SALT LAKE CITY — Coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share the problems and some solutions to prevent internet infidelity.
My friend recently pointed out that my spouse chats with lots of people and women on Facebook. He comments on their posts, etc. I haven’t worried about it and have always trusted him, but my friend really thinks I am being dumb. She thinks social media can lead to problems and I should be more careful and monitor his social accounts. Would you do that with your spouse? Should I trust him or not?
Our answer is — it depends. You have to balance listening to your gut and trusting yourself if you feel there is a problem happening and being overly suspicious of someone who might be trustworthy. Most of the time it is wiser to choose to trust them and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you are distrustful and suspicious when they don’t deserve that, your distrust can harm the relationship.
You are not being unreasonable to be cautious, though. Seeking relationships with or chatting with members of the opposite sex online can lead to internet infidelity, which is a serious and growing problem in our society. A story on CBS News said one-third of divorce litigation is sparked by online affairs. The internet has made it too easy to view pornography, meet people and start relationships with members of the opposite sex from home or the office.
Chatting online can be the gateway to real infidelity. Studies have shown 50 percent of people who spend time in internet chat rooms have eventually made real contact with someone they met online. And 31 percent of chat room participants said their online chats have led to sex. It is not a harmless pastime.
If your spouse is investing too much time in online relationships instead of investing time in your real relationship, there is a problem. But you must be accurate about the situation and what they are doing because not all social networking is a problem. If you have a good relationship with your spouse and trust each other, social networking is reasonable, to some extent. There should be boundaries, however.
Internet time should not occupy more time than you spend alone with each other. If your spouse spends hours on the computer late at night, at work, or early in the morning, it could be a sign of trouble. If your spouse’s interest in intimacy (with you) has waned, that could be a sign of trouble.
If your spouse suffers from low self-esteem and you can sense an emptiness they are always trying to fill, they may be susceptible to seeking validation outside your relationship. Anyone who struggles with fear of not being good enough can become needy for attention from others.
We also recommend the following steps:
1. Discuss if internet use is causing problems in your relationship. Agree together on boundaries you both feel good about.
2. Try placing your computer in an open location, not behind a closed door. Partners should agree to share passwords and email addresses. If there is nothing to hide, your spouse should be willing to agree to these terms.
3. Have a purpose when you go online. Limit computer use to paying bills or other specific tasks.
4. Get involved in other activities together. Find a fun distraction to keep you busy that does not involve the computer like sports, hobbies and art. Do these activities with your spouse and children and stay too busy to spend much time online.
5. Never use the computer when you are discouraged, bored, tired or grouchy.
You must decide what kind of life you want. A good relationship takes work, commitment and time. Here are some ideas for strengthening your relationship:
- Make your marriage a priority. Invest time and energy in building a strong relationship. If you like sending flirty messages, send them to your spouse. Have some fun and bring playfulness back into your marriage.
- Always be positive and encouraging to your spouse. Encouragement is a better motivator than criticism. Compliment your spouse and express your love often.
- Work on communication. Read books, talk to an expert, learn how to create a successful marriage. A little work goes a long way.
A licensed counselor can help you figure out what the underlying problems are and show you ways to fix them. If you feel a distance between you and your partner, you should consider getting help.
You can do this.
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