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Women usually feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are more concerned about physical encounters, Hertlein says, but the gender differences are lessening.

“That is starting to even out in part because of the equality of opportunity that the Internet brings to everybody,” she says.

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People often feel more comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives to relative strangers because the relationship exists only in cyberspace, Ducharme says. “Some people really begin to think the other person is in love with them.

They develop this intimacy and fantasy relationship.

With the burgeoning use of the Internet, many practitioners are seeing more couples because of online affairs and are addressing new issues in therapy, psychologists say.

“It starts in the home, which is very different than most affairs.

If there is no physical contact or actual sex, is it still an affair?

“It’s not just that you’re communicating with someone online but that there is a sexual or emotional nature,” says Katherine Hertlein, Ph D, an associate professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who studies online affairs.

“You could be at home or at work or sitting on the couch with your partner chatting to someone online.” As costs for Internet access have dropped, online affairs are also very affordable.

They can be easy to conceal, as long as the cheating partner deletes the Web browser history and any incriminating e-mails.

Several studies have focused on the “AAA engine” that drives online affairs, namely accessibility, affordability and anonymity.

“The Internet is extremely accessible no matter where you are,” Hertlein says.

It starts right under your roof,” says Elaine Ducharme, Ph D, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn., who specializes in cybersex addictions.

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