David decided he would surprise his wife, Melissa, by coming home early from work. He stopped by the florist and picked up a bouquet of her favorite flowers. Melissa had been moody and depressed ever since she decided to quit work and stay home with their newborn baby. David had been at a loss as to what to do, but he was confident that the flowers would cheer her up. He couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when he presented her with the beautiful bouquet.
When David returned home he entered the house quietly and crept up behind his wife as she worked at the computer. Looking over her shoulder, he was shocked and dismayed when he read the email his wife was typing. It said, “Dear Greg, I feel so close to you. You understand me better than anyone else in my life. I think I am falling in love with you.”
As the use and availability of the Internet has increased, so have the number of extramarital relationships that occur via the computer. For many people, the Internet serves as a valuable tool in their lives. The way we do banking, keep in touch with friends, do research, or even pursue entertainment has changed as a result of the Internet. Along with providing many conveniences, however, this new tool has also opened a Pandora's Box of problems, one of which is infidelity. If you or your spouse has gotten caught up in an Internet affair, the hurt and pain of such a betrayal can seem insurmountable. Nevertheless, if approached with forgiveness and understanding, the damage to your relationship can be repaired in time. The following tips will help you to avoid those things that will make the situation worse and prevent you from moving forward with your life.
1. Don't let your hurt and anger take over
Forgiveness is extremely difficult in this situation, but it is also necessary if you want to remain married. Your spouse pursued an Internet relationship because his or her emotional needs were not being met. Acting cold and angry will only make this situation worse and drive your partner further away. If you find that you don’t have feelings for your spouse anymore, recognize that this “cooling off” may be a result of anger over the affair rather than a true loss of love.
2. Don't distance yourself from your spouse
Lack of closeness was probably part of the original problem and pulling away will make things worse, not better. If you are the one who has had the Internet relationship, don’t let your embarrassment or shame keep you from trying to reestablish your relationship with your spouse. Talk openly and honestly about the situation. If your spouse has had an Internet relationship, try to understand the reasons behind his or her actions and recognize what is missing in your relationship.
Berating or condemning your spouse for his or her actions might make you feel better, but it will only justify in his or her mind the reasons behind the affair. If you are the one who had the online relationship, don’t expect your spouse to forgive you immediately. Be patient and try to understand the hurt that they are feeling. Do what you can to assure your partner of your love and then prove it by meeting his or her needs.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.