“It started when I saw him on Facebook“.
Or he saw you.
How many times have I heard that in the last 10 years.
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?
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If you have held on to resentments and withdrawn –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.
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]