I think i would want to talk to my boyfriend about was going on and why he did it.

Thammuz's avatar

Well, that depends an awful lot on the circumstances: If by “cheating” we mean cybering in some chatroom, then definitively no, afterall it’s just fantasy, like masturbating to porn, it has no real emotional component and there’s no actual second party involved.
On the other hand if he case was, like yours, one of a long deep relationship into which there’s actual emotional investment i’d really be kinda pissed. Disregarding the eventual cybersex, it’s be the fact that my partner was in love with someone else to really get to me.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I agree with several folks here, as virtual cheating is like fantasy. Physical cheating is real, and although it is not morally right, or even considered acceptable by some folks, being in a marriage that allows for open exploration with others makes my particular circumstances different. That said, I haven’t strayed, but the option has been discussed in the context of our relationship and we have come to a decision about it. There will be no sneaking around, because we respect each other too much for such underhandedness.

Life is about choices, your results may vary.

btko's avatar

To me they are one and the same.

Supacase's avatar

A virtual affair is almost always about a connection with someone based on something other than physical desire. I think that would bother me more, especially if I ever read the details, although I would never be able to let my husband touch me again if he ever had a real affair.

I know myself and I would never be able to stop thinking about any kind of infidelity enough to let it go as long as he was still around, so either one would be the end of our marriage. I would not trust him again.

hug_of_war's avatar

A virtual affair is almost always an emotional affair, and sometimes more. So just as bad I think.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

An emotional affair with correspondence back and forth online would seem more serious than giving in to a physical flirtation or “hook up”, I think I would feel more hurt and devastated. They are both cheating though, in my mind.

wundayatta's avatar

Wow! I must admit that this surprises me. I think you call it “emotional” affairs, but if it’s only over the internet, I wonder who the affair really is with? I think it’s more oneself than the other person. We are having the affair with our own fantasies. I suppose you could find that more frightening, and perhaps that makes sense. It’s hard to distinguish fantasy emotion from more serious emotion. Fantasy emotion, for me, like a crush, doesn’t ever last. Only real emotion does that. If it’s taking place over the internet, and there is no in-person contact, you just don’t know what is real and what is your imagination.

Even in person, that can be the case. We project our emotions on other people all the time. It’s much harder in virtual reality. Anyway. This is really interesting. Thanks for your answers, and keep those answers coming!

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

You may feel the emotional affair is only with oneself but what of the other person involved in the correspondence? They might just feel they are involved with you (universal you) and not in a fantasy. Internet is the modern medium, taking over for pen and paper/loveletters of the past. Text messages are now the replacement for secret notes passed back and forth. The exchange of intimate pictures via e-mail or text have taken the place of a secreted fondle.

prude's avatar

no, no touching is the rule. no touching = no cheating

cyndyh's avatar

If I found out my husband thought he was in love with someone else it wouldn’t matter whether they’d physically gotten together or not other than the fact that I wouldn’t have to run out and get tested. I’d still be as hurt.

Bobbilynn's avatar

I cheat all the time (online) I suppose then!
But I don’t feel out of fantasy, but out of missing something in the current relationship! I know this is so for me. If he found out, he would be hurt, I’m sure!

casheroo's avatar

the fact that “cybersex” isn’t cheating to some makes me feel so sick. I mean, as long as it’s agreed upon by both in the relationship, but to me in my relationship it would be cheating :(

wundayatta's avatar

I can’t really explain it any better than I have, so I guess I’ve not made a very convincing explanation, or I’m just in a pretty small minority on this one. I don’t quite know how to describe it, although cyber and phone sex reminds me more of playing music or dancing than anything else. It’s a kind of altered state of consciousness, where your focus on what you are imagining pretty much takes you outside yourself.

But it’s still just a story. The feelings are real feelings, but they are not lasting feelings. It’s like acting in a play. It’s just not real life. I do improvisational dance, and we often get into these very intense scenes and emotions. It can get extremely intimate, emotionally speaking. But it’s just dance, and everyone understands that. It is a way of expressing feelings, but not a way of creating a relationship.

I’ll say it again—it is play-acting. Really. You have to suspend disbelief for it to work. It’s not to be mistaken for anything serious or lasting.

casheroo's avatar

@daloon But to me, the same could be said with flirting with someone in person. It’s not lasting, or serious…but it’s still cheating. That’s in my relationship though. I know every relationship is different. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t shock me though.

dannyc's avatar

I think the tools today for virtual cheating are new and uncharted. Something like that may start innocently, then develop in a direction that may not be intended. If one can now curb that direction, and be sorry and learning of what was not predictable, then people may understand your faux pas, and forgive you. An interesting dilemna, and a difficult one.

wundayatta's avatar

@casheroo I think that’s a good example—flirting. We’ve had discussions about that before here, and you are right—there are a lot of different feelings about that. Some people arent bothered when their spouses flirt, and it drives others crazy. I think it has to do with trust, both of self and of partner. If you doubt, these things bother you. If you trust, it’s not a problem.

My wife absolutely trusted me. Hell, I trusted me. It turned out we were both wrong. But maybe not all that wrong. I think this trust is being rebuilt by both our efforts.

She should have been bothered when she wasn’t, and she doesn’t need to be bothered now that she is bothered. It’s a tricky, tricky thing. I’m not proud of hurting her, and I wish we could have gotten to where we are by some different road. But this is the road we took. We have to make the best of it, or let it fall apart. I never wanted our relationship to fall apart. That was not what motivated me to do these things. That’s why I think that what I got involved in was fantasy. It had nothing to do with what I really wanted. It had much more to do with my inability to cope with my unhappiness and my feelings of worthlessness.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

cyber sex is simply masturbation, whether you are using porn or someone online. It’s kind of creepy, but it isn’t the same as physical cheating.

ru2bz46's avatar

I am separated from my wife due to her “emotional affair” last year. Her ex-bf from 15 years past found her MySpace page and contacted her. Eight months later, I found eight months of emails between the two. Most of them were quick notes to sync up with a safe phone call. In an exchange from the most recent ones was her statement that she would need two years to wrap things up before she could be with him. They professed their love for each other in many of the emails as well.

This discovery came up a few days before our 10th anniversary. She had cheated physically five years earlier, and I had just realized that I could implicitly trust her again the week before I found out.

She, too, had blamed her affairs on her bipolar disorder. I met with her doctor and showed him printouts of the various correspondence and asked his opinion. He told me that bipolar affairs are spontaneous, not long-term and hidden. There is no “love” between the bipolar person and the lover. He said there was almost no chance that her affairs were related to bipolar.

In my opinion, there is no difference at all between physical and emotional affairs when love is professed in both.

Thammuz's avatar

@casheroo: wait a second. You have to define the circumstances better, afterall you can cyber with pretty much any possible chatroom in the world, no problem with that, how would it be emotional in any way if you were simply reading a bunch of text typed up by somebody else? Likely a stranger, in the case of ONLY cybersex?

There’s no actual second party involved, nor any desire for it, since, generally (i’m thinking simply writing, no webcams or mics, that’s different) there’s no possible way to actually know who the hell is chatting with you. (14 years old girl? 58 years white fatass with bushy eyebrows? who knows?)

It would be like saying that reading erotic stories is cheating with the author, doesn’t make much sense to me.

casheroo's avatar

@Thammuz My husband can go and jerk off all he wants, he can look at porn or whatever, but going online, talking to another person to help him get off or whatever it’s used for, is cheating. I don’t care if it’s a stranger. I could walk up to a stranger today and ask him to fuck me. That’d be cheating, wouldn’t it? It’s the fact that it’s another person that makes it cheating. That’s how it is in my relationship* I don’t even need to explain it to my husband, since he has even stricter views on what is cheating than I do!

LexWordsmith's avatar

if my wife thought that she would be happier with someone else, i would encourage her to divorce me and go be with him. After a while, i suspect, she would regret no longer having my faithful love, but, if not, then really we would never have been happy together any more anyway, so she might as well be happy, seeing that i would be unhappy in either case.

If she had a physical relationship with someone else while still married to me, i would feel very much saddened by my failure as a husband in not having provided whatever she really needed, but i would not want to remain married to her—i would feel too bitter about having made so much of an effort to honor marriage vows that she obviously didn’t care about.

i’d like to get Jenny Sanford to chime in on this one.

Thammuz's avatar

@casheroo Ok, but how do you draw that kind of line? how is it feasible to compare reading something and jerking off to it to going to a stranger on the street and fucking him?

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you find out he was jerking off to a very sophisticated BOT, would it be the same?

Would it change if he thought it was a human being? Would it change if he was jerking off to a human being but he thought it was a BOT?

Would it change if he jerked off to an erotic story written as a soliloquy by somebody else? (i’ve seen that shi, phrases to which you reply whatever is in your mind and go on reading) afterall it does TAKE another person to have that kind of stuff to jerk off to.
And the same goes for porn, there’d be no porn without people making it.

I seriously don’t see where to draw the line with this point of view, by your logic even jerking off to porn shouldn’t be allowed, PEOPLE made that porn, and it’s about THEM that he’s fantasizing, even moreso than in a chatroom where imagination plays the most relevant part, in a porn you ca actually see and desire the women on the screen. I for one choose very discriminatively which pornstars i like because i only want women who look just how i like them. In a chatroom i’d simply fantasize about some random girl, how is this worse than fantasizing about a SPECIFIC other girl?

I really don’t see your reasoning here

Thammuz's avatar

@LexWordsmith you didn’t actually say anything about cheating over the internet, though…

Disc2021's avatar

A question arises out of this – “Is cybersex/webcamming cheating?” I’ve already answered a question somewhat like this so I’ll add what I had to say about this subject in with the actual question here.

I dont think cyber-sex is cheating the conventional way – but I also think if you even have to ask yourself “Would my spouse/lover be upset if they found out? Is this WRONG?”, then you’re probably doing something you shouldn’t be doing, regardless of any justifications you can use. I dont think I would break up immediately with my partner if they were doing something like this but I would definitely not be happy with this kind of behavior and if it didn’t end soon it would potentially lead towards a break up. Pornography is a different story because there isn’t any interaction per se. Using pictures or video for stimulation is more understandable, where as reaching out to someone specifically is crossing into shaky waters.

To the original question (which I’ve probably partially answered) – the interaction/fact that my spouse or lover is going to the length of reaching out to others for things they should be turning to me for is what would worry and upset me. Meeting up with someone physically is definitely going a greater length than meeting someone online is. I would not be AS upset – but I definitely would be upset, especially if they were telling this person that they loved them.

@Daloon – I realize you understand what you did was very hurtful to your relationship so I’m not here to judge/talk down on you and I hope that’s not how you’ll interpret my response.

LexWordsmith's avatar

@Thammuz : that’s what i meant by the first part, where she thought that she would be happier with someone else. Is there really a difference between (a) emotional infidelity without meeting in person and (b) emotional infidelity with someone you meet in person but never have a physical relationship with? i think not, so i don’t see any difference between, say, exchanging longing emails (on the one hand) and (on the other) engaging in steamy phone calls, as long as there’s no physical consummation.

prude's avatar

@Thammuz I agree w/what you are saying here.

prude's avatar

my online relationship I had was one that I couldn’t have had w/who I am w/now.
this person new where to mentally touch me. In a way that made it the most intimate relationship I have ever had, even more so than the dom/sub relationship I had a number of years ago.
I can just masturbate w/the toys I have, but it wasn’t as good unless he was online or on the phone w/me while I did it.
I still do not consider this to be cheating. I consider this supplementation. I get something from one which another cannot provide me. Although my current s/o does put an effort into making me happy, he just does not have the same whatever it is that my online relationship had/has.
I still do enjoy gay porn (man/man) and I do not believe that is cheating either. I am not a man. Don’t even understand how some can see that as cheating.

CMaz's avatar

“deluding myself due to unhappiness with my relationship”
That is pretty much what it is about.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I’d feel worse. I’d think there was really something wrong with him.

derekfnord's avatar

For me, key word is “as.” Would I feel bad? Yes. Would I feel as bad? No.

In fact, while it wouldn’t be something I’d jump for joy over of course, I might be encouraged by the fact that she found a way of “having an affair” without really having an affair, if that makes any sense. Like it might be a warning sign of more serious issues to come, but one that gives us a chance to address things before they escalate.

prude's avatar

@derekfnord well thought out.
I tend to agree to an extent

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@derekfnord: I read your answer yesterday and mulled it over. I still have to add in here that when people form an emotional infatuation/emotional affair it’s a whole lot more serious than when they start out just fooling around physically. The physical usually happens to people first and may or may not build further into a full, solid relationship with emotions all in. An emotional affair is ¾ of the way out of a current relationship and a physical encounter if presented will just be a spark to set off a huge fire. Not always good.

Aethelwine's avatar

I agree with @hungryhungryhortence. An emotional affair is much stronger than an infatuation.

Merriment's avatar

I would feel worse.

After all if they cheated in the “flesh” it may have been nothing more than a physical sensation they were after.

But it they cheated virtually then they invested a great deal of time, emotion and intimacy with that other person to form a bond. Time and intimacy that should have been shared with the spouse.

It’s easy enough to get a sexual emotional one is harder to come by and therefore more precious.

wundayatta's avatar

@Merriment “It’s easy enough to get a sexual stroking” Oh really? I never found that to be the case. Must have been doing something wrong. Typical.

LexWordsmith's avatar

@daloon : perhaps you’ve been offering too little money?<grin>

Offering lots of money seems to purchase physical sexual stroking for almost anyone.

Merriment's avatar

@daloon – LOL. Really. It’s been easy enough for me, but then I am a girl.

wundayatta's avatar

@Merriment Well now, that’s hardly fair. You need a handicap for a fair competition. Maybe snakes growing out of your head?

So the take home lesson is that if I want to get laid a lot, I need to be rich or have a vagina?

Merriment's avatar

@daloon – Oh, I have a “handicap”. It’s called a direct connection between emotion and sex…it afflicts many a woman :)

The take home lesson is: Invest your emotions in your current partner and you are far more likely to get laid/stroked on a regular basis.

Silhouette's avatar

Cheating is cheating and it doesn’t matter if you leave a wet spot behind. If my husband went out for coffee with another woman and then lied about it I’d consider it cheating. If he went out for coffee with another woman but left the lying out of the equation I’d consider it coffee with a woman. The sneaking, the lying and the deception show a lack of integrity that eclipse the deed. Be honest in all things.

ru2bz46's avatar

@daloon Snakes growing out of the head = HOT!

gypsy2020's avatar

Virtual cheating is extremely painful, as is physical..though i have to say it is more vivid when you see what your spouse is saying and doing with the other women than if you just knew he was with another women.. i support neither. Dealing with virtual cheating is difficult especially when he/she falls (in love) enough to want a divorce.) I actually have to listen to him talk about how much he likes her and see the things he says every day.. it is belittling and can make you feel as if you do not exist and were never good enough. How do you compete with what you can not see… it ruins marriages, because the hurt is so deep that if/when they realize they were wrong it is to late to forgive.

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