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Tuesday
Jun072011

Are Anthony Weiner's Online Trysts Adultery?

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Although there may not have been any physical contact between Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. and the women with whom he confessed to having inappropriate online relationships, some psychologists consider the married congressman's conduct as nothing short of adultery.

"Nonphysical sexting relationships are similar to emotional affairs that are highly sexualized," said Nadine Kaslow, a psychology professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Technology has opened up whole new avenues for cheating," said psychotherapist Bethany Marshall. "The motivation is the same, but the pathway is different."

Weiner attributed his behavior to "terrible judgment and actions," and he apologized to his wife.

"I should not have done this, and I should not have done this particularly when I was married," Weiner said at a press conference.

Philadelphia psychologist Marion Rudin Frank calls online relationships "betrayal[s] of the partner" and says people who engage in them often believe there is no risk involved if there is no sex. Weiner and others who get involved in online relationships often do so because of a need for quick and casual sex, experts say. People often carry on multiple affairs and engage in compulsive sexting because that desire for sexual satisfaction becomes like an addiction.

"It can be and usually is addictive and actually out chemistry," said Frank. "Like any addiction, it is self-defeating. [A person] cannot do just a little, and it makes people act in ways they regret."

"Online porn addictions and compulsive sexting are quite linked, as they often relate to sex that is objectifying and not very personal," said Kaslow.

"Social media often makes us less mindful of our actions because we think that if it is in cyberspace it doesn't count as much or we are less likely to be found out or held accountable for our actions," said Kaslow.

Sites like Facebook and other social networking sites make relationships seem less daunting, since they eliminate the need for physical and emotional intimacy, Kaslow said. Texting and other types of online contact often lead to what she calls "faux intimacy."

"We are more prone to lie to ourselves [and say] 'It's not really action,'" said Frank.

In the end, though, experts say relationships carried out on social media sites are very likely to be uncovered.

"I am deeply sorry that I lied about this, but at the end of the day, I lied because I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of what I had done and I didn't want to get caught," Weiner admitted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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