Infidelity on the Internet
Dear Dr. Harley,
I've been married for two years and have known my wife for almost ten years total. Several months ago I met a woman online. What started out as an interesting and casual correspondence has now become a highly emotional, rewarding and sexual relation. We exchange as many as 15 e-mails a day and have spoken on the phone several times. This woman lives in another country, so the chances of meeting her are in general quite slim, but she will be traveling to my area quite soon and we have discussed getting together.
I know it's wrong and I know it could destroy my marriage which I feel is a good one -- I love my wife and would never want to do anything to hurt her. Yet I feel absolutely compelled to meet this woman -- I simply have to see her. I'm completely torn at this point and emotionally frayed at the edges. Any suggestions?
You're right when you say, "it could destroy my marriage." E-mail romances are common and have ruined many marriages. As with most affairs, once the relationship gets real, it falls apart, but many marriages are already lost by the time that happens.
Affairs are addictions, both in real life and on the Internet. But the bottom line is that you must completely sever your relationship with this woman, as difficult as it will be for you to do. Even though you feel compelled to meet her, don't let the relationship go any farther than it already has.
You are addicted to this Internet woman because she meets your most important emotional needs. It's important for you to understand what she is doing that your wife should do for you. You're still in love with your wife because she meets some of your emotional needs, but the other woman meets other needs. That's why you love them both.
The solution is simple: Have your wife meet the needs met by the Internet woman. My book His Needs, Her Needs: Building and Affair-proof Marriage, explains how. If you feel depressed about it all (and you probably will), consider asking your doctor to prescribe an anti-depressant. It may sound extreme to you for me to suggest medication, but it's a lot better than your wrecking what you and your wife have and will have for the future. As soon as you sever ties with your Internet lover, you will probably feel an overwhelming sense of loss. But it only lasts a few weeks, and an anti-depressant helps relieve those symptoms of withdrawal.
You are certainly on the right track to recognize your Internet relationship as a compulsion. It is a compulsion, and the sooner you can get out of it, the better. Then, learn to add to your marriage what it is that you are missing. It will help prevent you from getting into a mess like this in the future.