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July 6, 2015

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Couples may need fresh definition of infidelity in digital age

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Dr. Katherine Hertlein, a UNLV professor of marriage and family counseling, says strong relationships can prevent infidelity.

Instant messaging via Twitter, Facebook and smart phones allows people to reach out to others at all times, and for instant support.

But there's a dangerous downside: It can lead to Internet infidelity.

Katherine Hertlein, an assistant professor in UNLV’s marriage and family therapy department, says Internet infidelity can occur with an act as simple as chatting online with someone else to the exclusion of a person’s primary partner.

Texting someone while in another person’s physical presence may create closeness between the people texting, but it creates a distance between the two people who are together, says Hertlein.

One reason Internet infidelity may plague a couple, Hertlein says, is because couples rarely take the time to define their definition of infidelity.

“You’ll have one person who says ‘It’s a breach in the relationship, you cheated on me,’” Hertlein said, “and the other person is saying ‘No, I never touched anyone. Yes I was talking to people but that’s not a breach.'”

Couples may not be taking the time to determine what constitutes a breach in the contract. Other times, therapists are finding longtime couples who previously had a clear definition of infidelity need to revisit their definitions.

“Everybody kind of intuitively knows that physical contact is a huge piece of infidelity, but couples often stop there, and the fact is they need to talk more about that in order to avoid some of the challenges” she says.

Computers and new media change relationships in structure and process, according to Hertlein. Structure consists of the roles, rules and boundaries; the process deals with the actual act of being in a relationship.

The Internet introduces people who are both known and unknown to users, which forces people to be clear about the structure of their relationships. If they are not taking the time to discuss these boundaries, then strain on the relationship is inevitable, Hertlein said.

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  1. The definition of infidelity has NOT changed regardless of an attempt to expand the boundaries. If you are in a committed relationship, and seek companionship OUTSIDE of the relationship, then you are 'breaking the commitment contract'. Relationships take WORK. Two things have become abundantly clear with regards to society today. First we no longer put effort into anything other than what brings us immediate satisfaction, and second we do not take responsibility for our own actions, because it is far easier to blame someone/something else for our lack of a backbone. So relationships take time and being responsible for the commitments we make, is necessary to make then work. The commitment contract has NOT changed, we as a society no longer feel obligated to fulfill the terms, because it is not convenient.

  2. Very good post Mr. Dunton. One of the better I have seen here in a long time.

    Personal Responsibility, something 50%+ of our society lacks these days.

  3. Has anyone considered the idea that long term romantic relationships are not natural and made up by societies? This would explain why most marriages and monogamous relationships have such a high rate of failure. It's clear to me that emotions concerning romance do not reflect reality.

    The "experts" and religions tell us how it's supposed to be. Then once we're in the real situation we see the ruse. We can now elect to accept it by becoming delusional or recognize the problems decide how to deal with them. Because there are so many overwhelming problems at least 50% elect to just leave the situation. The majority of the ones who stay are unhappy and some will live in a make believe world.

    The problem is taking care of itself. As time goes on people are getting used to the dismal numbers or just ignoring them. The new recruits will buy into the illusion and believe they can succeed where others failed only to find out the truth that it's concept is a dead idea in the American society. It's been replaced with online porn and 24 hour entertainment.

  4. Americans have needed a new definition of relationships, commitment and infidelity for decades.

  5. "? ? just another degradation of moral values."

    unclelarr -- maybe *your* values

    "...It's clear to me that emotions concerning romance do not reflect reality."

    dukeofdeath -- more like "expectations concerning romance do not reflect reality." Best post so far, by the way

    "Americans have needed a new definition of relationships, commitment and infidelity for decades."

    James_P -- who do you think gets to decide?

    Winston - "I hate purity. I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones."

    Julia - "Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I'm corrupt to the bones." -- "1984" Part II Chapter 2

  6. Who gets to decide? The individuals involved in the situation.

    But as this is an article about "society's" definitions, in that respect, "society" should evolve its definition. But, it doesn't really impact those who make their own definitions, either way.

  7. "Who gets to decide? The individuals involved in the situation."

    James_P -- exactly

    "With morality the individual is led into being a function of the herd and to ascribing value to himself only as a function. . .Morality is the herd instinct in the individual." -- Frederich Nietzsche 1882 "The Gay Science"