Like I explained in my book, you can love online. The question is, WHAT is it that you are actually in love with?
Plots that we live are real to us, virtual or biological. Just like any fiction that we believe whether a corporate, governmental, religious, or social construct. If we buy into them they are real for us.
If we recognize them as a plot or an interactive fiction, it most likely is not cheating. It is co-authoring a story-line. We can love that plot and story line and be engaged in its outcome.
If, you are lying to your significant other about what you are doing, you-yourself are questioning whether you believe it to be just a plot.
No one person can hope to satisfy all aspects of anyone else's needs. Your real life partner might satisfy 80% of those needs but be handicapped with the sexual component gone. Or they might be great in the house but can not hope to understand what you do in the shop or understand your passion for golf.
Just because you found a golf partner in which you share your passion for golf, that is not cheating. Your partner acknowledges that you have an interest that they do not, and allows for time apart for you to satisfy that need with that golf partner.
The same amount of communication and allocation of time should be given with your time away for virtual engagement. They should expect a balance of your time. You should communicate with them what this new relationship satisfies in your life, with an agreed upon time allocated to go online, just like if it was a golfing hobby. Communication is very important for both your real life partner and your virtual one.
Now if you are a female and have a husband that is going online for sexual release, why is that? If you do not try to satisfy his biological needs, can you really hold him accountable for satisfying them in the most non-physically threatening way? His needs are not going to go away?
Some people have really .. umm.. difficult kinks. If they can do it virtually and get relief rather than having you swing from the light fixture, maybe that isn't so bad?
We do not live for reality; we live for our fantasies!
Men if your wife is going online for love, you are gone to much, need to communicate common goals and pay some attention. She needs to feel valued.
Oh and by the way, when someone falls immersively into a virtual plot it initially becomes a compulsion because they are now getting satisfaction that they have been denied for so long. Understandably that is a tough transition. They may not be able to even verbalize why there is such a need.
If you find out that your partner cares for someone online, it might never subtract from their love of you. Hard to conceptualize that, but it is true. We really can love more than one person. Men have had wives and mistresses since the beginning of time. Each satisfy different needs, but he can love them both.
The questions are: Do you know what need this relationship is satisfying?
Have you communicated honestly with your partner?
If not...why haven't you? Maybe something else needs to be addressed.
Partners may not be on the same maturity level, but if they are, honest communication is the best possible way of dealing with things. jumping to dramatic hostile interactions will leave both of you drained, deserted and wronged.
People will meet online and if there is a vacuum in their relationship in real, they will seek out what fills that vacuum.
When this was discussed at the Roadside Philosophers the only real definition we came up for cheating included "lying to your partner".
So it is cheating if you are not honest with your partner, as difficult a proposition as that is, only an effort from both parties will keep the relationship together.