The Effects of Online Infidelity

It’s convenient — and dangerous — to view online intimacy as nothing serious. You can never see someone’s face or hear their voice but still be cheating. There is no useful reason to rank it below a physical affair. In fact, you could convincingly argue that more emotional intimacy is required to sustain an online connection. If so, this can deepen its negative impact on everyone involved.

All affairs require secrecy, but there’s a unique version of this at play with online intimacy. After all, you can be sitting right next to your partner in the car while using your phone to betray them. This is a brazen form of deception.

Common Signs of Digital Cheating

It can start with a gut feeling. You feel a distance building but can’t pinpoint the source. This is when it becomes important to observe your partner’s behavior vis-a-vis their devices, e.g.:

  • Changing passwords
  • Increased time allocated to their phone or computer
  • Clearing search histories
  • Only using devices in private locations
  • Getting defensive if asked about any of the above

If these choices by your partner are new compared to earlier behavior, you may have reason for concern. On the other hand, if it’s you who suddenly feels the need to hide some online interactions, you’d be well-served to consider why. Here are some questions for anyone who has a “special friend” online:

  • Are you confiding in them more than your partner?
  • Do you complain about your partner to them?
  • When something big happens, do you tell your online friend first?
  • Are you fantasizing about this person?
  • Are you favorably comparing them to your partner?

Yes, everyone deserves some privacy when communicating, but there is clearly a line in the sand that should not be crossed. We’re not talking about an innocent friendship. Online infidelity can be very damaging to your relationship and your partner.

The Effects of Online Infidelity

  • Shattered Trust: Once the affair has been exposed, your partner will understandably lose trust in you.
  • Shattered Self-Esteem: The hurt partner is left to wonder what they did “wrong” and/or what’s “wrong” with them.
  • Shattered Sex Life: It can take a long time to feel ready to have sex — especially for the hurt partner.
  • Guilt, All-Around: No one will or should feel good about this. The cheating partner should most certainly feel guilt. But, tying into the self-esteem issue mentioned above, a hurt partner could end up self-blaming.

Recovering From Online Infidelity

There’s no guarantee that recovery is possible. But if you commit together to this path, each of you will have your own boundaries.

  • The unfaithful partner must take responsibility, hold themselves accountable, offer a sincere apology, show remorse, and make big changes in their life. They must relinquish control of a healing timetable and not rush their partner to “move forward.” Together, you’ll have to agree on how to bring far more transparency into your relationship.
  • The betrayed partner should articulate how they feel and expect to be validated. They have every right to insist that all contact is cut between their spouse and the other person. At the same time, stay open to forgiveness. This does not mean you condone their actions. Rather, it is a crucial step toward healing.

Couples Therapy is a Proven Option

An unbiased and experienced guide is an ideal choice for finding ways to move past the infidelity. For example, working with a counselor can help you enhance your communication skills and address underlying issues. These two steps can go a long way toward reconciliation. Basically, if you’ve committed to staying together, why not stack the odds in your favor by asking for help?

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