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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
CyberSex

Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

Can people really get addicted to cybersex? I am spending more and more time at porn sites. My wife walked in on me a few weeks ago, only to find me in a compromised position :) She now knows why I don't go to bed with her anymore, and this is causing a real problem in our marriage. The truth is I'd rather masturbate with my computer that have sex with her now, because she is so angry with me. The other thing is that I'm always thinking about the girls on these websites, even when I'm at work. I'm possessed. Help!

Answer

I applaud your courage in asking for help with this problem. Lots of people would rather not talk about it, despite the fact that it eat them up inside. The word addiction is often used loosely to cover a wide variety of experiences that fall in the realm of feeling out of control. While cybersex addiction is not what psychologists would traditionally consider an addiction, like chemical dependency, it can nonetheless be serious and interfere with your life. More precisely, we call is a compulsive behavior, meaning you may feel like you have lost control over the behavior, or that it is interfering in your social or occupational functioning. But enough theory.

Here's what you can do to learn more, and maybe even get some help. There are classes, lectures, and books now available for people who want to explore whether or not they are sexually compulsive, and more precisely, compulsive with cybersex. One such class is being offered at SelfhelpMagazine.com's very own Distance Learning Center. You can take the class and just get the facts without making any commitments or decisions about yourself. If you take the time to learn more about what is happening with you, you'll be in a better position to talk to your wife about it, and reconcile the distance that exists between you and your her. Getting the facts and talking about it with someone who is on your side is always a good start.

If you are convinced that you are cybersexually compulsive, have a look at this page for a cybersexual addiction self-help program. You'll need to talk to your wife about what you are trying to do, but make sure you ask her to avoid policing you. Overcoming this compulsion is your problem - be sure not to make it hers more than you already have. Tell her you are working on it, and you'll let her know when you are making progress. At those times, she is to celebrate with you. Having her keep track of your progress will only help you avoid dealing with your own behavior directly.

If none of the above resources help enough, you may want to consider looking for a professional in your local community. There's only so much Internet information can do, and if this is threatening your marriage, you'll want to invest the time and energy required to overcome it!

3/12/98

Dr. Maheu is an author, speaker, and researcher. She is the lead author of E-Health, Telehealth & Telemedicine: A Guide to Program Startup and Success co-written with Pamela Whitten and Ace Allen, published by Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Infidelity on the Internet is Dr. Maheu's second book and she's currently working her third, tentatively titled "The Mental Health Professional Online: New Questions and Answers."

For more information about her speaking schedule, see this page: http://telehealth.net/speak.html

 

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