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Is Cybersex Cheating?

Also: "A Sex-Free Sabbath?" and "Sexual Fantasies"

Q. Since our daughter was born 14 months ago, our sexual and emotional intimacy has declined. This week I found out that my husband's having cybersex with other women. I can't begin to describe my emotions, and I'm having difficulty forgiving him. People tell me it's no big deal, that cybersex isn't really cheating. But that goes against everything I've been taught as a Christian. Am I making too much of this?

A. We think it is a "big deal." We've seen Internet pornography, chat rooms, and sex phone calls become an obsession with men—and women—of all ages and places in life. It's definitely something you should take seriously and deal with definitively.

It would appear this is new behavior for him and related to the birth of your baby. Often during late pregnancy and early postpartum months a husband feels sexually and emotionally abandoned. If you two never talked about that sexual change during and after your pregnancy, he may have been looking desperately for some affirmation and companionship. Unfortunately, cybersex offers to meet those needs at the click of a finger—no demands, just self gratification. Wives and toddlers require much more time and energy.

However, we also wonder if this really is a new behavior. Many people struggle from adolescence on with sexual temptation, more frequently with online pornography. So there may be deeper roots for this problem. This is something you'll need to lovingly confront. Books such as Affairs of the Mind, The Porn Trap, The False Intimacy Syndrome, and Every Man's Battle are good resources for you both to study and discuss. You can also point him to these powerful websites to help: www.pureintimacy.org (this is also a good site for you as well), www.xxxchurch.com.

He needs to get into some sort of accountability situation. He can check out these websites to keep him accountable: www.netaccountability.com or www.covenanteyes.com. But he really needs to meet with godly men who will ask him weekly how things are going.

Don't see this as the end of your love affair. Spend some time praying about your relationship, then honestly but graciously talk to him. Affirm your love for him and your concern about his behavior—how that makes you feel and how destructive that can be to your marriage. Encourage him to get into an accountability group. Find some godly women who will encourage you and pray with you for your husband and your marriage. Then go to your Internet service and set the "content advisor" so he can't go to porn sites, or subscribe to a filtering service—or even disconnect your net access altogether.

A Sex-Free Sabbath?

Q. I was talking to a co-worker who told me as Christians, husbands and wives shouldn't have sex on Sundays because Sunday is God's holy day. I told my husband, who doesn't think that's true. But now I'm not so sure. What do you think?

A. We don't know of any Scripture that forbids sexual intercourse on the Sabbath, which, by the way, is Saturday according to Old Testament tradition. We consider sex a holy, God-given act of creative love. In fact, the apostle Paul compares marriage and becoming "one flesh" with Jesus being one with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Our conclusion is that a relaxed time in marital sexual embrace on Sunday honors God and each other.

Sexual Fantasies

Q. My wife has always struggled with sexual fantasies and can only reach climax when she closes her eyes and fantasizes. Recently, her conscience has convicted her of this—so in order for her not to fantasize, she won't allow herself to climax, since they're interconnected to her. While we still have sex, it's one-sided, and now there isn't the same bond between us. Can you help?

A. Fantasies during marital sex are a complex issue. Ideally couples should be able to enjoy sexual fulfillment focused entirely on the pleasurable stimulation the partner is providing. However, it's not uncommon for some sexual images from other sources to play a part in becoming aroused. For some people these may be at the initiation of sex play, for others they may intrude at the plateau phase and become a crucial ingredient to full orgasmic release.

It seems that the change your wife made has robbed you both of the bonding and intimacy you need to experience that important aspect of your "becoming one flesh."

What exactly are her fantasies? Is she fantasizing that you two are on some remote tropical island? Is she imagining some fictional knight in shining armor? Or is she thinking about how fun it would be to hop in the sack with her colleague at work or the next-door neighbor? If she's fantasizing about you, then that's a harmless fantasy. If, on the other hand, she's fantasizing about someone else, that's harmful.

One approach you might take is for your wife to investigate with a counselor what her fantasies mean. Where did they originate? What elements in those images is she stimulating? Do they have any negative effects on her feelings toward you? Are there behavioral approaches that could gradually decondition her thought patterns to allow orgasm with a new script?

Pray this through together. Help her discover what God will do to solve the problem. He can change her thoughts if she'll turn them over to him. Prayer before sexual intercourse is helpful to experience a sense of pleasing God. It may take some time and effort to renew her mind but it would be well worth it. We hope she can see that there are options other than interrupting the sexual process.

Real Sex columnists Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., were marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counselled clergy couples. Louis McBurney passed away January 20, 2009.

While we're not able to respond personally to readers' letters, if you have a marriage question you'd like us to address in this column, send your question to:
Real Sex, Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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