How would you characterize cybersex[sup]1[/sup] between a married person and another person not his or her spouse?

Is this adultery? If your spouse was doing this, how would you respond?

Suppose the two parties meet in person but do not have sex in person? Does this make it better or worse?

Suppose the two parties converse by telephone several times a week? Does this make it better or worse?

[sup]1[/sup] Similar to phone sex, in that neither party ever meets in person, but one or both parties achieve orgasm while chatting on-line.

Are you using “adultery” as a legal term or a religious term or ??? I’m not sure what states or countries have statutes about this issue. Alabama seems to have a statute:

This seems like a question more suited to IMHO than GD.

It certainly doesn’t meet the legal definition of adultery, however, at least in Virginia, where adultery is defined as a married person having sexual intercourse with a person not his spouse.

In my opinion, it’s cheating. Anything you do with another person that you seek to keep secret from your spouse, assuming you don’t have a agreement with your spouse that permits such things, is questionable. Anything that involves such hidden, intimate contact, virtual or real, is cheating.

And if my spouse were doing it, I’d be very upset.

  • Rick

Is the married party hiding the relationship from his/her spouse? If so then it is cheating.

Chalk up another vote for cheating, but not adultery. It rates up there with writing love letters, kissing and affectionately holding hands with someone other than one’s spouse.

Adultery is usually specifically reserved for sexual intercourse. Cheating, however, is more general.

Zev Steinhardt

This depends on the opinion of the spouse.

If the spouse thinks it’s cheating, and the person knows this and engages in this behaviour, then it’s cheating.

If the spouse doesn’t mind, then it’s not cheating.

If the spouse minds but the person doesn’t know the spouse would mind…it’s probably still cheating because they should have asked first, particularly if they are under the impression, themselves, that what they’re doing may be wrong.

I won’t consider this adultery.

Depending on the entire situation, the spouse might rightly have just about any opinion or emotion one can name.

If my spouse did it, I would be quite surprised. Despite numerous attempts to get her interested in email or the internet, she’s shown no interest and seems to consider my many hours online as a complete waste of time.

Adultery? Probably not. Cheating? Definitely. Any activity that takes intimate energy away from your spouse and gives it to someone else, is cheating.

Good question. If I had a spouse, and she considered online flirting and dirty talk to be a part of her private fantasy life, and she was doing it with guys she’d never actually meet, I think I’d say it was none of my business, unless it affected our own sex life negatively (of which there is definitely a possibility, so that would be something to watch out for).

The reason I feel this way is that I think of my computer as an extension of my brain. I believe that my thoughts are my own business - I don’t believe in any of this “committing adultery in your heart” stuff. Likewise, what I do online, provided it doesn’t bleed out into real life, is also my own business. In my view, to demand that my spouse not engage in online fantasy play would be like demanding that she only have masturbatory fantasies about me, and nobody else.

But obviously people need to agree on these things beforehand, and not deceive one another about it, that goes without saying.

I was not aware of the fine distinction between cheating and adultery.

And, no, I’m not concerned with legal definitions here.

Let us assume that the other spouse, not involved in cybersex, does not approve.

I feel that the on-going emotional relationship, subsequent to the first incident, makes the whole affair much, much worse.

I think sharing any sort of romantic or sexual intimacy with another is definitely a breach of the marriage contract (the unspoken one, that is)
Adultery itself I think begins with physical contact for pleasure, with intent to pursue romance (so a friendly hug wouldn’t count unless the married party derives romantic/sexual pleasure from it or intends to use it as a means to said romantic or sexual pleasure).

While the cybersex isn’t adultery, it is a problem. So who cares if it’s really adultery or not?

I’d say it depends on the agreements the people in the marriage have in place. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think to actually have agreements in place for this sort of thing, and in that case I’ve seen it be fairly common for each person to presume that their beliefs about what’s reasonable and acceptable are shared. The blowups from that sort of “But it’s obvious that this is/isn’t cheating!” thing can be very, very messy.

Personally, my response to it would be, “Have fun, dear”, but my marriage doesn’t have exclusivity agreements.

I would have to agree that Adultery is a narrowly defined term that is not apropriate. The emotional harm may be the same, but you just need to call it something different.

And we are speaking about emotional harm here. There are any number of ways one spouse can hurt the other. I think what we are talking about here falls into the realm of one spouse being harmed because of a perception that the other spouse’s is looking elsewhere to have his/her needs being met.

Such feelings need not be restricted to sexual intamacy. If you are very proud of your woodworking abilities, and your spouse brings an old table to a shop to get restored, you might feel slighted. If you are Navy Seal and your spouse insists on taking pepper spay when you go out to dinner together, you might feel slighted. In the case of cybersex you might feel that your spouse is not looking to you to satisfy your spouse’s fantasies.

If you are in agreement with greck (“sharing any sort of romantic or sexual intimacy with another is definitely a breach of the marriage contract (the unspoken one, that is)”) then you need to figure out how to satisfy your spouse’s fantasies. If you are unwilling or unable to stimulate your spouse in that way, then you prepare yourself for disappointment.

I don’t think it’s necessarily true that every single one of a person’s intimacy needs can be satisfied by the spouse. I believe in sexual fidelity, but I recognize that many people require a rich fantasy life in addition to the real, physical intimacy that comes with partnership. Every person has to decide for themselves what behavior is and is not acceptable in a partner. Your partner will have wants or needs that you can’t satisfy. When your partner begins to look elsewhere to satisfy certain of his or her needs, your choices as I see them are:

  1. Require your partner to deny themselves satisfaction of the wants or needs you can’t fulfill

  2. Accept that you can’t be everything to your partner, and understand that there will be things besides you in your partner’s life


  1. Leave them.

There are circumstances under which 1 is the best course of action. There are circumstances under which 2 is the best course of action. There are circumstances under which 3 is the best course of action. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide what’s acceptable in a relationship and what is not.

I would probably consider this to be adultery. According to Jesus, adultery isn’t limited to just physical contact. He said that if a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he’s already committed adultery in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

What’s the difference between cheating and adultery anyway? If you’re cheating on your spouse it’s adultery, if you’re committing adultery, you’re cheating. At least that’s the way it seems to me.


Fair enough. But of course, you know I don’t hold Matthew to be authoritative. If you want to know about Jewish Law, I’ll tell you that this is definitely not adultery according to Jewish Law.

It’s a matter of degrees of wrongness, nothing more. They are both wrong, the only question is the degree thereof.

Zev Steinhardt