Texting, Facebook and Infidelity in the Internet Age

I’m really disappointed. The Jetsons promised me that by now I would be much closer to zooming out of my driveway in the sky and flying around in a fancy space car. Instead, on my way here today, I spent a tedious 30 minutes sighing and fretting in my decidedly non-airborne vehicle. Science needs to step it up a bit. But, while we’re waiting, lets talk a bit about the very real ways in which technology impacts our relational lives.

These days, most people who find their way into my office to address cheating have a good deal to say about how Facebook and their smart phones have aided and abetted their affairs. In fact, I can’t think of any couple that I have seen for infidelity in the past five years who were not left sorting out how  gadgets and social media acted as silent partners on the slippery slope towards becoming inappropriate. Why is it that when we’re staring at that screen, we may allow ourselves liberties we wouldn’t in person? Read on for some things to ponder as you decide if you’re getting yourself in deep waters with someone who isn’t your main squeeze. Here are the elements of dangerous electronic communications:

1) Immediacy: In days of yore, cheating was harder. If you wanted to contact the object of your forbidden desire in the evening, you had to call his or her home and risk the partner answering. In order to do that, one had to have made a really conscious, evaluated decision to step around boundaries. These days, it’s easy to fire off a message under the guise of a work-related (or volunteer-related, or child-related–insert how you know the person here) inquiry, while kind of wanting that conversation to continue to develop organically. If you are doing this, be honest with yourself about the type of communication you are hoping will result. Folks tell me all the time that their affairs “just happen.” However, when we deconstruct the history of that relationship, we are able to pinpoint a series of small choices that architected the connection rather intentionally. That doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. People who cheat rarely are. Instead they are, like all of us, complex people with complex motivations who could stand to develop some transparency between their intentions and their actions. As a matter of fact, telling a betrayed partner that you have no idea how the affair occurred is one of the very worst things you can say. If you are completely in the dark about how you began to stray, how could you possibly hope to reassure your partner that it won’t happen again?

2) Privacy: Imagine a husband and wife sitting beside one another on the couch. Each person has in her or her hand a marvel of technology–a microcosm of personal information and communication. You could be playing Candy Crush or posting pictures of your latest vacation. But, you could also be messaging your old flame from high school, “just to see what he’s up to these days.” Your partner would never know there’s something he should be objecting to, therefore there are fewer brakes otextn the momentum. Picture a boss giving a presentation. Employees are tapping away on their laptops. They could be taking notes on her third quarter plan. Alternatively, they could be texting a coworker inside jokes and planning to have an intimate lunch. Could the message you’re sending be interpreted as flirtatious or overly personal? Suppose either of your partners read the missives between you. Would you be upset or embarrassed? If you think that anything you’re sharing would be unsettling in the light of day (or a partner’s eyes) it’s time to reconsider the nature of the relationship you’re cultivating with that outside interest.

3) No Rough Drafts: When you are communicating in person, there are abundant opportunities to feel weird–things come out awkwardly and body language can be off-putting. But, when one is connecting electronically, you have a chance to reread and edit what you send, crafting it perfectly. Conversations had this way are often a best-case scenario, not the way either person participates in real life. Carefully curated communications can give the impression of a perfect fit between the two people talking. But, these moments in the affair bubble probably aren’t representative of what an open relationship with that person would be like.

Do you need some help untangling yourself from that invisible phone cord? Are social media and texting in danger of dismantling a relationship that you care about? I can help you get clarity and figure out what to do next. Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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