In an ironic twist, technology—meant to keep us more connected—has made our love relationships more complicated than ever. Online cheating—having virtual affairs that include sexting, racy exchanges of photos or emails, and flirtations on social networks without necessarily moving onto a physical affair—is yet another way spouses can betray one another. While in the honeymoon phase, couples would rather pretend that their spouse would never cheat, virtually or otherwise. But the reality is that no one can be certain of their spouse’s fidelity, and even the happiest couple is at risk when it comes to online cheating. After all, the internet and other technology, such as cell phones, provide easy access to willing partners and immediate gratification. And without actual sex (or even necessarily the option of ever meeting face to face), online cheaters convince themselves that what they’re doing is not cheating.
So, by now, you’re probably wondering if your spouse could get tangled in an online affair (or more than one). Here is a checklist of warning signs that your spouse is crossing the line and committing online cheating-
Signs of Online Cheating
1. Password-Protected Digital Devices
Someone having online affairs or reaching out to strangers for cybersex will keep email and cell phones protected with passwords and pin numbers. You, even as a spouse, will not have access to these passwords. He or she might also be secretive when online by quickly switching web pages or closing email as soon as someone else walks into the room. If your spouse keeps online or cell phone activity a secret, then he or she could be having a virtual affair.
2. Secret Social Media Accounts
If you’re not a friend of your spouse’s on Facebook or Twitter, then he or she could be hiding something from you. If you are a friend, do you know all your spouse’s contacts? Even if you don’t know them all personally, do you know how your spouse knows them? Finding out about the people in your spouse’s various social networks and how he or she uses social networking sites is never a bad idea. And your spouse should know the same about you.
3. Obsession with Responding to Online Contacts
Obsession with immediately responding to text messages, emails, and Facebook or Twitter messages is another sign that something fishy is going on. However, this warning sign must be considered among others. Truthfully, many of us are addicted to our phones and computers, and some of us are using them more for work and less for pleasure or in innocent ways (to get our favorite recipes, chat with our family and friends—not the kind with benefits—and keep tabs on current events).
4. Leaving a Paper (or Digital) Trail
Look at your monthly cell phone bills and the browser history on your computer. These are telling signs of whether your spouse is embroiled in online cheating or Internet pornography. You can see if you’re spending more on text messages and whether there are foreign numbers on the bill. The Internet history can tell you something about the pages your spouse—and anyone else who has used the computer—has been visiting.
5. Weird Behavior
One telling sign of an affair is a change in your spouse’s behavior. A spouse who is suddenly extra nice or extra mean could be compensating for an affair. One might be super sweet out of guilt or super mean in the hopes of justifying his or her behavior.
6. Double Life
Finding out about dual identities online—secret email addresses or social networking pages or a whole other identity in a virtual world—is a betrayal on its own. It’s one that needs to be addressed both as part of a greater conversation about online cheating and as a separate talk about what is a must to divulge.
What to Do About Online Cheating
Whether either one of you is committing online cheating, you should sit down and have a conversation about what you feel is appropriate online behavior for married people. Set some rules for yourselves, so you and your spouse know what crosses the line, and there’s no question about right and wrong down the road. Indeed, some people aren’t even sure online cheating is cheating. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks; it matters what you and your spouse think.
Always keep the lines of communication open. Secrets about what you’re doing and who you are talking to should not be happening between spouses. You should be open with one another. Once you’re keeping secrets like this, you are putting your marriage at risk. So, talk, talk, and talk some more.
Those who’ve already determined that online cheating is taking place in the marriage should see a marriage counselor or other professional to discuss the root of the problem and whether the marriage is salvageable. Much like other affairs, the person who committed the adultery will have to regain trust by doing what he says he’s going to do and refraining from the inappropriate activity moving forward. Then, he has to hope his spouse can reach forgiveness.