NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Infidelity on Social Media Sites

Infidelity that starts on social media sites is growing at an alarming rate. It starts out innocently enough: Former high school sweethearts discover each other on the social media site, Facebook. They're both married to other people now. They "friend" each other on Facebook or Instagram. 

Infidelity on Social Media Sites

How Affairs Start on Social Media Sites
At first, they only contact each other occasionally. Then, over time the frequency grows. Before long, they're sending direct messages to each other everyday. Fantasies of what "might've been" also grow. Then, they meet for a drink, and before you know, they're having an affair. In most cases, neither person intended to have an affair, but corresponding on social media sites, which are great for staying in touch, make it easy for affairs to blossom and grow.

More and more, I'm hearing from clients in my psychotherapy private practice about these affairs that start on social media sites, like Facebook and other sites. Both the people who are cheating and the people being cheated on are in distress about how these encounters online are ruining their relationships.

Wives and husbands are shocked to find pictures posted online on other people's Facebook sites showing their spouses romantically involved with someone else. Often, these pictures are hard to explain away by the spouse having the affair. Often, the spouse who's cheating is just as shocked to discover that the "other woman" or "other man" would be so indiscrete as to post these pictures online for millions of people to see, including the unsuspecting spouse.

Many of these romantic encounters remain online fantasies without any physical contact. Clients who are involved with an ex in this way often try to say that the lack of physical contact means that it's not cheating. But if these online encounters are taking time and energy away from your marriage or primary relationship, it IS cheating.

In a long-term relationship, it's easy to become bored. Seeing your ex's picture and remembering the ideal romantic times with your ex can be very seductive. It's easy to imagine how much happier you'd be with your ex and get carried away.

On a Slippery Slope to Destroying Your Relationship by Cheating Online
If you find yourself on this slippery slope and you want to save your relationship, you need to start by admitting that you've made a mistake--no matter how innocently it began. 

Of course, it would be better to have the foresight to be honest with yourself and your ex and not start down the slippery slope at all. But if you're already involved, whether strictly online or if it's progressed to a sexual affair, take responsibility for your actions. Be aware that there are, potentially, at least three or more people who could get hurt in this situation.

Getting Help if You're Cheating Online
Above all, whoever you are in this type of situation, get help. It can be one of the most difficult times in your life as you try to sort this out. 

If you're the person having "secret" contact with an ex, even if you feel sure you were "meant to be" with your ex, you'll need the objective help of a licensed mental health professional to work this out. 

Things are not always as they seem. Many people who felt sure they wanted to leave their marriages for an ex become sorely disillusioned when the reality of the new relationship doesn't meet the fantasy.

Getting Help if You're the Spouse of the Person Who is Cheating Online
If you're the spouse of the person cheating online, this can be a devastating time. Infidelity often breaks up marriages--but not always. 

Before you make any rash decisions you owe it to yourself and your marriage to consider carefully what you want to do. A professional mental health practitioner who deals with these issues should never try to steer you in one direction or the other. His or her role is to help you determine what's best for you.

About Me

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I've worked with many clients, on an individual basis as well as in couples therapy, to deal with online infidelity and other forms of infidelity.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also see my articles:
Coping with Infidelity

Your Relationship: Should You Stay or Should You Go?