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From Friendship to Fling – the Facebook Romance

“It started when I saw him on Facebook“.

Or he saw you.

How many times have I heard that in the last 10 years.

A bunch.

facebook, facebook friends, extramarital affair, emotional affair, relationship advice, midlife, midlife women, featured

We are finding our old high school sweethearts. College boyfriends. Discovering fantasies of what could have been.  Never quite happened.  Or ended before we were ready.

But this time we are acting on it.  Using Facebook private messaging.  Emailing. Texting.

Starts out innocently enough.

He has responded.  He has always wondered what happened to you.  Maybe he’s single. Maybe he’s not.  It starts to not matter.

We feel thrilled.  Sensuous.  Invigorated. It turns into obsession.  Into an insatiable appetite for more.

And the lies start.

You hide your cell phone.  You check it constantly for messages.

You are having an emotional affair. Or maybe it goes farther.

It is easier than perhaps we all realize for this to happen.  Someone who knew you “way back when”.  There is already a pull there.  Especially if you and your spouse are having current difficulties.  You are much more likely to be idealizing other times in your life than the present. And who should pop up?  Your old high school beau?

How convenient.

Or that guy that really had nothing much to do with you in college.  But now that you have lost that freshmen 15,  are successful and have “taken care of yourself”.  All of a sudden, he’s interested?  Boy, if you haven’t really worked on your true self-value, this can be incredibly potent!  You are finally visible?  To the popular guy?

If you have allowed your own marriage to grow stagnant –

If you are overly critical of your spouse –

If you have held on to resentments and withdrawn –

If you have been ignored by your spouse or are married to a workaholic – a problem drinker –

All of these could lead you to need the distraction of a Facebook fling.  That can turn into so much more.

So quickly it will make your head spin.

Eventually reality will hit.  Either you get caught.  Or it fizzles.  Rarely – less than 10% of the time – do they work out to anything.

But what then?

When Bill Clinton had his “blue dress” series of incidents, I was called to do a TV interview.  I informed them that I would give one, but that it would be boring.

What do you mean, boring?”

Most marriages make it through affairs.  If they didn’t, there would be a lot more divorces than there are“.

It’s extremely hard work but it can be done.  There are certain steps.  Regaining of trust.  A reworking of the relationship so that the dynamics are changed.  Hopefully neither of the couple wants to recommit to the relationship that they had – it obviously wasn’t working! A slow processing of the feelings of hurt created by the betrayal.  A balance of going slow enough for the one trying to trust again and fast enough for the one wanting so badly to be trusted.

Sounds simple but it is not.

It can make a marriage richer and more intimate than it has ever been.

It’s just an awfully painful way to get there.

If you have comments about this post, I would love to hear them!  A reader last month suggested that I pose a more direct question for the AskDrMargaret Column so I thought I would try it!  In light of this month’s post above, what have been your own struggles with relationship boundaries on Facebook or other social media? I would so appreciate hearing from you at [email protected]drmargaretrutherford.com.  Thank you for reading!

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with http://DrMargaretRutherford.com in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

Kim Jorgensen Gane

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

Oooooh, it can be a slippery slope, indeed! I had a guy from high school start private messaging me. I just kept turning it back to professional and played dumb. He gave up. I should have blocked him. The old don't want to hurt someone's feelings thing. I need to knock that off!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

Wow... I get that. As many of us do. So STOP. THINK. and be PROACTIVE. I should listen to my own advice sometimes....

Helene Cohen Bludman

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

A definite danger trap, FB is. I blocked an old boyfriend before he even had a chance to friend me.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

Smart woman that you are. But it is dangerous - and slippery.

Anne Parris

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

I have some rules for myself on social media. One is that I'm not friends with anyone I've ever dated.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

That's a great way of handling it Anne. I actually made that mistake a few weeks ago. Someone from over 30 YEARS ago. Told my husband I had done it - and he warned me! said, "Nah, it was 30 years ago". Sure enough. A private message appeared. I nipped that in the bud. As we were saying, it can happen so easily... too easily.

Walker Thornton

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

I met a man one night in a bar and had a pleasant conversation over a drink. Months later he friended me on FB (and, yes I accepted). I knew that he was 'revved' up, particularly given that I write about sex. We had a chat or two and I agreed to have a drink with him when he was in town. The first question I asked was "What are we doing here? You're married." He had gotten this initial surge of excitement, but claimed that he just wanted some assistance with blogging...I think it was more. My question pulled him back to reality. We had a pleasant conversation about blogging and I made sure to ask about his wife. We've said the friendly "Hello" every couple of months but that's all. I could see that he was caught up in the excitement, the distractions from personal issues, etc. And, admittedly it's nice to know that someone finds you attractive, but this was a case of single woman/married man. I've been in that place where the attention of someone else seemed more appealing than the drudgery of my not-so-happy marriage.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

I have heard THIS story many times with a not-so-wise ending Walker! The questions and references to "the wife" usually work but not all the time I have heard. At least not if someone is persistent. Obviously your own self-value protected you from walking down this particular path. Thanks for telling the story!

Janie Emaus

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

From my experience, it takes a while, but the trust eventually returns.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

Mine as well Janie. As I said in the post, it usually can't happen slow enough for the person trying to regain trust nor fast enough for the person wanting the trust back. But it takes a long time to work through complicated feelings plus reestablish new patterns. Thanks so much for commenting!

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