Surviving an Internet Infidelity

This blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s Vanessa Blaxland, MFTi.

Over the past decade, fast changing technology has brought a new dynamic to relationships.  While our society tends to have rather clear ideas of infidelity in the real world, such as infidelity requires a physical act, cyberspace has presented relationships with a new dimension of issues related to infidelity and demands reconsideration of what constitutes cheating.  Internet infidelity can happen in many forms: sexting, secret emails, live chats, and porn sites.   However because of Internet infidelity’s lack of a clear definition, couples are often left confused, pulled apart by differences in opinions, and partners left feeling invalidated.

The problems really come from differences in opinions about what constitutes infidelity when it is through the use of technology and no physical interactions occur.  For one partner it may be a deep and equally devastating betrayal as a physical infidelity in the real world.  While for another partner it might be something that is silly, not to be taken seriously, and isn’t a threat to their relationship.  Researchers Hertlein and Peircy note that online and real world infidelity share an important component.  Both online and real world infidelity involves secrecy, which as many of you know if where many problems in relationships begin.

So how do couples survive an Internet infidelity when every text, email, and login becomes questionable?  Communication.   Lack of communication about each partner’s ideas about Internet behavior and Internet infidelity is most likely a contributor to couples conflict involving technology.  However, still having a conversation about acceptable and unacceptable online behavior even after the fact can help couples recovering from an Internet infidelity.  Secondly, just as any problem that causes severe distress in a relationship, it will be important to get to the root cause of why one or both partners decided to stray from the relationship and seek out another.  Understandably infidelity can be a sensitive and overwhelming issue to speak about.  If therapy is an option for you, finding a couples therapist that is a good fit for you and your partner can help you begin the healing process towards trust and intimacy.

Elana Clark-Faler
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