Online Affair: How to Recover and Move on After a Relationship Betrayal

Since the development and widespread use of the internet, amazing possibilities have become available to many people around the world. Geographical boundaries can easily be
traversed with the click of a mouse and doors to new information, experiences and people are now wide open.

This is all wonderful– except if your spouse or partner chooses to have an online affair. Or, conversely, if you are worried that your love will have an online affair.

Many of our readers report feeling suspicious and afraid when it comes to their mates’ actions on the internet.

There is an element of anonymity and greater ability to create a new identity when online which not only can create more opportunity for cheating, but also more things to be concerned about. Your fears may even lead you to log into your spouse’s personal e-mail account or check the history
of his or her online activity.

Adam was clicking around on the internet on the home computer he shares with his wife Elaine. He was struck cold when he visited an old e-mail address that he and Elaine shared and found a series of suggestive e-mails sent to Elaine signed by someone called “Hank.” z

At first he thought it was just spam, but after reading a few recently received e-mails, Adam began to realize something more was going on.

When Elaine arrived home from shopping, Adam asked her about the e-mails. At first she denied knowledge of them or a person called “Hank” but then admitted that she’s been playing around online with this man she met in a chat room.

Elaine argued to Adam that though it isn’t very respectful to him, she didn’t actually do anything wrong. After all, she’s never even met Hank face to face– it’s all virtual.

This doesn’t make Adam feel any better. He storms out of the room.

Is an online affair really an affair? Our answer is yes. Even if there is no literal physical touch involved, when two people share intimate talk, photos or other sensual and sexual interactions, that counts.

No matter how brief or to what extent it is taken, an online affair is real and can add to real disconnection between a couple.

Focus on where you are now.

When Adam returns to talk with Elaine about this painful discovery, he lets her know that he does consider her interactions with Hank to be an affair and shares with her how betrayed and hurt he feels. When Elaine begins to argue with him to the contrary,

Adam asks her to talk with him for a moment about where they are right now. He describes how distant he feels from Elaine and how much he misses the way that they used to have fun together.

Elaine agrees with Adam that she too feels far apart from him emotionally and sensually. She says that she got bored with their bedroom connecting lately and wanted to spice things up. She met Hank and that seemed, to her, to meet her need for
excitement in a way that felt innocent in her view.

It may not be helpful to either of you to go back to when the online affair began and recount every e-mail or chat interaction that happened. If you need more information of
this sort, request it and then return to the present moment.

Allow yourself to fully feel the emotions that are coming up for you. Then listen as openly as you can to what your partner is feeling. When you can keep the focus on what you’re feeling right now, you can more easily avoid debates over what constitutes an affair and rehashing details that won’t help either of you to move on.

Decide where you want to go from here.

As they listen to one another and process how they are both feeling, Adam and Elaine can start to decide what they want to do next. Neither of them wants to end their relationship but, at the same time, neither of them is happy with how things stand between them. Adam feels hurt and betrayed.

Elaine feels dissatisfied, embarrassed, and a little defensive. What they are able to decide is to seek out a coach or counselor who can help them move past this difficult place.

Be sure to give yourself some time and space to know what you, individually, want to do at this point. You may choose a physical separation for a few days or you might only need to take a walk or journal in a room by yourself to know what you want to do right now.

As you make your decision, keep your attention on feelings and tuning in to what you want- not on who is right or justified in this situation.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to decide what the rest of your relationship or life will be like, but only what your next step will be. When you can, share what you want
with your partner and then listen to what he or she wants.

Be firm about your boundaries and respectful of your mate’s boundaries. Look for places of overlap in what you each want and proceed from there.

For help on building trust when it’s been broken, visit


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