The Internet has changed how we shop, plan vacations and converse. There is convenience experienced at every turn, with a full library of information accessible from mobile devices. Connecting with friends is easier than it’s ever been, as long as “connecting” is defined as exchanging text messages and viewing Snapchat.
The Internet is also changing how individuals get into extra-marital relationships. In a new realm in which cheating is possible without ever making physical contact, many cyber-cheaters are wrecking a marriage for the excitement of a flirtatious text string.
This topic is a popular one for Dr. Laura Berman, a relationship and sex expert who recently published an article about cyber cheating in Fox News Online. While traditional views of infidelity often conjure up images of trysts in cheap motels and lipstick on collars, the modern reality of affairs is that they exist in a realm of gray area, she says. What constitutes as cheating may be broader than just sexual contact, and it may depend on the person and how they define cheating.
Infidelity can happen when Facebook flirting crosses some invisible line, or when texts contain intimate information or naked photos. Modern technology has changed the way relationships develop, including illicit relationships. Physical contact is no longer necessary to define a relationship as an affair.
The lure of some social networking sites make it easier than ever to connect with a tempting contact. Where traditionally some effort was required to track down an old flame, today a person can look up an old lover and send a message from the comfort of their home. Within minutes, the flirting has commenced.
It is not only online affairs that have changed. Berman notes that people spend so much time and energy on careers that work can begin to feel like real life, while home and family feel like the side show. Coworkers can become close, resulting in the popularization of the “work husband” and “work wife.”
With both online relationships and those that take form in the office environment, a relationship can cross boundaries without physical contact. The relationships can quickly become close and intense.
Defining the relationships can be challenging, but Berman says that it is important to talk with a spouse about what each partner believes is within the boundaries of their commitment. Some individuals may be comfortable with online flirting or texting, while others may feel that such behavior undermines their relationship.
Berman suggests that those in a committed relationship consider several checks on their behavior. For instance, if an individual would not do something or say something in front of their partner, it probably is not a good idea to do or say it at all. If visualizing the partner hearing the conversation results in embarrassment, it is likely cheating.
Berman also recommends that motives be questioned. If flirting on social networks seems to stir excitement, the individual should ask how they can stir that same anticipation within marriage. Seeking out new experiences together or traveling could help the married couple to feel the excitement that often results from an illicit relationship.