It may have started simply, just a friendly chat. Or the innocent act of reconnecting with an old friend or schoolmate. But before long, it turned into much more. A full-blown online affair.
What if you’ve discovered that your own spouse is having such an affair?
There are those that may tell you that it’s only words. But an affair is an affair – online or not. It’s a violation of trust. Just because your spouse didn’t physically have sex with this person doesn’t mean their actions aren’t painful for you. As a matter of fact, an emotional affair often cuts much deeper than a sexual one.
After all, you expected your spouse to share intimate information with you alone – no one else. You feel devastated and know you have to do something in response. But what?
Online Affair: The Three Things You Should Do
1. Speak Up!
To you, spouse: Do not contact the person with whom they’re having the online affair!
Confront your mate with your discovery. Don’t get overly emotional, though. Stay calm, but be honest and direct. Let them know how upsetting their actions are to you. Share that it’s inappropriate for them to seek validation and intimacy outside your marriage. Firmly state that you won’t accept this behaviour.
Be prepared to enforce your personal boundaries and tell your spouse that you will not be emotionally and physically intimate with them until they stop their online affair.
If they’re not willing to talk with you about the matter, simply let them be for a while. This will give you both time to process the problem. It will also show your spouse that you’re serious about doing something to remedy this issue.
2. Educate Yourself
Once your mate opens up and is ready to talk about the affair, listen calmly. If they admit it was wrong and apologize, ask why they did it (although, sometimes they don’t know themselves).
Were their conversations hot and steamy, full of flattering words? This could mean your spouse was trying to boost their ego or get validation. It could also mean that they’re emotionally detached from you, which is a much bigger problem.
Were their exchanges comforting, loving, and full of tender expressions? This could indicate a craving for emotional intimacy or a sense of feeling unloved. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are actually unloved or that you don’t show them appreciation. It simply means that’s how they feel. There’s no need for you to beat yourself up over their actions.
Take a deep breath and ask them what exactly they need from you. Ask what it is they feel they’re not getting. Again, listen calmly. Don’t guilt trip them, don’t pry, and don’t defend yourself. Your spouse made the choice to cheat – you didn’t cause them to do it!
Hearing the information about your mate’s online affair may be very upsetting, but educating yourself this way will help you get a good general understanding of the issue. From that point, you can figure out what to do.
3. Decide How to Proceed
Obviously, you have some things to sort out. Most of it depends on how your spouse reacts to your demands in light of their online affair. Have they ceased any contact with this person? Have they admitted their guilt? Did they apologize? Do you see a willingness to make amends?
Do you feel confident that you can manage to repair your relationship by yourselves? You may consider getting professional help and guidance. After all, this situation is not easy, and there may be more things you need to learn about your spouse’s motivation to cheat.
Talk to your mate and tell them you would like to seek out couples counselling. Their response will tell you a lot about your chances of putting their online affair behind you.
About the Author
Cristina M. Fandino, Ed.D.; M.Ed. is a registered psychotherapist who currently owns a private practice in the Beaches, Toronto. She specializes in depression, anxiety, addictions as well as expatriate and multicultural issues in couples and families.