Cheating Online and Divorce

Most of the time, when people think about cheating, they think about someone having a physical affair, lying about “business trips” or working late to hook up with someone else that that isn’t their spouse.  However, cheating can take on many different forms, not just physical.  Cheating can be emotional, physical, financial, or even online. In recent years with the rise in the amount of time people spend online, especially on social media platforms. There has been an increase in online cheating, and while it may seem innocent enough, especially at first, it’s still cheating. It’s also difficult to say what exactly counts as online cheating since this can vary not only from couple to couple but person to person. There’s a tremendous amount of interpretation as to what is considered cheating, and you may find yourselves crossing a line you would never have thought you’d do.

Cheating is Cheating. Even if It’s Online.

Online cheating is a kind of emotional affair where people develop a sexually intimate relationship without actually meeting and, in many circumstances, not even seeing each other’s faces or hearing their voices. Because there’s no physical contact often people may not think of online cheating as a real affair, but it still is, and it can have a disastrous effect on your marriage, I would even say sometimes more than a physical affair does. When someone is having an online affair, they are often spending a lot of time communicating with this other person and may become the person that they turn to instead of their spouse which can cause their spouse to be hurt and feel neglected and dismissed.  They might not know exactly why they’re feeling that way but can certainly see it happening.

They also are likely to feel that their trust has been broken and find that it’s much more challenging to overcome online cheating than it is physical cheating. There may be many reasons for this, but a big part of it has to do with trust. If your spouse is physically cheating on you, then within reason it’s easy to know whether they’re seeing someone else, are they where they say they’re going to be, are they traveling, working late, etc. However, with online cheating, so much can happen even right in front of the other person’s face, and they wouldn’t necessarily know. Think about how often you are on your phone, and if your spouse asks who you’re talking with and you said a friend, they’re not going to check that necessarily. Once trust is broken, they may feel that it’s too hard to know that you’ve severed ties with this person without actually keep track of your phone conversations and online visits, something that’s hard to do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the conversations don’t have to be sexual to constitute cheating. If you are consistently talking with someone online, you’re taking away time from your family and spouse.  Also, you may find that the things that you would have initially told your spouse you’re now sharing with someone else. Even if there’s no sexual relationship, you may be developing an intimate relationship and conversation with this other person, and your spouse may still consider this cheating, even if you hadn’t quite realized it.

Communication is Key

If you believe that your spouse is cheating online, communicating with each other about what you think constitutes cheating is essential.  Social media, especially, has made it easier now more than ever to connect with old friends, flames, or even exs. Social media is all about oversharing and trying to find a connection with others. It can create many opportunities to start a conversation that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. The online world also makes it easier to justify if all as innocent, platonic or not cheating if you’re just “checking in” on an old flame or crush, even if it’s never something you would do in person. Having a conversation with your spouse where you can understand what might constitute cheating to them can be helpful. These conversations can be difficult; however, doing so before someone does something that they can’t take back may help save your marriage.

Marriage Mediation

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by: Amanda Singer

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center