Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Tweeting Or Cheating? Social Media Affairs And What To Do

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Do you know the signs of a social media affair (a.k.a. online affair)?

This article was released originally on August 26, 2015 shortly after recent developments surrounding the Ashley Madison Breach. I felt it timely to reacquaint us all on social media affairs and signs of them.

The fact that 81% of the nation's top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, creates more than enough concern that we're heading in the wrong direction. A 2010 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reveals the growing magnitude of this problem and its widespread effects.

It's a problem I witness daily in my office. For example,

"My stomach churned as I read this article about Facebook. It IS a trap and if you do not have a solid marriage you fall, unfortunately, for the kind words and attention, especially the part about, 'You never aged and you are just as beautiful as you were in school.' I wish there was a cure for my stupidity. I wish I could rewind things back to the day when I took the bait. I knew not to accept this guy's friend request. He was such a bad boy in high school and, truth be told, I broke up with him because he was a hell raiser and a partier..."

Another client of mine wrote this...

"My wife's affair was more of a texting adventure gone bad, although I can see how being friends on Facebook contributed to the warm fuzzies that led to the affair, which was ignited one day when this "friend" began to text her with more daring and intimate thoughts. Like you said, 'instant access to people's actions and lives plays into the affair.'..."

Anyone that's ever been through infidelity will tell you it's devastating. What further troubles me is the recent news that a victim of the Ashley Madison hack has committed suicide, rather than attempt to find help for their crisis. There is a better way and there is hope for us as a nation.

What makes us vulnerable to online affairs and social media relationships?

  1. Quick Response The instant gratification of online access allows rapid reinforcement of behavior, which causes emotions to drive the process rather than our rational self.
  2. Accessibility The Internet and social media sites provide access to people we would not rub elbows with in our normal life.
  3. The Online Disinhibition Effect Due to the invisibility provided by the Internet, people are less inhibited and will say or do things online that they would never speak or do to someone in person.
  4. Anonymity Not being known by the other party allows an individual to role-play whatever personality they can imagine. It's a powerful drug to have others respond to you as the person you've always wanted to be.
  5. Affordability This is the false idea that if it's not hurting anyone, then there's no harm. The fact that there seems to be no apparent cost associated with the behavior (either financially or relationally) makes it seem more acceptable.
  6. The Illusion of Secrecy This allows for my own self-gratification. No one will ever know I'm living a secret life and fulfilling my fantasies while living as a married person.
  7. Escapism The fact that one can seemingly escape the responsibilities of real life like bills, mood swings, deadlines, mortgages, etc., provides a context of fantasy and escapism.

There may be a problem with your online relationship if...

  1. You hesitate before friending that person knowing your spouse would not approve of your connection or relationship with them.
  2. You're constantly preoccupied with this person when you're around your spouse or children.
  3. Getting away from a computer or mobile device causes stress as you fear you'll be missing this "friend" too much.
  4. You share more with your online "friend(s)" than with your mate.
  5. You lock your mobile device and computer down at all times to avoid your spouse seeing any communication between you two.
  6. Meeting face-to-face seems like a better idea than talking online.
  7. Time spent with your online "friend" exceeds time spent with family or work.
  8. Wondering what your "friend" is doing becomes your primary past time.
  9. If either of you have said or end up saying, "This may be inappropriate; we need to slow down." (When that happens, you don't need to cut back, you need to cut it off, because you've become addicted to that person)
  10. 1Interest in your "friend" exceeds your interest in your mate.

If an online relationship has become a problem...

  1. Do what is necessary to terminate the relationship or behavior. The gradual process is of no use at all. Cut it off, if possible, and if you find you can't stop it, then get help either from a professional counselor, trusted friend, pastor, priest or 12 step books. Do whatever it takes to get disentangled from the online affair.
  2. Do the necessary work to discover what it was that made you vulnerable in the first place and what made your marriage vulnerable.
  3. Tell your mate what's going on, but don't blame your mate. Remember, bad marriages don't cause this, bad choices do. Take personal responsibility. I realize they will be upset, but they need to know you're choosing them over the behavior or person. Learning how to recover from an affair means being honest, even if it is just an online relationship.
  4. Come clean on your own. As in the case with a multitude of people who have been 'found out,' it doesn't have to be that way. Consider getting help from an expert third party and asking them to help you share what has unfortunately gone on. What's left in darkness is under the power and the shame of that darkness. There is more freedom in the light than you can possibly imagine, but you have to come to it first. It all doesn't have to make sense right now. It's about doing the next 'right thing.'
  5. Work on healing and growing your marriage with an expert who can help you repair the damage and save the marriage.

How should a person make sure that he or she never crosses the line on a social networking site, or any other site?

Here are some suggestions by my good friend Joe Beam.

First, always remember, "it could happen to me," and place boundaries around you and your relationship so that it cannot. Do NOT flirt! Yes, it can stroke the ego, but it can also plant the seed of the poison that will destroy you.

One woman wrote, "Pay attention to the red flags and resist the urge for connection and attachment when they come along. And be willing to hit the 'unfriend' button if the relationship is moving into the flirting zone." The problem comes when you wait until later rather than sooner to stop. Wait long enough, and you will not stop. Frequently, a couple with a strong marriage will come in saying, "We had the perfect marriage".

Second, be absolutely open and honest with your spouse about everything.

A wife shared, "If your spouse asks who just 'reached out' to you or 'friended you' online, don't do as I used to and tell him 'no one' when it's someone you shouldn't be talking to. Be honest about who you are communicating with. Openness with your spouse regarding ALL of your social media accounts is the key. For those of you who are in recovery, it's essential that your spouse have all your passwords and ability to see any and all of your social media activity. This cannot be an optional item in your own personal recovery work.

Finally, always prioritize your marriage. Do all you can to never take it for granted. Even good marriages may be corruptible because of boredom, feelings of loneliness, desire for a simpler life, cravings for escapism, or just plain old curiosity. At least every six months, couples should do something together to strengthen their marriage. Work through a good marriage book, find and spend a few hours with a mentor couple, or take a long weekend without the children, work, or any interruptions and do a lot of talking about whatever comes to mind.

If you're looking for how to heal from infidelity of any kind, please consider our EMS Weekend intensive. Our success rate is unparalleled. While you and your mate may be traumatized, you don't have to stay that way and you don't have to repeat old habits that seem insurmountable at times.

It's not as hopeless as it seems and you won't find a safer place to find help and healing than our EMS Weekend.

If you are in need of individual help, consider enrolling in our Hope for Healing course for wayward spouses. Find out how infidelity-specific help can change your marriage and your life.

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My husband sees nothing wrong

My husband sees nothing wrong with flirting with old girlfriends on facebook,  even when we are trying to repair our marriage after he had an 8 year affair.   Guess there is not much hope


Facebook was where my spouse hooked up. Wish it made me feel better to know how common this is becoming but it doesn't. And it is so easy to create a profile -the old one is shut down but I suspect he has another-since not much has changed.

Facebook Romance Scammer

My previously faithful wife of 37 years was carrying on an emotional affair with a military romance scammer on Facebook for over five months.  I warned her repeatedly about the possible danger.  She paid no attention but kept talking to her so called friend. To be with her internet lover she sent him over 3000 dollars for him to meet her and carry out a physical affair,  I discovered the affair when my credit card company contacted me with a fraud alert. I ordered her to leave which she did and promptly ended the affair,  I subsequently discovered she had been catfished  by a woman in Ghana who is the one actually receiving the money.  She has apologized and said she was feeling bad about getting older and was not looking for a relationship outside our marriage but was love bombed by this person until she was so high on the things he was saying to her she thought she was madly in love and  would have done anything he asked short of divorcing me which he demanded twice and she refused. She says she never stopped loving me but was addicted to how he made her feel about herself.  I can't eat or sleep, we are trying to work through this.

This is what started my husbands emotional affair

'I'm not doing anything wrong. It's not an affair. I haven't had sex with her' is what he tells me but after seeing tons of their messages and he tells her she's his soulmate, how he wants to make love to her of course it is an affair. They mostly message, rarely talk on the phone, see each other at our office training once a week, met at his brothers house who knows how many times?? He won't stop cuz it's his escape and he doesn't want to work things out with me. The more he drinks the more emotional he gets. Been praying for 5 months God will redeem and get this confusion out of his mind!! Open to all suggestions!

Where were you guys 7 years ago?

I lost everything in what you mentioned in this article and even tried to help my spouse to get out of this, but every symptom in this article is still prevailing with my spouse and we are in our final leg of the race.

Online affair with Romance Scammer

My previously faithful wife was drawn unto an affair with a military romance scammer on Facebook because he stroked her ego online with flattery and love bombing. She quickly became infatuated with this fake soldier and was swindled out of 4000.00. Take heed folks, if it happened to us it can happen to anyone.

She's still on social media

So after I exposed my wife's 2-year emotional affair with a man in our church that she did via texting and messaging on Facebook, while the man in our church changed his cell phone number and disconnected his social media accounts, my wife remains on her Facebook page like nothing happened.

I know I can't be her "Holy Spirit", but it irks me to no end (and I have talked to her about this multiple times over the years and since the affair was exposed) and she dismisses my feelings about this. She feels that since the other man has deleted his Facebook page, there is no need to do anything.

What bothers me is -- as she remains disconnected with me a year later since exposure -- she still lives on her cell phone and texts and is on Social Media more than she tries to communicate with me. So not sure how to proceed. I truly want reconciliation in this marriage and we are both working on our individual issues and trying to iron out the unhealthy issues that were in our marriage, but this is and always will be a source of anguish and pain in that she will always dismiss my feelings about this area of life that can very easily spring into more than "texting" or communicating via Social Media into another trap that will possibly totally destroy our marriage.

So why play with matches and gasoline when know all it can do is burn you and the ones around you? To me, it just doesn't make sense. I know we are supposed to have boundaries in marriage, but playing with these boundaries is just plain stupid in my eyes. Maybe I'm over reacting and just letting my emotions get the best of me, but if you were the spouse that betrayed someone and said you were trying to repair the marriage into something more healthy, wouldn't you do everything you could to help the spouse you betrayed and give them more trust and peace of mind?

Out of Secrecy, Where's Liberation

My husband shut down his FB for a few weeks but went back to it. After "trying" to repair our relationship (he sent me to a therapist alone and had her report back to him - trying to show I was "crazy") he went back to social media. The promise between he and his affair partner to "wait 3 years until the kids were old enough to handle the separation" was too much of a trust issue for me to overcome. After holding his affair a secret for almost 2 years to "protect his family", things finally came out about a month ago.

Now, he is openly reaching out to new women and has one who is "special" to him. We haven't even started separation procedures and he won't move out. But, there is hope with a mediation appointment scheduled for next week.

What I learned is that he decided he was no longer married back in 2004. He just never bothered to tell me, his wife, that he no longer honored his commitment. I couldn't understand why he kept saying that I "just didn't get it, it's over." In my mind, I am still legally married. But I get it, just because I honor my commitment doesn't mean he honors his. Uggg... I know it will be over someday.

It's a heart issue

Such a great article! I am a social media manager for several businesses and am very active on line with a number of platforms. Social media was also a devastating influencer in my husband's emotional affair that has led to the destruction of our 35 year marriage. But Social Media in itself is not evil, it is just a communication and advertising tool. Used without boundaries, it can be a relationship destroyer. It wasn't the marriage challenges my husband and I had but his own choices to enter into this type of relationship that blossomed into an intimate and inappropriate relationship with a family member. I found Facebook messaging that was devastating. Several red flags that told me this was wrong: Frequency: he texted, messaged throughout the day, even after work when we were together and I found up to 20 messages a day between them. He was also very quick to answer, as if he was waiting on pins and needles to hear from her Secrecy: He did not share with me about the conversations and meetings with her but kept them a secret because he "knew it would upset me". I actually discovered them on my own. He also messaged in the middle of the night. Intimate Topics: he mentioned negative comments about me or our marriage and praised her for the sweet favors she was doing for him. Lack of Boundaries: He also suggested they both get the same type of phone so they could "skype" together encouraging more intimacy and secrecy. Inconsistency: He did not treat all social media relationships the same. Thank you for sharing this information and the checklists to examine our own hearts when it comes to boundaries.

Tweeting or Cheating

They are the same people, It's like drugs no one starts off using heroin it starts small and then blows up !!! You destroy your spouse and wreck your life. Stop using the internet if you don't feel safe using it

Bottom line if your spouse cant read it then you shouldn't type it.

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