It is distressing for most partners to find evidence of their partner’s cybersex use.
Cybersex can include viewing sexual images or content online, talking about the material with others online, or engaging in two-way conversations about sex acts. It can also include the use of Web cameras to engage in sexual acts with another partner online.
- It is common for partners to feel a mix of fear, disbelief, outrage, shame, anger, rejection, and betrayal.
- Many don’t know what to say or do.
- They hesitate bringing it up with their partner and they are too embarrassed to speak to someone else.
- Some are haunted by the question – Could my partner be a Cybersex Addict?
The Importance of Information
Knowledge and information is empowering because it usually lowers anxiety. With regard to Cybersex it is worth knowing:
- Visits to adult sexual sites are not rare for adult online users and do not necessarily equate to addiction. Research on cybersex with samples of over 9,000 reveals that 20-30% of online users visit sites that engage in online sexual activities and report no adverse reactions.
- The recreational users access online sexuality more out of curiosity and entertainment purposes and do not have problems with online sexual behavior. They are comparable to social drinkers.
- Porn is used more often by men than women as a primary source of stimulation. More men than women become addicted to porn.
- For some, masturbation to porn is an anxiety reducing ritual that has very little to do with sexuality.
- Cybersex as sexually explicit emails often involves an addiction to a virtual sexually desirous self.
- Chat rooms are used more by women who tend to be more relationship seeking than men.
- Women are more likely to become addicted to fantasy relationships or online connection as a temporary relief from painful feelings.
- According to those who have studied cybersex addiction, there is a marked difference in the quality, amount of time, secrecy, compulsivity and devastation between those who occasionally visit a site and those who become addicted to on-line sexual pursuits.
When is Cybersex an Addiction?
Cybersex is considered an addiction when like any addiction to drugs and alcohol, it involves an obsessive and compelling need for a “ fix” at the cost of anyone and anything.
It is often a “fix” for regulating feelings like anxiety, despair, self-doubt, rage, and fear of abandonment that has little to do with love or real intimacy
Despite promises to stop, there is an inability to do so despite grave physical, social, economic and emotional consequences.
I felt guilty because I avoided sex with my wife. I kept thinking I could stop. I couldn’t.
I stayed until everyone left the office. I took a lot of risks.
Has this Hi-Tech Culture caused Cybersex Addiction?
Author and cybersex expert, Rob Weiss clarifies that while our tech advances don’t cause the addiction, the anonymity, accessibility and affordability of the internet has greatly increased “ the risk” of those people with addictive personalities who seek an outside fix to deal with regulation of feelings.
Cybersex is physically and neurophysiologically transformative. It affords temporary pleasure and release but it is a fix that can’t last.
How Can I Speak to My Partner?
When and how you speak to your partner is a function of your feelings, the status of your relationship and the need to clarify reality before acting on frightened judgments or assumptions.
There are some partners who might realize their partner had accessed a porn site and just let it go. They would move on and see if there was any evidence in terms of feelings, desire, fun or connection that warranted concern.
There are others who would not be able to rest or think anything but the worst until they had mentioned it to their partner.
In his valuable book, Mindwise, Nicholas Epley uses research to remind us that as good as we think we know ourselves and our partner, the reality is that we are often only a little better than a stranger at correctly reading what they are feeling or thinking. Based on that, he strongly encourages us to draw upon humility and curiosity to ask.
In the case of cybersex, the suggestion is to “ go lightly” to share what you found. If there is denial, insult at your checking or counterattack, it is worth waiting it out or at a later time mentioning that you brought it up not as judgment but to clear the air and your own mind from worrying.
Maybe this is a point where each would consider reflecting upon questions like the following before even discussing them:
- What does occasional or frequent use of cybersex by me or my partner mean for me?
- Does it affect our relationship in any way?
- How are we as a couple in general?
- How are we feeling as individuals?
- If I have a problem with Cybersex use- Am I willing to get help?
- Will I support my partner toward getting help?
For a number of people the discussion about cybersex may simply inform them more about each other.
For others it may result in an agreement to be more open rather than a ban on cybersex.
Some may go many painful rounds of confrontation, promising and denial before the reality of a cybersex addiction is owned.
Dealing with Cybersex Addiction
As discussed in an earlier blog, no one recovers from a cybersex addiction without help and no one recovers for someone else.
Recovery is possible and may start with sexual rehab programs or 12 step programs; but there are specific challenges that make sustained commitment, self imposed restrictions and ongoing work with a sponsor, therapist and/ or group indispensible.
There is always more to know about ourselves and our partners. We live in a Hi-Tech Culture which has the potential to push us “closer together or further apart.” In the end…we decide.
Listen in to the Podcast on Psych UP or the radio show on Cosozo Radio to hear Rob Weiss discuss “Is High Tech pushing us Closer Together or Further Apart?”