Portland Relationship Counseling: Virtual Cheating Causes Real Hurt

April 13, 2013 by

Some of my Portland relationship counseling clients who see me due to an affair are at first surprised to be there. Not because they assumed that their spouse would simply divorce them, but because they didn’t think that they were doing anything wrong.

Why? Because their affair was a virtual one.

Instead of meeting in cheap hotel rooms with a neighbor or coworker, they connected on Facebook, over email, or in chat rooms. They live across the country from each other and never actually met in person, so how could it be an affair? From their point of view, it was closer to flirting or even looking at pornography.

Unfortunately, their spouse didn’t see it the same way when they saw the messages expressing their spouse’s desire to ravage someone else. Maybe it wasn’t “real,” but it was real enough to cause marriage problems.

Portland Relationship Counseling: A Virtual Violation

The problem is twofold.

First, unless you and your significant other have an agreement in place that those kinds of interactions are acceptable, it comes as a betrayal of their trust. You are going behind their back and telling someone else how much they mean to you, and may even be engaging in cybersex with them. Not only is this a blow to their ability to trust you, it’s a knock on their self-esteem because you apparently have to go outside the relationship to satisfy yourself.

Secondly, what you’re engaging in is essentially an emotional affair. Maybe it doesn’t feel the same as flirting with your real-life coworker and developing a connection, but many similar feelings are involved. How could something like that, once discovered, not cause marriage problems?

Portland Relationship Counseling: Establish Guidelines

Of course, in this brave new digital world we all live in, it’s not always that clear-cut for many people. That’s why it’s so important for couples to establish rules and guidelines for their relationship. It may sound a little rigid and dictatorial, but it’s important if you want to avoid getting hurt later.

Before you get too serious, talk about issues like whether or not you’re exclusive, what that really means, and what is and isn’t okay with you. This should be a discussion, not a decree, but it’s important that both of you lay out what you want and what’s acceptable.

Sound tough? It is. These kinds of conversations aren’t meant to be easy, but they can help. If you find that it’s too difficult to talk to your partner alone, Portland relationship counseling may be an option.