Rejection plays a big role in the personalities of cheaters. Judy Silverstein, a Boston sex therapist, believes that men and women who seek online encounters generally suffer from some kind of social disorder. "The Internet is very rewarding and self-gratifying, which reinforces the attraction to it for people who are very lonely. Lonely people find a connection online and it fulfills a social and emotional need that very often goes with other issues such as depression or social anxiety," said Silverstein.
Men and women who suffer from shy personalities can go online and become aggressive sex-seekers. They can talk dirty, ask for racy photos, and be a person they could never be in real life. This new "freedom of speech" encourages normally timid people to release their inhibitions in a forum where they feel safe and are surrounded by others who have the same desires and fantasies.
"It’s all about instant gratification," said Howard Mathisen, a sex therapist. "It’s fantasy, and fantasy is always better than reality. There’s just that excitement that comes with it."
Simply signing into a chat room gives cheaters access to a variety of people, a unique community who share the same ideas of how to fulfill a sexual need. The cyber community can fill a niche all its own that is hard to find in real life. Knowing that they aren’t alone, cheaters give other cheaters a boost of confidence to go through with seeking out affairs. The chat rooms and message boards also give cheaters a chance to interact with their "dream girl/guy," and that’s not necessarily physically — many married men and women seek emotional online affairs in addition to the kinky stuff.
Trading daily e-mails tends to form a certain kind of friendship, and later, feelings of trust and mutual attraction. Suddenly, boring lives seem exciting and new, a throwback to the days of high school, when love and sex were fresh and went hand-in-hand. However, more experts are seeing that what may have started out as a feel-good online affair is often turning into a real life situation where computer keys are replaced with hands, and monitors replaced mouths.
"A lot of times it starts out innocent," said Silverstein. "People enjoy the connection and it seems like intimacy, even though it’s not, because it’s safe and protective, but eventually it can and does lead to things like phone conversations and talking in person."
According to MenStuff, an Internet national resource guide specializing in men’s issues, a recent study reported 50 percent of people have made phone contact with someone they met online and 38 percent have engaged in explicit conversations online. There’s also strong evidence linking online infidelity to real world infidelity. For married men and women who believe the grass is always greener, cyber affairs are very tempting because emotional and physical fantasies seem all too real and within their grasp. In addition, these attachments often lead to a build up of desires and pent up frustration encouraging both parties to indulge in a real life interaction.
With the lines blurring between fantasy and reality, online affairs are steadily becoming more damaging to marriages than real life affairs. Connecting virtually and judging by words alone creates a false sense of confidence and encourages cheaters to confide, not only sexual desires, but personal feelings and thoughts that they may not have shared with their significant other.
"Many times a man or woman will share intimate details about their personal lives, and share a part of themselves with some else that they haven’t shared with their husband or wife," said Sheri Stritof, a psychologist and relationship columnist for About.com. "They want to make that connection with someone that they haven’t been able to before and the Internet makes it easy because you don’t know exactly who you are talking to on the other side."
Stritof often deals with cyber cheating in her column that she co-writes with her husband, Bob, also a psychologist. She says she receives countless e-mails about cyber cheating and online affairs from the cheaters themselves–many of whom don’t see it as cheating. Justifying and rationalizing are two things cheaters have become reknown for. The Internet has only made it easier for people seeking a little fun on the side to remove any feelings of guilt or wrongdoing because it’s online, and not real life–at least at the start.
Neycan, who has kept his affairs strictly cyber–for now–admits he has no guilt, "Everybody has secrets, even from a spouse, but cyber sex is barely more than cheating in actual terms."
Mathisen believes that even strictly cyber affairs are cheating. If the affair ever leaked out the marriage would be in serious trouble-or even over-but he does say that every relationship has its own definition of cheating, and what it means to the individuals in that relationship.
"It’s relative who decides what’s cheating," he says. "Look at Bill Clinton, he says that wasn’t cheating. It’s a subjective thing. I think if the person is afraid to tell the partner what’s going on, then it’s cheating.”
Hiding online conversations or lying about whereabouts are often signs of guilt and wrongdoing. If a married spouse cannot share the details of a relationship with their significant other, more times than not, it’s because cheaters know their partners will be upset and feel a sense of betrayal — severely damaging their marriage. Even cheaters who keep it completely virtual take great pains in covering their tracks, often having more than one screen name on several different online messaging programs, and creating e-mail accounts on free domains such as Yahoo and Hotmail. The paranoia of getting caught causes cheaters to go to great lengths to hide their infidelity, even going as far as purchasing a separate cell phone, apart from the family plan, to have phone sex.
Over time however, guilt tends to fade, and cheaters find their own ways to justify their cyber relations, convincing themselves the affairs are less of a problem than they actually are, and lying to themselves about the status of their marriage.