Online infidelity is an affair through a digital platform or method, whether text, email, social media or anything else. This cyber-affair could be solely emotional, or they may exchange sensual messages which can simulate a physical affair. For the cheating partner, it is a way of fulfilling some emotional, social or physical need outside of their own relationship, and it almost always results in emotional distress.
It can be difficult to weigh the seriousness of online infidelity against that of a physical affair. While the unfaithful partner was not physically intimate with anyone outside of the relationship, words were exchanged and trust was betrayed. It might seem like a smaller problem that’s easier to get away from, but recovering from online infidelity is not actually as simple as turning your phone off.
According to Tracey Lickfelt, Vice President of Outpatient and Engagement Services Services for Centerstone, online infidelity could, in fact, be potentially worse than a physical affair. “There is a certain lack of responsibility that the cheating partner may take for this type of affair. They most likely had no direct contact with the external party, so they don’t have a tangible way to understand the weight of it.”
Before you approach them about what you believe they are doing, try to give yourself space to collect all your thoughts and feelings. Emotions of shock, anger and grief are common reactions to learning of a partner’s infidelity. Try to rehearse in your mind how you will approach the situation and what language you will use—it is best to use inquisitive language rather than accusatory. It is important to have proof of some sort before approaching your partner. “When unverified claims prove false, it is taken as an accusation and hurts; however, if claims without evidence are true, they can be denied or the cheating partner may return with other accusations,” says Lickfelt.
Like with physical infidelity, as long as both parties want to work through this problem together, the relationship is never too far gone. Here are some things that each partner can do to help:
For the unfaithful partner:
For the hurt partner:
Relationships take work, but you can begin to heal. Remember who you are to each other, and work as a team.
If you and your partner are struggling to move forward, Centerstone can help. Call 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) for more information about our counseling services.
If you are in crisis, please call our crisis line, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
If you're still having trouble and would like to reach out to someone about counseling or other Centerstone services, contact us.
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