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‘Cyber Affairs’ Rupturing Long-Term Relationships

Innocence and the Internet – A Personal Account by Tina Konkin

I never understood how cyber affairs that began as friendly reconnections could grow to become so destructive. And I can assure you that most of the clients who attend our Relationship Lifeline workshops or exclusive Couples Retreats are equally unaware. Granted, their marriages may lack some degree of emotional intimacy due to the reality of married life with children, work, debt, or other burdens we bear. However, even the most cynical of people would not describe these people as being on the brink of divorce.

Cyber affairs are not premediated or planned. I believe they stem from a desire to escape. It was not until Ron, my husband of 32 years, passed away that I personally experienced how innocently they can form – and, in the process, realized what a trap your heart and mind can be.

Two years after Ron’s passing an old college boyfriend messaged me online – after 40 years of no communication –  expressing his sorrow for my loss. It was a sweet, thoughtful message. I quickly learned that he was not in a relationship at that particular time and so we continued to “connect.”

What ensued is what I call “Back to the Future” syndrome. It was like those 40 years never passed. We engaged deeper and deeper in conversation, laughing and leaning on each other – not as the adults we were today, but as the kids we were in college. Old feelings started coming back and a near addiction to checking for our online private messages began developing. Not surprisingly, this eventually led to us wanting to meet in person.

At the same time, however, I was asking myself if these emotions inside of me would have surfaced during my early hard years of marriage? Because this gentleman and I were now both single, however, we felt the interaction was ok. It was safe. Or, was it?

The budding reunion started to lose its luster, although it certainly sharpened my senses and professional insights about these kinetic connections. For the first time – and in a deeply personal way –  I more fully understood what my clients were battling while I was thinking, “how could you let this happen?”

When you reconnect with someone from the past, you’re also resurrecting the feelings associated with that relationship. That is why as a marriage expert I warn couples to be keenly aware of how defensive one often gets when responding to a question about another relationship by quickly dismissing it with the statement, “we are just friends.”