I have been happily married for 7 years. I recently came across this anonymous chat website that lets you chat with a random stranger at the click of a button. It has become almost an addiction for me. I have problems making friends because of shyness, self-esteem issues but I am able to be freely and truly myself on this silly website. However, several of the best conversations I’ve had have been with men. I find it thrilling to know that they find me interesting and even sexy. The only one I’ve ever felt I could do this for is my husband. He was my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my only lover. Talking to other men like this makes me feel powerful and it makes me feel sexier. I have not told my husband that I chat like this. Three times now I have begun chatting/emailing certain men outside of this random arena who I’ve had very deep and meaningful conversations with. We’ve even exchanged pictures. Two of the “relationships” have had sexual questions posed and answered. I feel like I’m cheating on my husband, but I wonder what your opinion would be? I realize that the world of the internet poses many perception distortions – I know only what these men choose reveal and I have not built a life with them and they are not of my faith. But if this helps me feel better about myself and there is no real harm in it, is it okay? I never plan to meet, speak with on the phone, interact with on camera or interact any other way with them outside of chat and email. It has led to increased sex with my husband because I feel more self-confident that I really am attractive and sexy, not just to him. Is this the same as flirting with co-workers or receiving compliments or appreciation from the opposite sex about your ideas and personality? My husband goes out to work and has many interactions with women. Am I not just searching for the same type of validation?
This is a great question. So many people are finding themselves in similar situations building relationships and friendships on the internet. My short answer is this: I feel you are treading on dangerous ground. Even ground that could be considered unfaithful from an “emotional affair” standpoint. Here are some thoughts:
- The red flags that go up for me are the same ones that seem to be going up for you: the fact that you are being dishonest with your husband about your internet behavior and the people you are chatting with – the fact that you feel “different” or “freer” with this venue than you do in real life (uninhibiting your actions) – the fact that you are no longer anonymous and are sharing more personal information such as email address and photographs – the fact that conversations including sexual content are taking place – the fact that you are having “deep and meaningful” conversations with someone other than your husband without him knowing about it. It is OK to have deep and meaningful conversations with all kinds of people in your life, but something about how you state this leaves the impression that these conversations are encroaching on ones you could be having with your husband instead – therefore, impacting your emotional intimacy with him.
- It is natural to feel the emotions you describe in this type of situation – more empowered, more in control, sexier, more attractive, etc. It is obviously flattering for others to take notice of us, to like us and to find what we have to say valuable. Your increased surge in sexuality is a positive side effect. At the same time, this is part of what is so seductive about new relationships -especially with the opposite sex when you are heterosexual. There is little that can match the emotions attached to the flirtation and hormonal surges that occur in the beginning of an emotionally and sexually charged relationship. This is why we see so many cases of infidelity to begin with. You are especially vulnerable to this since you did not have the chance to have many of these opportunities before getting married. The sense of “having missed out” is a normal one for those who marry their first love. Yet, there are many wonderful aspects of having married this man you are with that will be important for you to acknowledge and keep on greater standing than any regrets.
- I understand that your husband comes into contact with many people (both male and female) who offer him validation and challenge in the work place. This dynamic more than likely helps his ego, self-esteem, and intellectual capacity. However, I would hope that he is not having “deep and meaningful” conversations with these co-workers that include sexual content and that would make him question his emotional fidelity to you.
- It is important to recognize the powerful forces attached to the infamous “slippery slope.” Most people don’t wake up one morning and say, “it feels like a good day to have an affair.” Affairs are usually preceded by months if not years of issues, thoughts and behavior that slowly build up to the problem. You may have the best of intentions to not allow these relationships to go further, but it will only be naturally harder for you to keep those boundaries as you continue. They will become more meaningful to you over time and the temptation to go farther will increase.
Here is my advice as to how to proceed:
- Tell your husband at least what you’ve told me if not more. Decide together whether or not this is something you want to discuss with the bishop. Your husband’s reaction will be important. If he blows it off and doesn’t think it’s a big deal then that’s one thing, but if he’s legitimately hurt and feels betrayed then you need to respect those feelings and provide restitution in ways he deems important.
- Only continue internet relationships that both you and your husband are comfortable with.
- Wireless capacity has made the counsel of keeping the computer in your home in an open area somewhat obsolete. With laptops and cell phones, the internet is much more accessible in all types of locations. However, you can still set personal parameters and limits that both you and your husband are comfortable with.
- You have already recognized what may be some social weaknesses for you. Challenge yourself by starting individual therapy to address some of these issues and to set goals of things you’d like to change. Why is it, for example, that you can be a different person in front of the computer than you are face-to-face? This is a social problem that many of us are currently facing.
- If you need a venue where you can be social and find personal satisfaction, find ones that are more appropriate and that force you towards personal progression: a college course, a club of some sort, a volunteer service within the community, etc. You should enjoy the same sense of self-empowerment that you are currently discovering but in a safer and more appropriate setting.