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If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.

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Sometimes the best of intentions simply don’t workout.

Talking to others or seeking professional help can be a helpful next step.

Every time you walk by, you’re asking yourself if he or she is using it for an affair.” While most relationships are hampered by such workday realities as household chores and paying the bills, online relationships exist in an electronic nether world where strangers can construct their own identities, Hertlein says.

“On the Internet, you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to be this constrained person you think you should be.” Fantasy also is a huge factor in online affairs, and fantasy always trumps reality.

Women usually feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are more concerned about physical encounters, Hertlein says, but the gender differences are lessening.

“That is starting to even out in part because of the equality of opportunity that the Internet brings to everybody,” she says.

“With the Internet, we’re moving away from just physical ideas about infidelity and acknowledging emotional infidelity.” While there is no universally accepted definition, an Internet affair frequently involves intimate chat sessions and sexually stimulating conversation or cybersex, which may include filming mutual masturbation with a Web camera.

Several studies suggest that even when there is no in-person contact, online affairs can be just as devastating as the real-world variety, triggering feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy.

Marriage counseling or couples and family therapy, is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes improved relationship skills and conflict resolution. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapy.

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