The dangerous slide into an internet affair – part 1
by Dr. Dave Currie
The key word is fantasy. More and more of us are living there it seems these days. It’s the world of romantic make-believe – especially online – where we imagine we are loved, respected and pursued in our inner dramas in ways we haven’t been for a long time in our marriages. We envy and aspire to what we see in others’ relationships and bemoan what we have in ours.
The following is the “inside unravelling” of one women’s story. We see her heart and confusion through her entanglement into an extra-marital affair online. She volunteered to tell her story to me with all her inner processing in an attempt to warn others. I respect her for that. Names and details are withheld to maintain privacy. Here’s her story – for the most part, in her own words:
I started to feed off…
“I knew we needed counselling but my husband wouldn’t go. Yet face it, if you want to get help you can, even if it starts with you alone. I knew I had a struggling marriage. Our 20-year relational abyss had long separated us. We were mere roommates.
We’d quit trying.
When in public, I knew I could still catch the looks and the attention of other men. That felt good. I started to like being noticed and began to feed off it. Flirting became fun. Even a friend commented that she noticed I was enjoying getting noticed maybe too much. Being out in the public fishing for a man’s interest was growing more dangerous. Getting real attention was getting far too enticing. Inside, I was afraid I might do something stupid. I easily could have.”
Hormones & changes
Complicating my inner dissatisfaction were the huge changes that took place in me because I had to have a hysterectomy. That was a big deal for me. My hormones were all over the map. It was six months of hell both emotionally and physically. The emotional affair started six weeks after the operation. Our kids, adults now, had moved out and I lost my long-standing identity as a mother. Further disorientation came when we suddenly sold our house, the home we raised our children in. Roots gone. Kids gone. The empty nest gave me so much extra time. My husband was away with work most of the time. I could pretty much do what I wanted. I felt empty, lost and alone.
The problems in our marriage weren’t going away but getting worse. I felt neglected. Inside, I felt lonely, rejected and deprived. My husband would never leave me but was too busy with work to notice my needs. Our marriage was going to stay status quo.
Because of this dangerous relational instability within, I felt safer to stay at home. So I started playing online games – in my case, ‘Hearts’. It was there that I started conversing, bantering, teasing, talking, engaging…it was there where my Internet affair really began.
Bored & curious
In my boredom and new time freedoms, I started to chat online more and more with the other card players. The connecting was so slow at first. One guy though had similar thinking to me. Talking was effortless. I could sense him getting interested in me. I felt alive and pursued. It seemed quite harmless. He became my regular card partner. I enjoyed our times playing together. There were lots of fun one-liners. I grew more curious about him. He too, was emotionally empty as his wife had recently left him.
I found myself stretching my story a bit to be more attractive to him. You see, online, I could lie some – embellish a bit – not a lot, just to keep a positive spin on things.
What really drew me in was that he was having problems with his two daughters due to the separation and wanted my input. At the core, I am a nurturer and a motherer. I loved giving helpful advice. He asked if I would talk to one of his daughters and of course before I did that, I had to talk to him.
The phone call
That phone call took the relationship to a new level.
It was no longer just words on a screen – I could hear the tone, the warmth and the interest. It was so flattering to be needed and wanted. I hadn’t felt that in a long time. I loved that he and his girls desired my input and valued me. Here I was listened to. My worth was validated.
“the deep need to be pursued is like female porn”
When you begin daydreaming about the possibilities, you are in a danger zone. Fantasy only magnifies the negative aspects of the marital void you are in. Your spouse gets more ‘unlikeable’. You see their mistakes clearly and more often. At least that’s what happened to me.
It’s so slow and gradual – drip by drip
My experience is that an affair is so subtle. It’s like a glass of water with a small drop of food colouring. At first, you don’t even notice the water has a blue hue – it’s so slow and gradual –drip-by-drip. Then one day – you stand back and look and the water is blue and you wonder how on earth you got into this mess.
As crazy as it sounds with all that I shared, I still felt safe because this new friend lived in another location – over 2 thousand miles away.
But for me, the deep need to be pursued and cherished is like female porn. I obsessed over the new connection like the first crush of a dizzy teenager in high school. This self-indulgent imagination – driven by the need to be wanted – casts a positive spin on the fling and throws more doubt on the marriage ever working. I visualized the fantasy until it seemed more plausible than my reality.
It was then that I bought my plane ticket…”
In part two, next month, learn how God intervenes, the danger points and the ways to guard your heart, to stay connected to your spouse and to God.