In the past, traditional notions of infidelity required an actual physical relationship between an unfaithful spouse and their romantic partner. However, thanks to the internet and social media, couples are rethinking what it really means to be unfaithful.
Bryan Ssemanda, a relationship counselor, says a number of relationships suffer from digital infidelity.
“Most people think infidelity is something physical, so they don’t see a problem in flirting. However, infidelity is not just about having physical contact with another person. Cheating starts in the mind; You think about something and then act in the way you choose,” he says.
Ssemanda says online infidelity is on the rise because many people are even flirting with people they don’t know and have never met.
“While one is flipping through another’s pictures on, say, Facebook, they might comment, ‘Wow, cute.’ This can be followed by any comment, depending on the respondent. In this case, a harmless comment could lead to a message in the inbox and the emotionally charged messages continue. Unfortunately, people don’t limit what they do while online,” he says.
Vice also increases as people seek happiness that has eluded them. Tracy Musiime, a counselor, adds that sometimes the person you say “nice body” to has never received such a comment from their spouse.
“So they’re going to hold on to the comment for more emotional satisfaction. Because of this, it is common for people to masturbate while viewing these images. In such cases, while their spouse does not see a physical relationship outside of marriage, their partner is no longer interested in them. While the other hopes that the phase of not being interested in sexual intercourse will soon subside, an e-relationship takes place unnoticed,” she explains.
Ssemanda says the irony is that social media helps paint a glossy, unreal picture of someone. “Social media makes pseudo-happiness, but in real life it’s something else. Viewers then begin to admire and relate to the life that person is posting about. Pretty soon someone else’s faking becomes someone else’s pursuit,” he says.
In her study “Fooling around on Facebook: The Perception of Infidelity Behavior in Social Networking Sites,” Jaclyn Cravens Pickens says that social media is a catalyst for infidelity by giving a false picture of people’s lives. The study also found that this behavior negatively impacts offline relationships, with many never posting about their problems but instead about the bright side of life.
While many would like to know how to tell if their partner is involved in cyber infidelity, Ssemanda says one would rather not.
“If you keep looking for something wrong, you will eventually find it. I advise my clients to do what makes them happy, and what makes the other party happy is none of their business,” he says.
He adds that when infidelity is discovered, it has been going on for a long time. That’s why he advises couples to be more present and give their partners time.
“In some relationships, the partners are in the same room, but each talks on the phone for hours without anyone saying anything to the other. Anything can happen here. However, if you make it a point to let go of the phones when you’re at home, you’ll have time to talk about different things that will eventually bring you closer,” he advises.
It is also important to set rules that are mutually beneficial. For example, if someone does not use their phone for work purposes, a couple may choose to keep their phones off when they get home from work.
Some partners have a habit of snooping on each other’s social media handles to monitor activity. However, says Musiime, you’ll see things you didn’t want to see, and most of the time it’s more about what you want to see than what was intended.
Ssemanda also advises couples to keep their love life off social media because they might be good at certain things that draw others towards them.
“As a sex therapist, if I keep posting pictures of my wife, some other men will think that if a sex therapist chooses that woman, she must be special. With that, they will make it their goal to try their luck with her. If a post shows them with an unhappy face, they might jump at the chance to “move in.” Some may notice a bug and manipulate it to your detriment. Keep your relationship away from such investigations,” he advises.
Experts say almost any online relationship can spiral into an emotional affair, but social media has a habit of reconnecting old friends and that creates a lot of problems.
The shared memories of old friends, a shared history, and a sense of attraction coupled with the detachment from real life that happens when you’re just interacting through a computer screen can be deadly to a marriage.