Internet Infidelity and Christian Marriage
Christians and the Internet
The Internet is amazing. It throws the doors wide open to opportunities that were once only imagined. With nearly unlimited access to information, anyone can become an expert on just about anything.
Despite the negative rap in some Christian circles, the Internet is extremely useful for believers. Online biblical resources and vast social networks offer spiritual growth and encouragement as well as the opportunity to put God's Word into action.
There is a downside, however. The Internet enables users to travel a number of dark avenues, such as pornography and gossip media. Used unwisely, it gives the enemy a way to destroy Christian marriages through cyber affairs.
Not "Just Friends"
Written by Shirley Glass / Format: Paperback Edition
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Christians and Cyber Affairs
Cyber affairs involve intimate or sexually explicit communication between married people and someone other than their partners.
Married couples may justify their online relationships because they view them as virtual instead of adulterous. This is especially true with emotional relationships that are not yet sexual.
However, married people cross a line when they share intimate thoughts with someone other than their spouse. Thinking they have found a soul mate, they may share personal things that they hide from their partners. These seemingly innocent conversations can quickly escalate into extramarital affairs.
Cyber affairs can threaten marriages even if they don't involve sexual activity. The late Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not "Just Friends," said, "online liaisons involve three elements of an emotional affair: secrecy, intimacy and sexual chemistry." While emotional affairs may seem like harmless or "safe" alternatives to cheating on a spouse, they can devastate a marriage.
Love Must Be Tough
Written by James Dobson / Format: Paperback Edition
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Allure of Online Romance
Christians who venture into online communities rarely expect their conversations to develop into affairs. People often wander into chat rooms to engage in discussion, unaware that the emotional connections they make there could lead to adultery.
Cyber affairs typically result from the sex/intimacy exchange that often occurs in male/female relationships. "Women often give sex to get intimacy, and men give intimacy to get sex," says Focus on the Family founder, Dr. James Dobson. Email, chat rooms, instant messaging, newsgroups and even online games have a way of bringing these tendencies together, Dobson notes.
Like the intrigue of a masquerade ball, Internet relationships have an allure that makes them fun for a season. In fact, Internet infidelity is so widespread because of this mystery and anonymity. Online affairs allow people to enter a fantasy world, an escape from a real world filled with conflict and disagreement.
People in cyber affairs usually create a new persona. They pretend to be different than they really are. Online, their strengths outweigh their weaknesses. They can socialize with the opposite sex without the conflicts that sometimes occur in face-to-face conversations. Internet affairs are mysterious and exhilarating, much like a couple's dating relationship before marriage.
The Monogamy Myth
Written by Peggy Vaughn / Format: Paperback Edition
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Motivation for Cyber Affairs
Peggy Vaughn, the author of The Monogamy Myth, predicted that the Internet would become a breeding ground for adultery. She was right. If left unchecked, online affairs can evolve into sexual affairs. In fact, studies show that 30 percent of cyber affairs escalate from email to telephone calls to personal contact.
Cyber affairs develop because online relationships meet emotional and social needs that are not getting met in the physical world. Self esteem tops the list of motivators. According to Kerby Anderson, the president of Probe Ministries, "self esteem needs are met through knowing, understanding and acceptance." Psychologists say these needs are enhanced by intimate talks about thoughts and feelings.
Studies suggest that women seek extramarital affairs for love, friendship and the desire to feel needed. Men typically turn to affairs for friendship, fun and sexual fulfillment. While cyber affairs may not involve sex, the strong emotional attachments they bring can cause intense feelings of pain. When the affair ends, these emotions can turn to guilt.
Three Warning Signs
- Is your spouse obsessed with checking email and social networking sites?
- Does your spouse stay on the computer late into the night, after you have gone to bed?
- Does your spouse minimize the computer screen when you walk into the room?
A "yes" answer to these questions may be cause for concern, but they are merely a guide. Christian spouses may be guilty of all three, yet not be having a cyber affair.
If you suspect inappropriate behavior, go to your spouse and express your concerns in a godly way. If there is a problem, seek counseling and spiritual guidance.
With the Lord's help, you can survive a cyber affair.
Private Lies: Infidelity
Written by Frank Pittman / Format: Paperback Edition
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Preventing Internet Infidelity
Most people eventually tire of living their online personas. What they want, most of all, is someone who loves them for who they are. Unfortunately, this realization often comes after they have damaged their marriage with a cyber affair.
How can Christian couples prevent Internet affairs? Frank Pittman, author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy, offers a general outline.
First, couples should accept the possibility of sexual fantasies and attraction to other people. They should acknowledge these fantasies, but not act on them.
Second, couples should socialize with other monogamous couples. Solid Christian couples make good support systems but "bad company corrupts good morals," says 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Third, marriage takes work. Christians must build intimacy with their partners and keep their marriage sexy. They must also keep the marriage equal, sharing duties and responsibilities.
Fourth, Christians are imperfect people like everyone else. They must accept the realities of an imperfect marriage. Yet, even imperfect Christians can be open, honest and authentic with their partners.
Fifth, God commands Christians to stay faithful to their partners. According to Exodus 20:14, "you shall not commit adultery." Christians should make marriage a part of their identity and take it with them wherever they go.
Finally, Christians should be careful not to overreact or exaggerate if a cyber affair happens in their marriage. Like real world affairs, online affairs can destroy a marriage. But they do not have to lead to "divorce, murder or suicide," Pittman said. "Catch yourself and work yourself back into the marriage."
Reference Sources / Further Reading
- Anderson, Kerby. (2009) "The Allure of Cyber Relationships." Probe Ministries. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
- Anderson, Nancy C. (June 22, 2005) "The Warning Signs of Infidelity." Crosswalk. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
- Frame, Randy. (2008) "Internet Infidelity." Today's Christian Woman. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Gardner, Marilyn. (August 19, 2004) "Is it Cyber-Flirting or Cyber-Betrayal?" The Christian Science Monitor: Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Houston, Ruth. (September 9, 2009) "The Truth About Cyber Affairs and Online Infidelity." Examiner. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
Copyright © 2011. Annette R. Smith. All rights reserved.
Published: June 29, 2011 / Modified: December 14, 2012.
News Report: Digital Cheating at Home
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