The painful feelings are still very similar whether your spouse is having sex with someone or they are just having an “internet fling”. We often hear from people that say even though their spouse hasn’t slept with anyone it still feels like they have cheated. Your heart still feels ripped out. Yet many can’t fully understand why. That is what this series of blog posts aims to sort out for you.
We often think of viruses in this context as the sexually transmitted disease associated with sexual promiscuity that can come about with an affair. We would like to suggest that there is another virus, that in our opinion, cuts deeper than the pain and embarrassment of STDs. It is the slow degrading infection that eats away at the trust, communication, and intimacy that is the foundation of your marriage.
The problem isn’t just the sex act itself but the issue of deception. Deception is two fold, the dishonesty of the spouse engaged in the affair and, in the case of the internet affair, the deception that the online fantasy world creates for the person engaged in the affair. Both the sexual relationship and the online relationship includes deception.
In fact, according to Peggy Vaughn, a leading expert on affair recovery, “most people whose partners have a sexual affair find that they recover from the fact that their partner had sex with someone else before they recover from the fact that they were deceived.” Deception is the virus that kills our relationships. We often view deception as lying outwardly, “But a more accurate definition of a lack of honesty in a relationship is "withholding relevant information." We must share our lives openly and honestly with our spouse and agree to withhold certain personal information from anyone else.
We often talk about a person sliding into an affair more often then not because of poor boundaries. We will talk about boundaries further in a later post. It may be argued that it is easier to slide into an affair via the internet than a physical encounter for a few reasons:
First, we are all inundated with the internet and surfing the web is an easy “escape” from reality with so many social sites these days.
Second, the lack of tangible physical contact with another person can confuse the situation because there isn’t a physical touch but this doesn’t mean there isn’t a physical reaction to what is being viewed or talked about on the internet.
Third, you and the other person share only the “best side” of your personality.
Forth, internet fantasies and pornography have been rationalized in our society as being “no big deal”. I have heard women say, “boys will be boys” or “everyone does it, it’s normal”. This couldn’t be any further from the truth! These habits turn into addictions that rob our marriages of intimacy, trust, and communication.
Just because there is no physical contact with another person does not mean your relationship with your spouse does not suffer, it absolutely suffers. The person engaged in the online pornography or online chat room fantasies is spending their best energy on someone who doesn’t require real meaningful conversation, responsibility, or real love.
Not only are they robbing their spouse of meaningful love, but they are robbing themselves of the joys and pains of real love. They are giving away precious time and allowing the computer to rob their spouse of the intimacy they need and deserve.
So do not be deceived by the internet fling. Be honest with yourself and with your spouse. If you suspect your spouse is having an internet affair be careful to create an environment where they can feel safe to be honest and come clean. This means don’t yell or cut them off but listen quietly and attentively and don’t give into the need to punish them. The feelings can be overwhelming so seek help in order to heal from the trauma of the affair.
If you are the one struggling with an internet affair look at what is going on and ask yourself these questions:
- Are you spending more time on the internet than with your spouse?
- Do you skip meals or surf the internet while eating alone instead of with your family?
- Do you talk with people of the opposite sex on internet chat sites or social media?
- Do you spend time gratifying yourself by viewing pornography than with your spouse?
- Does your spouse ask you about the people you talk to?
- Does your spouse feel uncomfortable with the time you spend on the internet or the people you are talking with on the internet?
- Do you share hopes, fantasies, fears, or personal information with others on the internet?
- Does the person you talk with on the internet know more about your spouse than your spouse knows about them? Or do you bad mouth your spouse?
- Do you find yourself “putting your best face forward” in order to impress people on the internet?
- Do you fantasize about the person you talk with on the internet or rush home just to chat?
- Do you feel drawn to meet with the person you are talking with on the internet?
- Do you hide your conversations from your spouse?
So here is the cure to the virus - 100% Honesty. Secrecy surrounding the fantasy is what keeps the virus alive. So complete honesty destroys fantasies of the affair and helps you see if for what it is, an escape from reality. With the new level of honesty there will be a new level of intimacy in your marriage. Then the marriage healing can begin.
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“Brad Robinson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an expert in infidelity recovery in Tulsa, OK. Together with his wife Morgan Robinson they teach people about how to understand and overcome infidelity and how to make their marriage thrive even after betrayal. You can learn more about their work by visiting www.MarriageSolutionsTulsa.com”