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However, more often the issue involves lack of differentiation (i.e., avoidance of self-confrontation, unclear personal values, quest for reflected sense of self). People's sense of violating their own integrity-or having something to hide or rationalize-best indicates when the line has been crossed, and this is what we utilize in treatment.
As with non-computerized erotica, the lower one's level of differentiation, the more likely he or she will experience the other's pornography or sex-laced chats as a "violation" or "betrayal," because it threatens his or her reflected sense of self, identity, and security.Poorly differentiated people have difficulty maintaining vibrant sex in an ongoing relationship, because sexual novelty requires proposing things that are an emotional "stretch." Many people are so afraid of rejection, or are so inexperienced at initiating novel sexual experiences, that they prefer to express their sexuality in the obscurity of the Net. For those too embarrassed to talk to their partner about sex-or introduce sexual behaviors they'd like to do-Internet affairs are particularly attractive. The greater the eroticism, continuity and scheduling, secrecy and deception, lying by omission, and emotional closeness with the online partner, (i.e., degree of intent and deliberateness), the more likely there is a violation of personal integrity and monogamy, and more likely the spouse will see it as such. People who play fast and loose in their electronic encounters argue that the point at which it becomes an affair is a "gray area." For some, this may reflect incomplete discussion of mutually agreeable marital boundaries and guidelines.