According to Reuters, there are more than 54 million single people in the U.S. today, and more than 41 million of them have tried online dating. Twenty percent of current committed relationships began online, and the number appears to be growing. It’s no secret that social media is the matchmaker of the future. This strange new world brings with it all sorts of invisible hazards: Are the people you chat with online who they say they are? How at risk are you if you’ve ever sent sexy photos at someone’s request? When you start seeing someone new, when is the appropriate time to turn off your dating profile? Dating rules appear to be different in the digital age, and some folks appear to be taking advantage of the temporary ambiguities.
Online Relationship Mishaps
Adam and Liz met through an online dating site early in the summer of 2012. Liz was immediately attracted to Adam’s positive energy and athleticism. He was a semi-pro cyclist and healthcare nut who loved advising clients and friends on how to have a healthier, more natural life. Adam was drawn in by Liz’s warm and nurturing nature as much as by her beauty. She taught yoga classes and was an herbalist – both passions Adam shared. Over the proceeding months, the two began to date more seriously, never firmly establishing their status as a couple, or even as a monogamous couple, but seeing one another several times a week and beginning to share emotional words. They were falling in love.
By October, a friend came to Liz to break some hard news she thought important to share. Adam was still online; he hadn’t suspended his dating profile. Liz was crushed. She felt that everything the couple had been sharing was a lie; how many more women was Adam seeing? Adam contended that he hadn’t gone on any dates with other women, that he was in love with Liz and wanted it to work. But he had chatted with other women, sometimes late at night – chats that sometimes turned sexual. Adam was convinced that his behavior hadn’t been cheating: he and Liz hadn’t yet promised monogamy, and anyway, he was never physical with anyone else. But Liz didn’t see it that way. When she asked Adam whether he had kept his online status from her deliberately, not telling her because he knew she’d be hurt, he admitted that he had.
Turning Fallout into Opportunity
The next year of the couple’s relationship was often fraught with the bad news from these early days, even though it should have been the most exciting year of their time together. Liz found it next to impossible to trust Adam and as remorseful as he was, he began to feel that there was nothing he could do to change the past, or Liz’s mind. But they hung on. There was something valuable about their connection and both of them knew it.
Because Adam had operated in secret from Liz, essentially playing the field, if only virtually, he knew he had amends to make. But Liz’s own behavior began to necessitate amends too. She had begun to question Adam constantly about his whereabouts, checking his phone repeatedly and turning what could have been enjoyable evenings into arguments. She couldn’t be reassured enough. It wasn’t so much that Liz was hurting Adam as she was hurting herself and their relationship; if she wanted it to survive, she needed to be able to forgive.
As it has been said, holding onto anger and bitterness is like poisoning yourself and expecting it to defeat the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is the elixir that heals you both. Finding relationship tools to teach you the positive communication that can invite forgiveness is essential, and establishing boundaries together about future behavior, both on- and offline, are always sane ideas.