Spouses browse infidelity on line
By Karen S. Peterson
The Internet is becoming a breeding ground for adultery, say experts who track the pattern of extramarital affairs. And even stay-at-home moms, who don't get to meet possible partners at work, can be seduced.
''I predict (one) role of the Internet in the future will be as a source of affairs,'' says Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth, who is researching a second book on adultery.
She is an America Online expert on problems caused by infidelity and handles questions about affairs through her and husband James' Web site (www.vaughan-vaughan.com). She could, she says, base half her new book on letters about affairs that start on line.
''Stay-at-home moms in chat rooms are sharing all this personal stuff they are hiding from their partners,'' Vaughan says. The intensity of women's on-line relationships can ''quickly escalate into their thinking they have found a soulmate. It is so predictable, it is like a script.''
Vaughan says she knows of women ''who have left their marriages before they have even met'' their new partners in person.
Cases are on record of spouses using e-mail correspondence as evidence in divorce proceedings.
Vaughan and Baltimore psychologist and researcher Shirley Glass were among experts who addressed a conference this past weekend sponsored by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.
Glass has researched ''extramarital attachments'' since 1975. She warns of on-line relationships that go over the line. They can become so intense that they threaten marriages, even if there is no sex involved, she says. Such on-line liaisons involve the three elements of an emotional affair: secrecy, intimacy and sexual chemistry.
Glass cautions: ''Discuss your on-line friendships with your spouse and show him or her your e-mail if your partner is interested. Invite your spouse to join in your correspondence so your Internet friend won't get any wrong ideas. And don't exchange sexual fantasies on line.''