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“The Internet is opening up these new ways of exploring your sexuality and that includes infidelity,” she says.

Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching TV — about 13 hours a week.

The growth in steamy chat room conversations and cybersex also has triggered a rethinking of the meaning of infidelity.

If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?

“I think there is this bias that women don’t cheat for sexual reasons at all,” Hertlein says.

“Women are supposed to be the nurturers and the matriarchs in our society.” Due to the secretive nature of online affairs, reliable statistics are hard to find, but a 2005 study of 1,828 Web users in Sweden offers evidence about the prevalence of cybersex and online affairs. A 2008 Australian study offers more insight into Internet affairs. More than half of the respondents believed an online relationship constituted unfaithfulness, with the numbers climbing to 71 percent for cybersex and 82 percent for in-person meetings.

It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, Ph D, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions.While TV viewing has remained fairly constant, time spent surfing the Web has increased more than 120 percent over the last five years.With the burgeoning use of the Internet, many practitioners are seeing more couples because of online affairs and are addressing new issues in therapy, psychologists say.Paedophiles (people who sexually abuse children) sometimes begin by chatting online as a way of 'grooming' (preparing) them for sex. Obviously this is highly illegal and punishable with up to life in prison.The typical affair used to start in the office and move to a seedy motel room, but the vast reach of the Internet has brought infidelity into many couples’ homes over the past decade.

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