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I often receive letters from partners in new dating relationships or long-term partnerships who are upset after having discovered their boyfriends are engaging in cybersex activities, whether it be viewing pornography or partaking in online chats with other men.
Many of them question whether this is something they should be concerned about, while others find themselves on the brink of a breakup, feeling they’ve been cheated on, even if there’s been no physical infidelity.
With the advent of the Internet, sex-oriented websites have infiltrated the airwaves and made sexual titillation and release much more accessible than ever before.
With the click of a button, stimulation for the eyes and loins is immediately available, and there are certainly some pros and cons to this.
For those who are single, unattached, lonely or geographically displaced from sexual partners or opportunities, these websites can provide a much needed outlet for meetings one’s sexual needs, albeit if used in a non-addictive way.
But what about for those already in relationships? Can these sites offer any benefits for couples, or do they pose a vulnerable threat to the commitment and viability of these partnerships?
This is one of those issues where there are no clear-cut right or wrong answers and will differ from couple to couple depending on one’s value systems and relationship agreements.
The difficulty here is this tends to be one of those taboo topics that usually isn’t talked about, and therein lies the problem and the opportunity for secrecy and lies to emerge.
When not discussed, this type of behavior can damage the trust and integrity of a relationship.
Sometimes the conversation doesn’t take place out of ignorance. Other times one or both partners is afraid of the reaction their boyfriend might have, that their feelings might get hurt or that they’ll be denied access to an activity they enjoy.
Whatever the reason, failure to discuss one’s views about the realities of cybersex is one of the major relationship conflicts among gay couples in our contemporary times.
The particular danger here is when one or both of the partners develops an emotional relationship with a virtual other, use these activities as a way to avoid their partner or self-medicate against stress/relationship problems or the behavior becomes obsessive-compulsive to the detriment of attention to their partner and relationship.
When partners agree to cybersex activities in a consensual manner and with clear expectations and boundaries, as well as following these limits established, it can actually enrich the couple’s sex life.
Whether it be viewing porn together, acting out what they see or using sex chats as a form of titillation and foreplay, a couple can utilize this platform as a way to broaden their sexuality and satisfaction.
It can be a forum for acting out fantasies and exploring various sexual roles and interests, but only if done in a way that services the relationship in some way (as well as individual needs that won’t compromise one’s partner and relationship).
So how can new dating partners or long-term mates broach this important subject as a preventative measure from potential future conflicts?
When you are at an appropriate stage of development in your relationship where you begin discussing your sexual needs and preferences, inquire with your partner about what his beliefs, views and opinions are about all forms of cybersex.
Do you consider it a form of cheating or relationship enhancement?
You can learn a lot about each other this way, and it is best conducted during the screening process of dating to help determine if your values and philosophies are in sync or of a deal-breaker status.
If you are at odds, you will need to determine how important cybersex is in the scheme of things in a relationship for you and decide if this pairing is compatible enough for you to continue with it.
If you are both in agreement, you will collaboratively work together toward developing a type of “Cybersex Agreement/Contract” that you would each abide by faithfully.
You can do this by individually listing your can and can’t do activities for yourself and your partner, and then share your preferences with each other.
If there are differences, you can negotiate until an agreement is made that you both feel comfortable with.
People and relationships change over time, so you will want to do periodic check-ins with your partner to ensure you are both still comfortable with the terms of your “contract” and make revisions as necessary.
You also will want to make some rules about whether you communicate with each other every time you engage in a cybersex activity (before and/or after) or if you have a mutual understanding that you can play without consultation.
Do you engage in cybersex together, separately or both? What length of time is acceptable?
While this may seem a little overkill, the most important thing is to protect and respect your partner and relationship.
Cybersex has been responsible for the demise of many relationships, and you want to ensure yours doesn’t become another one of these statistics.
Don’t be afraid to have this conversation, and never make assumptions about what you think your partner believes.
What are your thoughts about the cybersex reality in today’s age, especially with so many online dating sites, forums and chat rooms, and the impact it has on gay relationships? What has your experience been? Do you think it’s cheating? Do you think it’s OK? What boundaries and limits have you and your boyfriend set with it? Do tell!