Research shows that more males than females use chat rooms, said Mileham, who found it difficult to get women to respond to her survey.
Females are usually bombarded with messages and can pick and choose which messages they respond to, she said.
Said one such man, "While I'm on the computer my wife just assumes I'm writing a report for work." Another man said his wife, who knew what he was doing and didn't like it, looked over his shoulder sometimes while he was typing, Mileham said.
Much of the Internet's appeal to married people is the anonymity it guarantees, coupled with the no-touching aspect, which they view as a license to be sexual, Mileham said.
"I'm not going to cheat," wrote one married man.
"I'm just capturing back some of those butterflies we feel when we're young and start flirting and dating.""The No.
(It) can't get any easier than that." Counseling organizations report chat rooms are the fastest-rising cause of relationship breakdowns, and the problem only stands to get worse as today's population of Internet users continues to grow, Mileham said."The Internet will soon become the most common form of infidelity, if it isn't already," she said.
Unlike some fatal attractions, a simple click of a mouse button ends contact – should the person want to break it off – without any explanations or apologies, she said.
Many reported that what started as innocent, friendly exchanges progressed quickly to strong desires for sexual relationships, she said.Mileham conducted in-depth online interviews with 76 men and 10 women, ages 25 to 66, who used Yahoo's "Married and Flirting" or Microsoft's "Married But Flirting," Internet chat rooms geared specifically for married people.The study's participants, who represented every state, included stay-at-home mothers, construction workers, engineers, nurses and presidents of large corporations."We need to better understand the contributing factors if we are going to be able to warn people about the slippery slope that starts with online flirting and too often ends in divorce." With the exception of two of the study's participants, all hid their online activities from their spouses, often "chatting" after their husbands or wives had gone to sleep, Mileham said.But some used this form of effortless escapism while their spouse was in the room, she said."With cybersex, there is no longer any need for secret trips to obscure motels.