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Is an Online Relationship Really a Form of Cheating?

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It's an Internet relationship! Can it even be called cheating on your spouse if no physical contact is involved? The answer is yes.

Although online relationships might seem harmless, they can be considered a form of cheating and may cause serious damage to real life relationships.

The definition of cheating has always been debated. Some people argue that in order to cheat, a physical relationship must occur. Others argue that emotional cheating can occur without a physical relationship. Now that internet chat rooms and dating services are so common, the definition of cheating is debated more than ever before. As the popularity of the Internet increases, people need to be aware of the effects of online cheating in Internet relationships.

The Internet allows people to be as anonymous as they want. Many people enjoy participating in chat rooms because they feel secure; in a chat room, people provide only as much information as they chose to. They can portray themselves in flattering ways and leave as soon as things start to get uncomfortable or boring. Internet relationships are usually thought of as casual and fun and do not carry the stress and responsibilities that "real" relationships often have.

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For this reason, many people enjoy starting romantic relationships over the Internet. Even people who are in serious relationships sometimes enjoy flirting with others online. Often, this is seen as a harmless activity because there is no physical interaction and the Internet is such a casual medium. The people who develop online relationships may not feel that they are cheating at all. However, sometimes Internet relationships become more serious. People involved in Internet romances might chat for hours every day and build a very strong connection. Sometimes, Internet romances lead to a real life rendezvous; at this point, there is no debate as to whether or not this is cheating.

Although it may seem harmless, Internet cheating can actually be very hurtful. If someone is spending a lot of time online and neglects their partner, then this will damage the relationship and can be considered cheating even if no physical contact is ever made. If it is discovered that pictures were exchanged and sexual conversation were had, the cheating person's partner will be especially hurt and may feel undesired. Internet relationships are often discovered accidentally through emails and saved pictures, so no one should think that they are likely to get away with an online relationship. In the end, Internet cheating is a slippery slope, and even people who never meant to cause any harm might end up having a full-blown affair and are likely to get caught.

At the same time, it is natural for people to want to connect with other people. Flirting is also a natural, confidence-boosting activity that most people engage in without even realizing it. Not all Internet relationships are necessarily bad. The key is to draw a line; the location of this line will vary from couple to couple. Some people do not mind if their partners flirt or have friendships with people of the opposite sex, so long as the relationships never become physical or too time-consuming. Couples should talk to each other openly and decide what they feel comfortable with. In general, it is better to be safe than sorry, and people should avoid Internet relationships that they think might hurt their partner if discovered.

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