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where two people are getting their needs met outside of their marriage or relationship."Such an affair may involve virtual sex, yes — but not necessarily.

An emotional betrayal can be even more damaging to a marriage than a physical one, said marriage counselor M.

' They might not be able to cross that bridge of forgiveness with you."Forgiveness isn't easy.

"People tend to tell their spouse early on about a person they may have connected with on the Internet or are interested in," Neuman said, "and then they stop talking about them as their feelings grow and it starts to get inappropriate."Hiding devices.

"If the laptop used to be in the kitchen, but now you can't find it, or when they stop leaving their phone out on the counter or on the nightstand like they used to — even when they shower, it's missing — that's a sign."New passwords: "If your partner suddenly changes the password they've had for a long time, and won't tell you what it is, this is a definite red flag."Clean inbox: "If the trash file is cleared out and there's a lot of dumping of old emails, this could be a sign too," Neuman said.

I was co-hosting a company-sponsored discussion last fall, open to the public, about coping with divorce. The whole affair was online."The man added that his marriage had ended partly because of it — but still, he needed clarification about whether that Internet relationship constituted infidelity. Several people in the audience nodded "yes," followed by a response from our expert on hand, therapist and author Ross Rosenberg, who specializes in treating sex addiction."Cheating is when you are verbally, emotionally or physically intimate with somebody other than your spouse or partner," said Rosenberg, author of "The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us" (PESI Publishing and Media).

A member of the audience shared with the group that he had discovered his wife was involved in a cyber affair."Is that considered cheating? "This can become an affair when there is a relationship ...

"People underestimate that trauma because no one talks about it. You have to understand what the person went through and give them the opportunity to let it go.

So that needs to be addressed, preferably with a therapist." For the victim: Don't hang on to the blame game.

Digital devices need to move into public areas of the house, with both partners having full access to the content therein. "One of the worst things you can do is tell everybody in your world about this when you're really raw," Martino said.

Later, when you both "have worked together to get through it, (those) other people in your life might say, 'Are you kidding me?!

"People hold on to the bitterness because they become addicted to the bitterness to avoid the pain they feel," Martino said.

"And they don't want to take any personal responsibility for fear that the end result of that sentence would be 'Because you're not worth loving.' (But) as long as you're blaming others, your life can't change."No more hiding.

Gary Neuman, author of "Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship" (Three Rivers Press).