My husband and I have differing viewpoints when it comes to online chatting and have spent a lot of time discussing its ins and outs.
I am writing articles that I never thought I would be writing. This is not the way my life was supposed to go. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels that way, but I think that sometimes when we are the one going through things we feel that we are the only one. Writing articles is a way to help myself through this process and maybe, just maybe, help someone else. I always welcome comments and will respond within a couple of days.
The Story of Our Marriage
Our story began 17 years ago when I met my now husband. Everything was perfect. We were young attractive entrepreneurs who found each other. After six years of dating, we decided to get married and start our family. Everything was perfect. Then April of 2010 everything changed. In the span of a month we were fired, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, our house was foreclosed on, and I had surgery to have a golf ball portion of my brain removed.
After many years of denial and then many more years of counseling, we found that there was no way to return to our previously normal life. At the point that I was able to accept reality, my husband reached the point where he could not. He has done all of the "normal" things that people do when a crisis hits and they don't know what to do: alcohol, porn, and an affair.
We have worked on many of them and they are improving, but there is one that we cannot seem to see eye to eye on. It is the wonderful new world of online chatting. Personally, I see it as cheating, he sees it as talking to people he will never see so it is not really cheating.
His View of Online Chatting
Much of what I know about his view of online chatting comes from his attitude more than his verbal communication with me. It seems like he no longer knows how to talk to me as a person, that online is easier. In his words:
- When he talks online he does not have to face reality.
- He can avoid talking about anything serious and while he would like to talk about other things, they lead to reality whereas sexual conversations are easy and require no thought.
- These people are people he will never actually meet because it is really hard for a guy to actually hook up online (not that he has not tried).
- Because it is not reality, it is not really cheating.
- People online are looking for No Strings Attached (NSA) hook ups so if they do meet, it is not really hooking up, it is just releasing energy.
- The release he gets talking to these people allows him to enjoy his time with our daughter and me. Without this release he does not know what he would do or if he can handle life with us.
My View of Online Chatting
Suffice to say that my husband and I have wildly differing view points of online chatting.
Let me begin by saying maybe I am naive, but I do not consider online chatting to be the same as actually meeting someone, however, I do feel that given time it will definitely lead to that and therefore must be talked about honestly.
- Online chatting is a place that he goes to escape reality, I get that. Yet, life is still here when he is done. It seems that when he returns to reality after these jaunts, he is not better for it, but rather that he is more depressed that the false world is not the one in which he can actually live.
- The girls (yes they are of legal age, but when you are in your 40's, someone in their 20's is considered a girl to me) have been raised in a generation where online is their lives. These chats and communications are not simply escapes for them, they are real life. At some point these worlds will collide and the results are never going to be pretty.
- It is not harmless. The time spent avoiding issues only allows those issues to expand and become worse.
- He is not going online to vent his frustrations and deal with life, but rather to avoid it. To me, it is the equivalent of if he were to go and take major drugs such as coke, ex, molly, heroin, or the like. Yes, it is cheaper financially, but emotionally the family and he suffer the same withdraws and damage.
- It is so easily accessible and technology has advanced to such a place that there is no way to track it or know what is happening without completely eliminating the aspect of trust and setting up things such as trackers and child locks that will only perpetuate a situation of animosity within the household.
- There are no lack of women and men who are looking to escape reality, with literally hundreds if not thousands of sites with millions of members it is more accessible than any drug on the market. It is free in many cases so there is no money trail to follow, and relapse is essentially guaranteed because discussing it creates the same issues as other addictions without the barriers to prevent access.
"The time spent avoiding issues only allows those issues to expand and become worse."
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So What Can You Do?
The first thing that you have to do is take your emotion and put it in a big box in your mind. You need to know that as time progresses and communication opens it will be more and more uncomfortable.
Be prepared ahead of time, because no matter which spouse you are in the situation (the one chatting or the one who is unhappy about the other chatting), the conversation will not be a good one. There will be pain but in order for there to be healing. The thing to remember is that if things are here there is pain already.
Here are some good ground rules:
- Do not yell.
- Avoid words that are accusatory, even if they are completely valid, they will not help.
- Make this a night with no alcohol. Alcohol may lower your inhibitions in order to talk more, but the conversation will inevitably turn into an emotionally heated argument with little to no good outcome.
- Understand that there is no way you can place an ultimatum on the other's use or non use of online chatting. Setting an ultimatum may sound like a great idea, and if you are the one who wants your partner to stop setting ultimatums will only give them more reason to hide what they are doing and feel guilty when they slip. It will only leave both of you feeling frustrated and confused when things slip back and forth which they will.
If things have gotten to this point, understand that they will not be fixed overnight. They will take time and things will run a course that is not the one that you want it to run. There will be days when things seem like they are going great, and then you will find that you said something or did something that causes a relapse in your partner.
No matter how good you think you are, how smart you maybe, how thoughtful you may try to be, there will be good days and bad days. Be ready for them.
How We Deal With It
As many of you know I am not a professional, just a woman whose husband is going through something and I have choices to make.
There are days that he will ask why I still love him and why I want to be with him, but the reality is that there are days that I don't and wish we were not together. When I take time to breathe and step back, however, here are some realities:
- This is the man I chose to love and hold till death do us part.
- If I were to leave him I would need to look elsewhere and the reality is that I would look for a man similar to him and more than likely have the same situation in a few years.
- If he were to leave me he would look for another woman and given a few years he would have history with her and relapse into the same thing.
- We have a young daughter who is looking to us to determine how she will handle things in the future. If we don't show her how to work out things when they go bad, where will she ever learn?
- I grew up in a house that parents hid everything. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions were not something that we discussed. They taught me that families never fight, never have problems and things are always good. This is not true, maybe seeing that things are not always great is not the worst thing in the world for her to see. (Granted she does not know the entire thing nor should she.)
- He has started counseling, I am continuing mine.
- We take every day, day by day. I have tried the ultimatums, I have given my blessing to talk to the people, I even went so far as to give him a free pass to meet with one of the girls he had formed an emotional bond with (he did not take me up on it thank God). I have believed he had given it all up to come home and find open chats on his screen. I have talked, cried, walked to the beach and screamed at the top of my lungs, punched walls, and pretty much everything in between. Some days are good and others are bad.
We do not know where things will end. I have no idea from day to day how I am going to feel or what I actually want anymore. There is so much that is unknown, and I can only say that everything I once thought about how I would respond is completely wrong.
Life is not a planned event, it is fluid, wet, messy, and often downright ugly. There are so many unknowns, but there is one thing I do know, this journey is far from over.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.