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Tempted By Digital Dalliances

A marriage these days can be short-circuited with nothing more than a computer and a modem. CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras takes a look at how sexual relationships online are forcing courts to consider where to draw the line between virtual sex and adultery.

More than 40 million home computers are connected to the Internet, and it's estimated that sexually oriented chat rooms number in the tens of thousands. Computer analyst Nancy Tamasaitis says digital dalliances are steaming up cyberspace and threatening marriages.

Tamasaitis said, "I think it shows that there are a lot of people that are very bored and unhappy with their marriages."

Take the case of Tami, who asked not to be identified. She said her 10-year marriage was heading toward divorce court after she had cybersex and phone sex with a married man thousands of miles away.

"It's something that makes you feel good, because somebody is giving you attention that maybe you're not getting in your relationship," Tami said.

In many cases, virtual sex can lead to real sex. The question is, if the relationship is not consummated, and remains on-line only, is that adultery?

Most states define adultery as the physical act of having sex with someone who is not your spouse. But divorce attorney Harry Schaffner says, the Internet is forcing the law to change that definition.

"It can be considered mental cruelty. It can lead to irreconcilable differences that cause an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage," Schaffner says of virtual sex.

But not always. Sex therapist Dr. Patti Britton contends Internet interplay is a way to spice up a stale marriage, from the safety of your home.

"Cybersex or cyber-dating is a viable option for people who want to find ways to feel their juices flow again," says Dr. Britton.

Tami says her cyberaffair is over. But, she cautions, because computers are everywhere - and so easy to use - cybersex can be difficult to resist.

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