The virtual affair? It’s virtually the same…
It seems to be a pretty regular mistake to make to underestimate the impact of a virtual liaison on the existing relationship. This never really ceases to amaze me – that is certainly not to say that anyone is overreacting or that the Internet is a vice that you only use at your peril!
More that when wounded partners rationally talk through their feelings of hurt, loss, betrayal and anger, it very quickly becomes apparent that these feelings are the same ones that would be felt if an ‘in person’ liaison had taken place. Plus, the realisation from the other partner, gradual or sudden, that the majority of the characteristics of an ‘in person’ liaison is present in the online relationship – namely deception, secrecy, misinformation by omission and potentially lying etc.
It then becomes clearer (sometimes before your eyes) and the penny drops for the partner who has been conducting the liaison that they have been minimizing the liaison – maintaining to themselves that the liaison was harmless, any flirting was harmless and really, they had done nothing wrong.
Except that the difficulty is that in their heart of hearts (or brain of brains) the very awareness that they have needed to use deception, secrecy, misinformation by omission to some degree highlights that they were aware on some level that it would be ‘trouble’.
Fantasy / day dreaming is pretty much always better than the reality of life. The ability to highlight those areas of your character that you wish were more dominant and become somebody different from your everyday ‘in person’ personality is seductive. Online liaisons offer a level of freedom that would be unusual in real life – logistic conundrums such as explaining the lateness, receipts for illicit activities, lying about work functions etc are replaced with the seamless accessibility of the web and the ability to conduct yourself online at the same time as being physically present in real life. The chances of discovery, as long as you’re a bit techno savvy are smaller than real life. So far so good.
Unfortunately, reality bites and it is less often the physical betrayal that becomes the most important aspect of an illicit liaison, online or in-person. But it is in the emotional betrayal of confiding in another person rather than your partner that becomes almost insurmountable to them (were they to discover.)
The question is, as with all illicit liaisons whatever the circumstances, – why was a partner in that relationship open to doing something that was potentially so damaging to that relationship in the first place?