Survival Tips: What to do when your partner doesn't consider
a cyber-affair cheating!
By Susie and Otto Collins
It's tough enough to cope when your partner admits that he
or she had an affair. There is probably some amount of
shock, anger and even grief.
The road to rebuilding trust in cases like this is made less
rocky, however, when the person who cheated confesses the
infidelity and the couple decides to start rebuilding trust.
What happens when infidelity is discovered but the person in
the relationship who is having the affair doesn't consider
his or her actions to be cheating?
The one who made this upsetting discovery about his or her
mate may feel even more angry or possibly doubtful about
what was observed.
We're not talking about flat-out denial here. It's not so
much a case of "This is not what it looks like..."
Instead, the two people might have conflicting beliefs about
what constitutes infidelity in the first place.
In this age of the internet, cell phone texting, and other
electronic forms of communication, having a cyber-affair is
becoming more and more common.
The person who is visiting online dating chat rooms or
trading intimate photos over a cell phone or via e-mail may
actually not consider his or her actions to be a betrayal.
So when the person's partner accidentally opens an e-mail or
cell phone photo and finds out what has been going on in
cyberspace, the aftereffects can be painful and upsetting on
Not only does the one person feel betrayed and hurt, he or
she is also dealing with a partner who continues to plead
innocence. "After all," the one who is having the
cyber-affair might say, "it was only online."
We'll be perfectly honest here. When a person engages in
intimate actions or talk with another person-- even if it
was online or over the cell phone-- a sexual interaction
took place. Just because no literal body contact was made
does not mean it was "innocent."
It is still infidelity if an agreement has been made that
the primary relationship will be monogamous.
Kenny doesn't see what the big deal was. His wife Casey is
just overreacting over nothing, in his opinion. Kenny signed
up with an online dating site specifically for married
people. He was curious about the whole concept and thought
he'd check out the women on the site.
His intention was to have some fun and enjoy himself. He
didn't consider what Casey would think about him getting to
know other women online because, after all, he'd never
actually meet one of them face-to-face.
So when Casey walked into the room late one night as he was
engaged in a very intimate chat with a woman he met on the
site, Kenny was embarrassed but also a little surprised at
her enraged reaction. Casey cannot believe that Kenny
actually thought this behavior would be ok with her.
She doesn't understand how Kenny cannot see this for what it
Even if your partner has never had a cyber-affair and even
if you feel a little silly talking about this, do it anyway.
Get clear within yourself about how you define monogamy and
fidelity in your relationship. Once you know what you want,
talk about it with your mate.
Explicitly state what you want. Now listen to how your
partner defines these same concepts and to what he or she
You may have started out your relationship assuming that you
both were on the "same page" about not dating others--
either in "real life" or cyberspace. If there is any
question about this being a shared agreement, address it
The next morning, Casey returns home. She spent the night at
a friend's house because she felt so furious. She and Kenny
sit down together and she asks him to explain to her why he
thinks that his online dating didn't constitute an affair.
Casey is still quite angry, but she listens anyway. She
explains to Kenny her definition of monogamy
and makes it clear to him that she considers
cyber-relationships as infidelity. She is not willing to
negotiate about that. It feels to both of them that they are
at a stalemate. Neither knows what their next move should
Decide what you want to do next.
Now that there is more clarity and understanding between the
two of you about how you each define monogamy, it's time to
consider what you want to happen next. Do you want to
in this relationship or end it?
Take some time individually and together to talk about what
you each want. Ask yourselves if your different values and
rules about monogamy or relationships in general can change
or be shifted to fit together.
It is essential that you be able to resolve discrepancies as
core to a relationship as these issues are.
If you decide to stay together, it can be very useful to
make new agreements or re-affirm previous ones around the
topic of fidelity. Make sure you are open and honest with
one another and don't agree to something that you don't feel
If you choose to separate for a period of time or end your
relationship, it is still important to make a completion
about the cyber-affair. Your unresolved feelings about the
infidelity can hamper your future relationships and life in
Kenny and Casey decide to live in separate homes for awhile.
They plan to work with a coach to see whether they can
resolve their differences and begin to rebuild trust. Kenny
is starting to see how hurtful his online affair was to
Casey and really doesn't want their marriage to end.
Casey is not sure what she wants but, at this moment, she
chooses to work with Kenny and the coach to see if they can
turn their marriage around. She'd like to at least give it a
In order to survive infidelity, it is important that you
each stay tuned in to yourselves and to what you want.
This may change as the healing process goes on. Remain open
and honest with yourself and with your mate and allow for
trust to rebuild.