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The New Infidelity: How to Heal after a Digital Affair

Sexting is a new form of infidelity that is changing the landscapes of American bedrooms.

Real Housewife of Orange County star Meghan King Edmonds has just confirmed that she and her MLB husband Jim Edmonds are not splitting up, despite his well-publicized sexting scandal.

Meghan told the Daily Mail, “We’re still married, we’re still together, we’re not separated. We’re in the family home, we’re in the same bed. We’re not having therapy, we’re talking.”

The surprising announcement has left many people wondering why Meghan would stay with her husband after such a scandalous sexting affair (including explicit videos and pictures, some of which were sent on the very day that Meghan was giving birth to their twins).

While it shocked many people that Meghan is staying with her husband, the reality is that many couples have different rules in their relationship. For some, sexting and cyber relationships might not be seen as a deal-breaker, although Meghan does say that she feels very betrayed and considers it an affair even though no physical lines appear to have been crossed.

Indeed, the truth is that emotional or cyber affairs can be equally as devasting as physical affairs. And digital infidelity is becoming a very common way for partners to stray, or to explore the idea of straying without feeling like they have truly ‘cheated.’

Instead of meeting up at a by-the-hour hotel on your lunch break, today’s unfaithful partners might just be swapping explicit pictures and videos, or even just chatting with one another on Facebook or Snapchat for hours.

Although these unfaithful partners might comfort themselves with the knowledge that they haven’t acted on these fantasies, the end result is the same: Digital infidelity tarnishes the trust in the relationship and steals time, affection and attention away from your spouse.

No wonder social media has been cited as a cause for divorce in over a third of broken marriages. You can’t spend hours chatting up an ex-fling on Facebook and expect it not to take a toll on your relationship, even if you never meet up in person and engage in intimate acts.

My personal rule is that couples need to have an open-door policy when it comes to their cell phones and social media. If your partner has to hide their phone or click out of tabs whenever you walk in the room, that’s a big red flag.

I am not saying you can’t have personal conversations outside of your spouse’s hearing or knowledge, but there is a difference between privacy and secrecy. It’s especially important to have this open-door policy if you or your partner has strayed online before. Otherwise, you are always going to be wondering what is happening on your partner’s phone or if he is really just texting one of his friends.

Additionally, I think couples really need to be honest about how much time they’re spending online, and what part of their minds and hearts is being fulfilled by that activity. Is it pure boredom, a thoughtless habit, or is it a lack of fulfillment that is driving you to seek out affection and attention elsewhere?  Keep track of how much time you’re on your phone during your leisure time, and notice when you reach for your phone instead of reaching your partner.

Lastly, I do think that Megan and her husband Jim should reconsider their choice not to get therapy. While healing after an affair is possible, it takes effort and often an experienced therapist to guide you.

Meghan and Jim are busy with 3 kids under 3 years old, but this is all the more reason to make time for therapy. Otherwise, resentment and anger will continue to brew and the family unit will falter. Building a healthy relationship requires intention and focus even when infidelity has not occurred, but when such a betrayal has taken place, you have to be very mindful about your healing process or you may find the relationship becomes unsalvageable.

What do you think? Is digital infidelity just as bad as physical infidelity? How you do protect your relationship from cyber-cheating?

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