The scandal over Rep. Anthony Weiner's, D-N.Y., tweeting of lewd photos has Americans questioning whether Internet sex is the same as infidelity.
"Sexting and Internet photos and the kinds of things we've been hearing about on the news are definitely infidelity," family therapist and author Dr. Lindle Mintle told CBN News.
"Whenever you betray the covenant of marriage by going outside the marriage to fulfill a sexual need without your partner, that's infidelity," she explained.
Experts say if the question is -- would you text it, post it, send it with your spouse looking over your shoulder? If the answer is no, then you're cheating.
"The rule of thumb that I tell all couples in marital therapy, is that if there is anything you would do that you have a question in your mind, if you partner saw that behavior -- whether that's over your shoulder on the Internet or on your phone -- if there's any secrecy or guilt, that is something you should not do," Mintle said.
Many Americans believe emotional betrayal is just as bad as physical and demonstrates a clear unfaithfulness.
An ABC News poll showed that 64 percent of adults believe if a person who is married or in a committed relationship engages in sex talk on the Internet, they would consider that being unfaithful. Thirty-three percent said it would not.
In Pew Internet survey, 15 percent of adults said they had received a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photo or video on their cell phone, while 6 percent said they had sent such a text. Among 18 to 29-year-olds, those numbers rose to 31 percent and 13 percent.
Avoid Crossing the Line
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it's easy to meet new people or find old friends.
But some argue that this new digital age has also blurred the lines between flirting and infidelity and opened the door to much heartache. Christian therapist Janelle Hallman told CBN News there are several warnings signs to watch for:
- How often are you talking to this person?
- How long are you talking?
- Are you getting emotionally involved?
- Are you beginning to fantasize?
"These are all real indicators," she said.
Still, many wonder why men like Rep. Weiner, who have, power, prestige, a beautiful and accomplished wife, fall prey to Internet sex.
"Power brings a lot of temptation and when we're talking about social media," Mintle explained.
"Opportunity in social media, anytime, anywhere, there's anonymity, at least perceived anonymity, and then there is easy access, you can do it anytime," she said.
Maintaining Sexual Integrity
Some Christians point to Mathew 5:28 where Jesus said it's not just actions. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
So, how are men and women supposed to live up to that scripture in the age of Facebook and twitter?
"Two things are very important: You have to get an accountability partner; you have to become accountable to someone," pastoral counselor Dr. Paul Hardy said.
"Secondly, all of your electronics have to be an open book -- your phone, your computer -- everything has got to be open with no secret codes. Your family then becomes privy to everything you're doing," he added.
Surviving Cyber Infidelity
Hardy explained that relationships tarnished by Internet sex are salvageable.
"It's very difficult, but yes they can be reconciled," Hardy said.
"What happens is if the family, the couple goes through this, they can be stronger than ever -- and that's the wonderful thing," he explained.
"But they need a great amount of counseling, accountability, and be able to work through it to move forward," he said.