How did I get here? It was the question that reeled in my mind as I sat on my bed weeping. My husband’s side of the bed sat cold and empty. You see, eight months prior, I worked as a social media manager at my company. On one particular day, I received a Twitter post that said, “Let’s chat sometime.” It was a prominent industry person. We set up a business call. He emailed me immediately afterward and said he wanted to stay in touch every so often. I was flattered.
However, I soon found out his interest went far beyond professional. And his “every so often” turned into daily online chats, filled with sweet talk about my looks and my body. I was a 40-year-old mom of three, and he thought I was hot? I was hooked. Our escapades quickly escalated to sexting and weekly FaceTimes. I had my cake and could eat it, too. After all, it was only virtual. Right?
That is until I was caught—by my husband. Then reality hit like a brick. At that point, it might as well have been a physical affair. My actions were shocking, out of character, and hurtful to him as a man. So he packed his bags and left.
That’s not the end of the story—thank goodness! Learn from my mistakes to prevent this from happening in your marriage.
1. It’s easier than you think.
Social media, texting, and any type of digital communication make online affairs all too tempting and all too easy. Harmless joking via emails with a male coworker turns into flirting. An old flame connects with you on Facebook. Someone you met on a business trip always views your profile and comments on your social media posts. I get it. It makes you feel good. But it’s very dangerous. Take it from me; many of these men won’t care if they—or you—are married. And without the physical aspect, online affairs seem safe, not “real.” But it hurts just as much as if it were. Just ask my husband.
I’m so grateful that he found it in his heart to forgive me and was willing to do the hard work to make our marriage work. It’s a long, emotional road to soul search and rebuild a relationship. But it’s totally worth it.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation or about to cross the line. As a woman who felt empty in my own marriage relationship and who’s come out on the other side of an online affair, my hope is that these simple things will help you.
2. Guard your heart.
It has to start with you. In the book of Proverbs in the Bible, it says to guard your heart above all else. In other words: garbage in, garbage out. Intentionally do things that will keep your mind and heart in the right place like:
- Encourage yourself. Place sticky notes with verses and inspirational sayings on your mirror or any other place you will see them. This will help you keep positive truths circulating in your mind, rather than negative self-talk. When you don’t feel good about yourself, the attention you get through online relationships is intriguing and fills the hole in your heart. Bottom line: It’s a false confidence that will only lead to hurt.
- Be accountable. If you have thought seriously about pursuing an online affair, she can encourage you and pray for you. When you admit your temptation out loud to someone else, it’s less likely that you’ll follow through with it.
- Remember your vows. After several moves, our wedding pictures got stuck in an unopened box in the attic. We didn’t have any of them out. When my husband and I were in the middle of our healing process, one of the most precious gifts I gave him was a collage of our wedding photos that we hung in our bedroom. Something simple like this is a daily reminder of the covenant you made to each other. Remember: Forsaking all others as long as you both shall live?
3. Encourage your spouse.
Let’s face it: After kids and a metabolism that seemingly slows down more each year, your body probably isn’t quite the same as it was while you and your guy were dating. And it’s likely that your husband’s isn’t either. Often we hear more about women that suffer from low self-esteem and body issues. But your husband might feel self-conscious, too. (Guys just don’t verbalize these feelings as much as we do.) It’s important to take that second look at him. Let your husband know through your words and actions that he still turns your head. (Try these 10 compliments for your husband.) And talk to him about this because it’s important that he does the same for you. If you know he still thinks you’re sexy, you won’t go looking for it somewhere else. The flirtatiousness between the two of you will help bring back that spark that might have left long ago.
4. Be transparent.
As mentioned earlier, there are so many avenues that can cultivate online affairs. If you find yourself on the edge of an online affair, just talk about it with your husband. It’s going to be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But it’s healthy to open up communication about what might not be working between the two of you.
5. Seek help.
If you’re already tangled up in it, seek wise counsel. If you’re open to it, a trusted friend or a counselor can help you navigate through and offer advice about how to carefully approach the subject.
6. Resist temptation.
If another guy starts to give you a little more attention, just walk away. Tell your coworker that you‘re uncomfortable with all the emails. Don’t respond to the comments that business colleague posts or unfriend him. If you find yourself dangerously close to an online affair, just get off of social media or cancel your email if possible.
7. Get offline.
When I had to disappear from social media, it felt like the only source of my confidence was being ripped from me. So I know how you might be feeling right now. But it’s the best thing you could do. It’ll honor your husband and make any contact with the other man impossible. Then your attention can turn away from fantasy to help build your reality into something even more amazing.
How do you ensure your marriage is safeguarded?