Do online affairs count as cheating? Of course they do, did you really have to ask? An affair that takes place online is an emotional affair. The people involved get their satisfaction from sharing deep levels of intimacy. Unlike a sexual affair, in which both parties know full well when they have crossed the line from friendly flirtations to full bang sex, emotional affairs can creep up on a couple often building on a platonic friendship or even a work situation.
Online, people have the ability to create a new persona, they can embellish the facts of their lives or completely reinvent themselves. It's not really difficult for dream boy to meet dream girl. The fact that the people involved are miles apart does not matter that they are making emotional connections and bonds that bring them together. A connection much more powerful than sex.
Because there are degrees of anonymity online that does not happen anywhere else it is easier for people to open up, something like in a confessional. You know that someone is there listening but they can not see you. It is also like the call-in hot lines where you can bare your soul without having to look someone in the eye.
It is easy for people to discount online emotional affairs, because of the physical distance and absence of physical contact, as "we're just friends all we do is talk in the chat room". However, when those talks start getting more and more intimate and the sharing extends to things that maybe have never been shared with their spouse then the line has been crossed.
A somewhat unique aspect of an online affair is that it can take place under the spouse's nose. The cheater does not even have to leave home to meet with their special friend, now it can be done in the spare room while their cousin is in the next room watching TV. Also, with all the new devices available today, communicating has become extremely easy and online affairs can take place almost anywhere.
As with any affair the online cheater still has to lie to their spouse; plus they tend to become more secretive and because of their new outlet for emotional fulfillment they tend to withdraw from their spouse. The income is usually the same too, at some point they will either tell their spouse or the spouse will find out for themselves. Either way when they get to that point big decisions will have to be made; reconciliation, separation, divorce, counseling?
Whether you give yourself yourself physically or emotionally, cheating is cheating, an online affair is not really any different than a sexual affair when it comes to the damage done to an established relationship.