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

Tweeting Or Cheating? Social Media Affairs And What To Do

online affairs tweeting cheating

Do you know the signs of a social media affair (a.k.a. online affairs)? After recent developments regarding the Ashley Madison Breach, I wanted to reacquaint us all on social media affairs.

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. According to a 2010 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, it 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 person wrote…

"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 devastates 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 provides access to people we would never 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 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: 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.

There may be a problem with your online relationship if…

  1. You hesitate before friending that person.
  2. You’re more committed to checking your email than your kids.
  3. Getting away from a computer or mobile device is more difficult than working a Rubik's cube.
  4. You share more with your online friend(s) than with your mate.
  5. You lock your mobile device and computer down tighter than Fort Knox to assure your mate doesn’t invade your privacy.
  6. Meeting face to face seems like a better idea then 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 say, "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. Interest 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, pastor, or 12 step books. Do whatever it takes to get disentangled from the online affair.
  2. Do the 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. 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.

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 think, “it could happen to me” and place boundaries 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 pray for strength when they come along. And be willing to hit the ‘remove from friends’ 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 completely, positively, absolutely open and honest with your spouse about everything. A wife shared, “If your spouse asks who just 'whispered' 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 your Facebook is the key.

Finally, always work on your marriage. Never take it for granted. Even good marriages may be corruptible because of boredom, feelings of loneliness, desire for a simpler life, cravings for romance, 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, check out our marriage seminar, 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 your marriage is in trouble, contact us by clicking here. Our success rate over the last decade is three out of four marriages remain married, even when adultery, porn, anger, lies or other issues have deeply hurt the relationship!

It’s not as hopeless as it seems and you won’t find a safer place to find help and healing than our resources and our community. If you’re wanting a better idea of what to do now, consider enrolling in our free, seven day First Steps Bootcamp program.

 

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Comments

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 Betrayal

Thanks Rick for your great article and sound advice. Let my story serve as a warning. I am a popular author, professional speaker and health educator who discovered my now-estranged husband cheating and defaming my name on Facebook and Skype. He pretended to be me to solicit women from around the world for intimate connections through messaging and chat. He was able to do this by using my Facebook password, creating a fake Gmail account with my name, and co-opt my identity. I decided to go public with my story and I’ve written a book: Direct Hit! How Facebook Destroyed My marriage and How I Healed. And I also obtained a judgment against him for defamation, identity theft and “behavior considered outrageous by civilized society.” ~ Caroline Sutherland, Author, How Facebook Destroyed My Marriage and How I Healed

Facebook

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.

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