Quarantine fraud and infidelity are simply as unhealthy because it sounds

This week, Bustle explores the many facets of cheating and what infidelity looks like today.

In early March, 23-year-old Lauren and her two-year-old boyfriend came home from a cruise in the Bahamas as the coronavirus spread. They decided to go into quarantine together in Athens, Georgia, where she was at school. One day she overheard him looking at porn in the bathroom and because “he always seemed to be sneaky with his phone,” she decided to look over it and found that he had rescued nudes of a woman on Snapchat – someone he went to high school with. Lauren confronted him, then packed her bags and moved a few towns to live with her parents to help weather the rest of the pandemic.

“He said he didn’t think it was a big deal because he didn’t react to it – that doesn’t mean he cares less about me, but he’s a guy and it’s ‘natural,'” says Lauren . “But I felt like shit. I felt so insecure and unwanted. “

Plus, it wasn’t the first time her boyfriend showed disloyal behavior – he’d sent one of her friends on Tinder a flirtatious message in October, and a week earlier, Lauren remembered finding another girl’s shirt in his bed . There were other issues as well, such as having sex “around the clock and only once a week” during the quarantine.

The pandemic has hit relationships hard, whether you’re single and haven’t touched another human body in 90 days, or discovering that all of the time you spent with your significant other has resulted in unnecessary arguments or worse. It’s no wonder divorce rates rose in early March once lockdown restrictions eased in Wuhan, China. Tensions are high as people try to stay healthy, deal with financial uncertainty, and face the grief caused by recent incidents of police brutality. This heightened fear can also worsen relationship problems – and in some cases lead to infidelity.

“She was the one who tried to move in and as soon as we moved in, a flip changed.”

“Whatever was going on in the relationship before is intensifying under the stress and pressure of the coronavirus,” explains Melorra Sochet, a licensed clinical social worker who offers psychotherapy to individuals and couples. “If someone has had a tendency not to commit or be fully present in their relationship, now that is going to be an exaggeration. And one of the ways it could show up is through affairs or online exploration. “

According to Erin Leite, Ashley Madison’s communications coordinator, online affairs have increased in the past few months. Every day 17,000 people come to the site looking for virtual connections rather than taking the risk of meeting Paramours in real life. “Whether or not these relationships get sexual, we find our members benefit from having someone to talk to who understands the tension they may feel when they are stuck at home with their spouse,” says Leite .

Sochet believes that physical cheating right now “is beyond a deal breaker – in a pandemic, physical cheating basically means,“ I’m ready to risk your life. “But“ virtual cheating ”about sexting or DMing acts with someone outside of your relationship, while a gray area – and certainly healthier – can strain your partner emotionally and reflect a breach of trust.

When Harper-Rose, a 27-year-old comedian in LA, found evidence on her boyfriend’s phone that he had made out with someone else, it was a fact linked to “emotional cheating” – sexts posted on Snapchat several women were sent. Texting flirty with a best friend and having her in group chats with friends – it turned out to be so devastating.

The two were camping on Memorial Day when Harper-Rose said she had an urge to look through his phone. “I put my name in his search bar and it lights up.”

The next morning the two were out for a walk when she angrily told him what she saw. His answer: “We should probably just call it that.” He didn’t want to drive her back to LA for the three hours, so she called friends to pick her up.

The couple chose a “quarantine friend” with whom they could socialize. Mara then cheated on the girl in question.

“It’s not just that he kissed this girl and probably did other things … It’s the emotional abuse, it’s the lie,” says Harper-Rose. The two had been together for a year and had grown more serious in the five months before the discovery; They were together almost every day during the pandemic. “He said things like, ‘I see a future with you’ – all you want to hear,” she recalls.

Getting betrayed is always psychologically damaging, but if the person you are isolated with, who you trust and who you rely on for emotional support, betrays you, it can make coping even more difficult – especially now that it is harder to connect with family and friends.

“If it’s the person who’s supposed to be our safe space, our home, our partner … that could really send someone into a devastating free fall,” says Sochet.

Anne *, 26, had just moved in with Mara *, her six-month-old friend, in April. The two had discussed the move in January and had moved on when the quarantine made walking back and forth between the houses unsustainable.

Things began to implode pretty quickly after living together. “She was the one who tried to move in and as soon as we moved in, a switch flipped,” says Anne. Anne was frustrated when she worked from home and paid enough attention to Mara, who couldn’t keep her job. And Mara expressed a need for space to get away and see her friends. Due to concerns about social distancing, they eventually settled on a “quarantine friend” with whom they agreed to socialize and went to her house and vice versa. When Anne went home for a week to visit her family in late May, Mara cheated on her friend.

Anne asked Mara to move out for a week to give her time to process. When Mara returned, however, she confessed that she had spent the week with the other woman – although she had denied it when Anne asked for the text a few times, and during the week apart, Mara had sent Anne contrite messages like, “Me know I lost a good cause, I’ll do anything to get it back. ” But when she confessed, the story changed: Mara said she had feelings for the friend and did not love Anne in the same way.

“So I told her I didn’t want anything more to do with her,” says Anne. The two have separated and are moving out.

According to Sochet, one way to “regain a sense of power is through [an] Affair – which, in my opinion, is an important point as to why it may happen more now. “Feelings of powerlessness and the ability to act freely and spontaneously can create this need for” deviation, “she says. “People are longing to flee right now – from government restrictions, from the economy, from their children, from the incredibly monotonous routines of their lives and [infidelity] is an escape. “

“I can and have forgiven a lot, but dishonesty was the main factor behind it all.”

Sochet believes that there is a way for couples to reconcile after infidelity, after each person has taken space to process emotionally and when they are ready to deal with whether cheating is “a symptom of a lot.” larger gap in the pair or one was out. “

“How was the relationship before the pandemic? You want to look at this across the relationship, not as a singular incident, ”suggests Sochet. “If it’s part of a larger problem – underlying problems in the relationship that are causing a partner to seek out activities – do you want to spend the time unpacking and analyzing those problems?”

“I think a lot of feelings of control, of limitation, of contraction all came down to that one person because they were the only person we could see,” says Anne. But in the end, for Anne, betraying betrayal – and lying about it – were incompatible. “I can and have forgiven a lot, but dishonesty was the main factor behind it all,” she says.

The pandemic also makes it more difficult to recover emotionally from these situations, regardless of whether you are isolated with your partner or alone after the breakup.

20-year-old Gillian was quarantined with her three-year-old boyfriend while waiting to return to her college dorm, which had been closed during the pandemic. When she decided to go through his messages and found that he was exchanging files with someone else, she had nowhere else to process her anger.

“There’s not much you can do but sit here and think about it,” she says. “I’m sitting here waiting for my dorm to open and I’m locked up with someone I hate a lot.

“I’m an emotional person, but sometimes I forgive him and we talk about it rationally, and then I get angry again – it comes and goes in waves, especially when you’re locked in the same house,” she adds.

She admits that in normal times it would be a lot easier to break up because she could meet someone else – in class, at a campus party – but with social distancing, she worries about feeling lonely and not getting an opportunity to speak to you a man in person.

For example, Harper-Rose, who broke up with her boyfriend after discovering the iPhone, manages their breakup in isolation. Though she says she is relieved that they are no longer together and admits that if this were “the real world,” she might party or go out too much to be alone, “forces me to be with myself to sit yourself ”. She says he reached out to her – not to apologize, but to make excuses like, “Well, I felt insecure about our relationship” and to say that he has started therapy.

Now if she gets sad or misses him, all she can do is call a friend: “You have to get me out – ‘Remember, he was a gas lighter.'”

* Names have been changed.

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