Is Cyberporn Coming Between You?

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Your Partner Involved?

Porn may be the furthest thing from your mind. But how can you be sure your partner isn't indulging? What should you do if you suspect a problem? Astute sleuthing can usually help you figure out if your partner is involved in cyberporn, and whether you need to be concerned, psychologists say.

Consider these warning signs:

  • Your partner spends more and more time online. If you discover a string of porn sites when you check the computer's Internet history log, that is typically a sure indication. But if your partner is savvy and covering his or her tracks, you will need to rely on your intuition about the amount of time he or she is online -- and what you know him or her to be doing when surfing the Internet.
  • Your partner gets defensive when you ask what he or she is doing online. "If you're hearing short, snappy, evasive answers when you raise the subject, that's not good," Tamalonis notes. Adds Hack, "If the discussion about it becomes irrational and you start fighting and arguing, that's a problem."
  • Communication in the relationship is worsening -- or has been poor for some time. Sometimes, the connection one partner has to cyberporn can cause a breach in a primary relationship; in other cases, the lack of love or commitment in the partnership is itself the spur one partner needs to turn to cyberporn.
  • You feel yourself pulling away from your partner and not wanting to discuss your suspicions.

All of which raises the question: Is participation in cyberporn infidelity?

Psychologists say religious, moral, and ethical issues are all involved, and they are as important for couples to weigh as the psychological issues centering on how they feel about participating in cyberporn.

"If you can say to your partner, 'I do this and here's why, and I hope we can get to a comfortable place with this together,' then that's healthy," says Hack.

The infidelity surfaces when you're lying -- not just about the cyberporn but possibly about other life activities, too, psychologists say. Says Moore, "Sure, we all have secrets we don't share with our partners. But the key here is that the deception, if there is one, can involve the heart of a healthy couple's relationship: their sexual connection."

For her part, Sarah was nudged into a marriage counselor's office when her husband tracked some illicit e-mails on her personal computer and confronted her. "I was horrified he'd even look there," she says. "I felt so violated. But I guess I can't blame him. I'm cheating on him in a way and he suspected me. It was hard to justify being enraged with him, though I was."

Nonetheless, though in weekly counseling with her husband, Sarah has continued her illicit IM encounters with her cyber-partner. "I need it on some level in my life," she concedes. So, she believes, does her cyber-partner. "We've talked about it. We feel like as long as we don't meet, it's okay."

Continued on page 5:  What You Can Do About It


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