An Affair of the Heart: 7 Things Women Should Know About Online Relationships and Infidelity (Guest Post by Lacy Alajna and Jon Allen Bentley)

Infidelity isn’t just about marriage and children

In a relationship with any level of commitment, infidelity can still exist. This can come through means of gossip, negative talk about one’s partner, or story-telling. Making up events or conversations for entertainment with other friends is hurtful. When dating, engaged, married, or in an otherwise committed relationship, the relationship needs protecting. Loving someone does not include saying things about the loved one that would hurt or embarrass them if they knew. This goes for online conversations, social media postings, or any other means of conversation. A marriage relationship should be especially safeguarded from mockery of intimate or private details. If needed, wise, responsible council aimed at relationship health can be sought from dependable loved ones or professionals. Girl’s night is not the time to sort out frustrations or irritation about a significant other. Sharing each other’s secrets, especially in derogatory ways, is destructive to the relationship at a foundational level. Don’t do it.

Emotional connection with an old flame is playing with fire

It’s been said repeatedly by many writers, bloggers and relationship experts, but it needs repeating: do not rekindle old dating relationships. Social media has made an impact at unimaginable levels in unfathomable ways. There is no such thing as too safe or too well protected when it comes to online conversations. This is especially true for conversations with “love interrupted” no matter the reason. Former partners are never a healthy bet for a newly formed confidant or bosom buddy. Don’t do it. Any excuse for why this relationship is an exception to the rule is just an excuse.

Additionally, maintaining emotionally intimate relationships with former significant others, be they fiancé’s, ex-spouses, or even just old crushes, is a disaster waiting to happen. Consistently going back to check what’s up on social media, or check in with a former love, is a good way to open longings when the going gets rough in the new relationship. Time has a funny way of overshadowing why the relationship didn’t work out. It didn’t work out for a reason, and if one or the other individuals is not fully over whatever was, the risk is not worth the justification. The risk is never worth the justification. New relationships need space, time, and their own solidarity well outside of these former dynamics. Close the chapter and move on.

Flirting is flirting, no matter who it is with or through what medium

Flirting is a no-no for anyone in a committed relationship. It is not innocent; it is intentionally sexually charged. Playing games with the emotions and sexuality of others is manipulative when done for personal gratification. It breaks down barriers. It feels exciting because it is exciting. If flirting is done without discretion, it is likely to cause jealousy, insecurity and hurt feelings in a significant other. Any behavior that can’t be engaged in when the significant other is present is not the behavior of a fully committed heart.

What about relationships with other women? More than once, “best friends” have become lovers through emotional infidelity, while marriages and families have become collateral damage. This can happen with or without sexual acting out or previous female-to-female attraction. Just because you haven’t been in a romantic relationship with a woman before doesn’t mean you can’t fall prey the seductive allure of feeling understood, loved, and nurtured outside of marriage. Again, even flirting in same gender relationships is dangerous.

An emotional affair doesn’t have to be with a real person

Everyone has them, right? They come in numerous forms: the movie-star boyfriend, the dream gentleman in a Jane Austin film, the steamy romance novel fantasy date, even the “innocent” crushes on the local dentist, neighbor, or best friend’s significant other. Reality is, these relationships are not reality, and they keep women from living the real-life relationships in front of them. They keep women from integrity in their emotional commitments. Connecting with a flawed husband is not as erotic as imagining he is an off-limits therapist or colleague. Just because the sexualized fantasy is with a movie character, hero in a novel, or fan-fiction crush, does not make it less harmful or more honest. And not imagining sex with this mystery man does not make the fantasy OK. It can be seductive to imagine a flirty conversation, shared laugh, or chance meeting. This seduction is a slippery slope into indiscretion, and not the habit of a woman with emotional or sexual integrity.

“Cheating” is defined by either partner

If one partner feels cheated on by the behaviors of the other, there is reason for concern. There is either a misunderstanding, need for safer boundaries, or real cause for discussion. If the worried partner feels conversations, behaviors or intimacy in an outside relationship is threatening the integrity of the partnership, it’s time for a heart to heart. Perhaps nothing out of bounds is happening and a little reassurance, coupled with increased transparency, is all that is needed. It is also possible that the concerned partner is feeling threatened by historical trauma or personal insecurity, not any real actions on your part. Jealousy is not the accused partner’s responsibility to assuage, but that does not mean there is no reason to take a serious look at a potential indiscretion. No matter what, the threatening feelings must be addressed if the relationship is to continue successfully.

Emotional support for and from other men is dangerous

It is normal to feel frustrated with an intimate partner. Vilifying a partner is not normal or OK. Making him seem mean, hurtful, or unsupportive to another man opens a dangerous door that is bound to get confusing for someone. Feelings of hurt can run deep when thoughtlessness shows up in a close relationship. The hurt needs validation, compassion and a listening ear. That listening ear needs to be not only capable of empathy and support, but also helping the hurt party be responsible for their part in the conflict. Conflict is OK. Hurt feelings happen. In fact, the upset is what makes an important issue obvious. If there is emotion around something it is because someone is not feeling understood, valued, or otherwise safe. Talking to another person where a potential for attraction exists is not a good idea during these vulnerable moments. Vulnerability needs to be managed in safe, productive and appropriate ways. There is always another option. Whenever possible, keep emotional support gender specific to protect everyone involved.

What he doesn’t know will hurt everyone involved

Emotional disconnect from an intimate partner will manifest in your relationship. Worse, any children in the situation will also be impacted, even if they can’t language or identify it. Infidelity, whether acted out or kept in fantasy (for now) taints the love and connection with others. This tainting can easily impact all relationships because lust is pervasive. It has no boundaries. Lust leaks into every interaction, every thought, and therefore every conversation when left unchecked in any area. This is manifest by the widespread destruction pornography addiction causes in all areas of life for an addict. Not only does the pornography addict’s intimate partnership suffer, but her relationships with children, parents, friends and others deteriorate. She cannot contain the virus of lust and indiscretion. The same is true for emotional infidelity, no matter the shape it takes. Lust cannot be contained.

Get help for abuse and relationship trouble

Sometimes real help is needed and should be sought. No one ever needs to feel ashamed of needing outside help in a relationship. Getting a new perspective from someone who has been where you are and has more experience is invaluable. Professional therapists are often worth their weight in gold. Self-help books are everywhere, and great bloggers are easy to find. But so is bad advice. Be intentional in who you listen to. Think for yourself. Be willing to take sound advice and make changes to the only behavior fully in your control: yours.

 Now, go make it count!

Lacy Alajna and Jon Allen Bentley

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