Published in Uncategorised by Dr Naomi Moller of The Open University on October 18th 2021
Face-to-face affairs have a huge negative impact on a partner. It seems that online affairs are no different.
Research on face-to-face infidelity shows that finding out that your partner has cheated can have a huge impact – it can make a person feel undesirable, insecure, hostile and helpless. Finding out about an affair can also bring on anxiety and depression. The person who ‘cheats’ can also feel anxious and guilty.
Initially, researchers questioned whether ‘virtual’ affairs were as damaging for relationships as face-to-face ones. The mounting evidence suggests that they are. People who’ve taken part in research report feeling significant distress, hurt and loss of trust in their relationship following discovery of online cheating. They also report negative impacts on both their relationship and their families.
Mounting evidence suggests that virtual affairs are as damaging for relationships as face-to-face ones
Discovering that your partner’s having an online affair can be particularly difficult. Research suggests that this is because online cheating:
These factors may make the initial shock even greater.
Discovering an online affair can make a person feel a strong sense of betrayal for two reasons:
I have a deep mistrust in the internet, and feel it massively facilitates infidelity. My ex-husband is inherently a very shy man, but online he is able to act much more confidently and attract the attention of other women. I strongly believe he would [not] have had so many affairs without the internet.
Finding out that your partner seems to be a different person online can feel really betraying – like you never knew them at all.
If you are struggling with the impact of an online affair, see our ‘counselling for online cheating’ resource.
To see the full list of research references which have informed the content on this page, please see our research references section.