Torching Love with Cybersex

Excus­es heard in the mar­riage therapist’s room–

Hid­den Love

I didn’t intend my flat­tery to be tak­en as an invi­ta­tion for sex.”

She was the one to start talk­ing dirty. I was just jok­ing.”

He sent me a sexy pic­ture that blew my socks off.” Does this sound famil­iar?

The inter­net per­me­ates all the cor­ners of our lives. Many peo­ple assume that cyber­sex isn’t a threat to the mar­riage. When cou­ples com­mit to each oth­er, the con­tract doesn’t explic­it­ly say, ‘No sex­ting and no court­ing on email.’ Have you ever heard of a mar­riage vow that says, “I promise to be a lov­ing and faith­ful spouse in sor­row and in joy, in sick­ness and in health, with flir­ta­tious and with chaste texts.

Promis­es get bro­ken. Be assured that the rela­tion­ship can heal after an affair.

How com­mon is cyber­sex? Extra-mar­i­tal affairs are clos­et­ed, thus no one is sure of the exact per­cent­ages: as many as 37% of mar­ried men and 20% of mar­ried women have been unfaith­ful. Even our pres­i­dents have affairs, leav­ing cit­i­zens to won­der about sex and moral turpi­tude. Dig­i­tal affairs are not about polyamory — hav­ing mul­ti­ple lovers. Polyamorous rela­tion­ships, on- or off-line are con­sen­su­al, so there is no betray­al.

How do cou­ples con­front Inter­net Infi­deli­ty? Infi­deli­ty is a cru­cible for the pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship. The hurt and the offend­ing part­ner must accept that the rela­tion­ship is bro­ken by cyber inti­ma­cy. The unfaith­ful­ness has noth­ing to do with phys­i­cal touch. Janis Abrams Spring defines “cyber­sex is when two or more per­sons send each oth­er sex­u­al­ly explic­it mes­sages via the com­put­er. A cyber-affair can be emo­tion­al, sex­u­al, or both.” (Abrahms Spring, 2012)

Soci­ety agrees that secret extra-mar­i­tal affairs are hurt­ful. We are delu­sion­al if we see a cyber-affair as triv­ial. If we want to hide a text or an Insta­gram from our spouse, then we our lying to them. The offend­ing part­ner is in denial. The affair hurts both par­ties, or more. Affairs involve fire. The secret of the online inti­ma­cy is like inhal­ing smoke from a for­est fire, it suf­fo­cates the pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship. The offend­er is not inno­cent, nor is s/he like Teflon, able to return to the pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship unscathed. So both part­ners need to stare down the fire that escaped from the hearth. Both spous­es are respon­si­ble for change.

Unlike real­i­ty where you can walk away from your para­mour, it’s impos­si­ble to elim­i­nate our use of com­put­ers and apps. Rebuild­ing trust is like rebuild­ing the fire with green wood. Coun­sel­ing can reset the rela­tion­ship, pri­or­i­tize how to rebuild love, and offer next steps. In cyber­sex, like oth­er unfaith­ful acts, the one who has been betrayed must move past the charred land­scape. Find a way to move away from the dying fire into a green­er land­scape.

Torch­ing the Old: Ready to Relight

And the one who dal­lied and used the inter­net for arousal and love? Can the unfaith­ful part­ner own their guilt? Will they find help (Hey! maybe a couple’s coun­selor) to under­stand why they chose the hurt­ful action? Embers from the camp­fire can eas­i­ly flare up into anoth­er cyber affair. With­out under­stand­ing, the offend­er will repeat the betray­al.

The Hebrew sage says about inti­ma­cy out­side of mar­riage, “Can a man car­ry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? Proverb 6:29

The rock­i­est bar­ri­er to recov­ery from cheat­ing is the loss of hope. I have been awed by cou­ples who recov­er from the cyber­sex cri­sis. I cred­it them with verve and open­ness as they move from dis­trust to a new plateau of trust.

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