Gripped by a cyber relationship
August 29, 2011
After an exhausting day, all you want to do is put your feet up and spend time with the person you care about the most - and then your spouse walks into the room. You close your computer hoping you don’t appear too startled to raise suspicion. You know that sharing intimate details of your life on Facebook with someone else won't go over so well with your significant other. However, we know that this deception happens every day with social media playing a prime role.

Are you innocently tempted to look up an ex or confirm a friend who may not be the greatest choice to allow back into your life? When do the lines of the new relationship begin to blur and turn into infidelity? Before becoming just another statistic, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is the relationship real? - Either you begin to communicate with someone after a reconnection or you meet someone entirely new. This excitement or newness resembles the easier days without responsibilities, work, and children. You feel special from all the attention solely focused on you, swept away with the thought of a less complicated life. Social networking hands you the opportunity to be anyone you want to be. As someone caught up in this fantasy, you may not grasp the impact on your family and yourself. Your new relationship may be real to you, but do you think it can stand the test of time?

  2. What is life like? - Are you lonely or feeling like you want more out of life? Vulnerability mixed with the ease of connecting (or reconnecting) with other people is a recipe that may lead to disaster. You may think you are receiving more support from a friend than your spouse. This attention sometimes leads to a tighter bond with your social media “friend” than the person you sleep next to at night. Sometimes the new relationship is not about attraction or compatibility but acquiring strength to get out of a difficult or lonely situation. Ask yourself, are you using this new relationship as an out? Do you truly believe this person will be around in six months? Be honest with yourself with where you are in life, and why you’ve pursued another relationship in the first place.

  3. Why take the risk? - Were you planning on cheating, whether facilitated by a cyber relationship or not? Are you bent on pursuing the past or striking out of the blue, however innocently, with a connection you never thought would happen? Are you impulsive and want to just go for it? Have you thought about the consequences and decided to cross the line anyway?

    Ask yourself, are you risking your marriage or relationship because you found a more exciting and passionate person? Do you think this is your soul mate or do you instead believe this is your way out of your current situation?

If you get wrapped up in the hype and the temptation seems too much to handle, there’s always that split second before you post something or encourage communication when you know you shouldn’t. Your actions could destroy the ones you love and change your life completely. Ask yourself, why would I choose to face those consequences? If you deal with the truth before you cross the line, you may save yourself from making a huge mistake.

Couples are now citing Facebook on their divorce papers as one of the reasons their marriage fell apart, but should social media be blamed for simply providing everyone with such an easy tool to cheat? Words of advice, be honest with yourself, because your decisions are yours, and only yours, to make.

Commentary by Amanda Strong, author of With Just One Click, or a look at the complexity of Facebook relationships.

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