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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Infidelity: Married, Bored and Cheating Online

Infidelity has become an increasingly complex problem with all the opportunities to meet willing participants in sex chat rooms.  Feeling bored with their marriage is a primary reason given by spouses who go online in sex chat rooms.

Is It Cheating If You're in an Online Sex Chat Room?
Many spouses who cheat online don't consider their secret to be a form of infidelity because they rationalize that there is no physical contact with the people they're chatting with on line.  This is a form of denial, and it's one of the first misconceptions that I clear up with spouses who come to therapy to deal with this problem:  Having sex chats with people online, other than your spouse, is a form of infidelity.

Infidelity: Married, Bored and Cheating in Sex Chat Rooms
Infidelity in Sex Chat Rooms Occurs with Both Men and Woman, Heterosexual and Gay
Infidelity in chat rooms occurs with both men and women but, more often, it occurs with men cheating on their wives.  So, for simplicity's sake, I will address this issue from the point of view of the husbands who are cheating.  All of the clients that I've seen for this problem have been men.  But it's understood that this isn't just a problem for men.  Also, for the sake of simplicity, I'm addressing this issue in terms of heterosexual men, but it's understood that this is also a problem among gay clients.

Boredom as a Trigger to "Act Out"
Often, men who feel bored with their marriage lack the communication and relationship skills to talk to their spouses about their boredom.  Instead of trying to repair their marriage, they seek excitement on the online sex chat rooms.

These chat rooms represent a quick fix to their boredom in terms of providing instant sexual excitement--without ever having to leave the house.  It also provides anonymity and rich fantasies about who the other person might be in terms of sexual attractiveness and being willing to engage in sex talk and role plays.  It also allows men, who might otherwise be too insecure to approach women in person, an opportunity to take on a bolder, sexier persona online.  It's very easy to get into a semi-trance state in these chat rooms (or online, in general) that alleviates boredom and feels relaxing.

One of the major problems with participating in online sex chat rooms is that this activity often becomes obsessive, so that participants either need to do it more often or they need to engage in riskier behavior to feel sexually gratified by the experience.  Spending more and more time online and less time sleeping and taking care of other responsibilities creates its own problems.  For many people, it turns into a sexual addiction.

Coming to Therapy After Getting Caught
Often, people seek help in therapy because their wives discovered their online activity and gave them an ultimatum--get help or the marriage is over.   For most people that I've seen, this is a wake up call that they have a serious problem.  Whereas they might have been able to tell themselves that it wasn't a problem until then, once their marriage is threatened, most people come to the realization that they have a serious problem.

There are also clients who aren't convinced that they have a problem.  They're coming because their spouse has given them the ultimatum, but they're not internally motivated.  Some of those clients, over time, will become internally motivated.  But there are still a percentage who remain only externally motivated and they approach treatment like "mandated clients."

Developing As An Individual and Within a Couple
For clients who want to change, the work begins by centering around recognizing boredom as a trigger for their acting out behavior.  Once they can accept that boredom is a trigger, instead of acting out they need to learn to "act in" the relationship.  In other words, they need to learn to communicate with their spouse and, together, find ways to revive the relationship.  At the same time, people who act out in this way need to be aware that if they can be at risk for "acting out" in other ways--with alcohol, drugs, gambling, food or other ways that they might look for external distractions.

Also, aside from working on the relationship, learning to develop creatively as an individual is another important element of the treatment.  This is part of a mature adult's development.  But for many people who deal with their problems by "acting out," they've never developed in this way, so their personality development remains on an adolescent level--looking for the "excitement" outside of themselves rather than within themselves or within the relationship.

We all go through periods when we feel bored and part of being a mature adult is learning to tolerate these occasions rather than trying to escape them with unhealthy habits.

Getting Help
I've worked with many individuals who have developed obsessions with online sex chat rooms, Internet pornography or other forms of sexual addiction.  There are no quick fixes for these types of problems, and part of the work, initially, is helping clients to develop the ability to regulate their emotions and develop the capacity to persevere so they can overcome their problems, as opposed to looking for an external quick fix.  I have helped many clients  with this problem who have been willing to do the work.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me , visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

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