The congregation of a mega church in Lagos roared with laughter, but it could only have been an affirmation of the truth. The pastor was preaching about spiritual purity and had wondered how many in the congregation could allow him see the content of their cell phones, let alone show Jesus. 

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Show pastor when they dare not leave their phones within the reach of others? Some people even lock their phones for ‘safety reasons’. The main reason is that many people flirt on their phones. And it is not with their spouses. They call it chatting by phone calls, texting, BB messaging, etc. In some cases, they exchange nude pictures. These are social interactions on the phone with the intention of becoming sexually aroused.

Does chatting, a sexual activity on the phone or internet, for sexual arousal amount to cheating?  The debate is on-going, and it is heated because of vested interest.

However, the basic truth is that when people experience psychological states similar to those typically elicited by physical flirting or romance, it is no longer a mere a conversation about sex, but is a form of sexual encounter itself.

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According to an expert, “it involves experiences typical of sexual encounters, such as masturbation, sexual arousal, satisfaction, and orgasm.”

He calls the activity cybersex; we will call it electronic affairs, e-ffair for short.

Many people do not see anything wrong with e-ffairs because it does not involve physical sex. According to a survey on the subject, over 60 percent of people having e-ffairs do not consider it to be infidelity. Many of them believe an e-ffair is even useful because it keeps them from physically being with other people.

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Also in this school are people who believe e-ffair is a means not to cheat, but an activity to spice to their real relationship. However, when we chat this much for arousal, are we considerate of the other party. If we could do that and turn to our spouses to finish off, what happens to the other party who would have been driven mad by passion? There are many questions to ask here.

But practitioners of e-ffairs argue that it is easier to perform and puts them in a less vulnerable position, because the chances of getting caught or being hurt in other ways are considerably reduced.

Also, the private nature of online affairs may make them less painful for the betrayed partner as well.

But there is a strong counter-point, which is our focus here. Even when we decide to wave religion and morality aside to enjoy e-ffairs, the practice may not be justifiable because of the harm we impose upon other people.

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For example, when participants are also involved in another primary offline relationship (spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend), “the resources, including time, invested in such affairs are taken from the primary relationship.”

That kicks in the issue of fidelity. Emotional fidelity is defined as remaining emotionally faithful by not being too flirtatious or provocative with another person.

We tend to fall short of this when we say or do anything, including texting and emailing, to another man or woman privately that we would be reluctant to say to him or her in front of our spouses.

We commit a similar offence when we offer too much emotional support to other people at the expense of satisfying your partner’s emotional needs.

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Curiously, studies show that male and female partners feel the impact of e-ffairs of their partners differently. A study done by Hinke Groothof, Pieternel Dijkstra and Dick Barelds called “Sex Differences in Jealousy: The Case of Internet Infidelity” explored the differences between consequences of e-affairs versus real relationships, and the processes that underlie it, for both partners and/or the relationship.

They found a significant sex difference as to whether participants chose sexual and emotional infidelity as more upsetting.

More men than women indicated that a partner’s sexual involvement would upset them more than a partner’s emotional bonding with someone else.

Similarly, in the dilemma involving infidelity over the Internet, more men indicated their partner’s sexual involvement would upset them more than a partner’s emotional bonding with someone else. Women on the other hand expressed more problems with emotional infidelity over the Internet than did men.

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However, experts have observed that e-affairs can be just as damaging to a relationship as sexual unfaithfulness. A possible explanation, they say, is that our brain registers virtual and physical acts the same way and responds similarly. Several studies have also concluded that e-affairs, whether sexual or emotional in nature, often lead to sexual infidelity.

I like what Shirley Glass, an expert on the subject, says about this: anything that feels good invites us to experience more of it.

The stronger the arousal of positive feelings and especially of potent sexual feelings, the more that trigger has potential to override our good judgment.  “Our brains are programmed to encourage us to do what we need to do to experience good feelings again, and again, and again.”



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