Is Online Cheating Really Cheating? My Spouse Hates Me Since She Caught Me

By: Katie Lersch:  I get a lot of correspondence about online cheating and chatting.  Judging from the numbers, it seems that this type of infidelity is on the rise and couples can disagree about whether it’s really cheating.  The person who is doing it often doesn’t see it as being unfaithful while the spouse who catches this behavior often sees it as not only a true betrayal, but also deplorable behavior.

I recently heard from a husband who was a bit shocked by his wife’s reaction to his online “chatting.”  The wife had been on their computer and an IM popped up from a woman who called her husband by name.  The wife identified herself and the other woman (or whoever it actually was on the other side of the computer) proceeded to recount an online relationship with her husband and gave so many personal details that the wife knew at least part of it must be true.

When the wife confronted her husband, he knew that he had to at least partially come clean because the wife had so many details that it was almost impossible to deny.  But the husband truly didn’t think he was really cheating and he didn’t understand why his wife was as furious as she was and considering walking out the door.  He said in part: “yes, I chat and flirt with people online to blow off some steam.  The comments get graphic and inappropriate.  I admit that.  But, I’ve never had physical contact with any of these people and I love and am committed to my wife.  But my wife acts as if I had a real life affair.  I do not agree with this.  I was just flirting with people online.  Is online cheating really cheating?  Because my wife acts like I betrayed her in the worst way.  I actually think she hates me because she can’t even look me in the eye and says she might go and stay with her mother and take the kids because I’ve destroyed our marriage.  I’m sorry for what I did, but is it really worth ending my marriage over?”  I’ll try to address these questions in the following article.

Online Cheating Is A Betrayal That Can Be Every Bit As Damaging To Your Marriage As “Real” Cheating: This issue has become so common.  And often the person who is online doesn’t see what they are doing as cheating.  But the spouse who catches them online most certainly does.  If you’re the person who has been “chatting” / cheating online, here is what you really need to understand.

Although you intentions may not have been to cheat on or hurt your spouse, you very likely carried out your actions under a cloak of secrecy.  You shared something with someone else that should have been shared with your spouse.  You got your needs met from someone other than your spouse and these things are likely extremely hurtful and feel like a betrayal.  So, your actions can be every bit as damaging to your marriage as a physical betrayal.  I know that this might not make sense to you, but you have to understand that your spouse’s feelings are very real.  To help you understand, I’ll go over how your spouse likely feels right now.

How Your Spouse Feels When You Cheat Online: I didn’t hear from the wife in this situation, but honestly, I didn’t have to.  I hear from enough spouses who have caught their partner cheating or chatting online to know how they feel.  And I can tell you the very common reactions that I see almost across the board.  Your spouse is often disgusted and shocked that you would graphically communicate or interact with someone that you don’t even know when your family is sleeping or under the same roof.  Here’s the type of comments that I hear from spouses who catch online cheating or chatting: “I’m repulsed by what he said to a person that he doesn’t even know.   It almost reads like he’s a pervert or something.  It’s disgusting to think of him down in her basement hunched over in the middle of the night interacting with strangers while his family is asleep.  How does he know that he’s really talking to a woman?  The person on the other end of the computer could be a 400 pound man or even someone who is under age.  What in the world was he thinking? How could he have such poor judgment? Don’t I meet his needs?  Why can’t he approach me with whatever needs or fantasies that he has?  Do I not turn him on enough?  I’m not sure if I can ever look at him the same way again after this.  The person I know just wouldn’t do this.”

Now, this reaction may seem overly dramatic to you, but try to put yourself in your spouse’s position.  This truly can (and often does) feel like a betrayal.  And even though you were not physical with the other person, you can not deny that an exchange took place that did not include your spouse.  Because of this, the recovery for online cheating is often the same as it is for “real” or physical cheating.

Recovery For Online Cheating: If you want to get your spouse to trust you again or you want your marriage to recover from this, then you need to approach it as real.  Rather than denying that you did anything all that bad or questioning your spouse’s reaction, it is often in your best interest to validate them.  Even if you don’t feel that your actions justify their reaction, you can certainly still be very remorseful that you have hurt them in this way and you can still want to make things right.

And this will often require for you to listen to what they have to say without arguing or constantly defending yourself, showing genuine remorse, and then removing the behaviors or circumstances that lead up to this.  What this means is that you can no longer chat or cheat and you should remove any temptations to revert back to old behaviors.  I think it’s a good idea to put the computer out in the open so that you’re not tempted.  You will also need to repair your marriage because this likely did a good deal of damage to it.

This is sometimes easier said than done because there are issues that lead up to this point that will have to be addressed.  It’s not always an easy or quick process but if your marriage and your spouse are important to you, then you’ll often be willing to do whatever is necessary to make true recovery possible.

You may disagree, but it’s my belief that online cheating is “real cheating” because I have seen it damage a marriage as much as physical infidelity.  And I believe that the healing process is the same regardless of whether the infidelity was physical.  The good news is that healing and rehabilitation is always possible if both people are willing.  My marriage did recover after my husband’s infidelity and our marriage actually improved in some ways.  If it helps, you can read more about that on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/

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