Affairs and online relationships occur for similar reasons—usually because of problems in the primary relationship. People feel unappreciated, neglected, misunderstood, lonely, or they have lost passion, and as a result, they look for those losses to be fulfilled by someone else. (For help with this issue, please contact us at The Village.)
Affairs are a violation of trust in a relationship. Recovering from an affair as a couple is a difficult two-person job. A skilled counselor can help guide the couple in resolving the hurt and in taking steps to repair the relationship and rebuild trust.
The emergence of the Internet has resulted in a new form of infidelity—online affairs. Some people do not believe that online relationships should be qualified as affairs, that they are harmless, and as such, are not a violation of trust in a relationship. Because relationships that occur via email or through chat rooms, rarely, if ever, involve face-to-face contact, the individual engaging in the relationship may not see their behavior as problematic. They also don’t involve the risks of a typical affair. Individuals engaging in online relationships don’t have to worry about being seen in public, finding places and times to get together, risks of sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, or unexplained absences
No external relationships are without risks, however. There is always the possibility that engaging in an affair, whether through email, chat or in person might increase the possibility of stalking, sexual assault, and other violations. In addition, online relationships can be electronically traced, thus, they are not foolproof.
Most important, external relationships can be damaging to the relationship you have with your partner. They typically involve some form of emotional attachment, and people are more likely to be critical of their partner if they have an emotional attachment to someone else. In addition, there is a tendency to withdraw from the current relationship and be less involved emotionally, physically, and otherwise. Online relationships may also make it easier to venture into having a traditional affair.
If you suspect a partner of engaging in such a relationship, it is generally more productive to focus on the specific behavior (i.e., online flirtation, chat room sexual talk, etc.), rather than the lying and deception.
Discuss your concerns in a calm, rational manner and in such a way that increases the likelihood you will be heard. Focus on your feelings, not the deception. It is important that the other person not feel attacked or a confrontation is likely to occur. Being calm and rational also increases the chances of rebuilding trust and healing the pain.
If you need help healing your relationship from the wounds caused by you or your partner's infidelity, online or in person, contact The Village Family Service Center.