Infidelity on the Internet

Letter #4

Dear Dr. Harley,

I am so happy to have found your web site, sometimes I get into such a state of despair regarding my marriage. I do not want to lose my wife. We have five daughters and I love my wife with all my heart.

Here is my problem... My wife escapes into this world of chats to receive fulfillment. And I found out that she has an "online-lover" for the lack of a better term. She has never met him or seen him, she doesn't even know what he looks like but she needs to talk with him. She doesn't have cybersex or anything like that... they just talk.

I am so torn on what to do... My first instincts are of course to ask her to give us a chance and stop with him... In your terminology it seems that he is the one that's getting to stick credits into her love bank, not me. One of the things that she expresses is that "She doesn't know if she believes in marriage anymore". The idea that 2 people can live in love for a lifetime. She basically uses the argument that "Who do we know that are happily married". To be honest... I don't have a good answer for that, all I can tell her is that there are millions of couples that love and cherish each other for a lifetime.

Can you help give me some insight or suggestions on how to handle this situation. I am not fighting with her.. and I am not withdrawn.. I try to support her and tell her how much I love her.

I am so sad... I love her so much....

H.B.

Dear H.B.,

Love on the Internet is becoming an epidemic. But the bottom line is that you were not your wife's best friend before she began using the chatline. A cyber-friend has taken your place, and you can be grateful that it's not the man next-door.

The state of withdrawal that your wife is in is not permanent. She will slip into the state of conflict once in a while, and when she does, she will explain to you how you've failed to meet her emotional needs -- for conversation, affection, honesty and openness, and other needs. She will also give you a chance to meet those needs. That's when you can start depositing love units.

What is it about her Internet friend that she finds so captivating? What does she talk to him about that she can't talk to you about? Perhaps it's as simple as being there whenever she wants to talk. Perhaps she feels he admires her, respects her, and finds her interesting. He gives her his undivided attention for hours each week. You need to learn as much as you can about this friend and see if you can meet the same needs yourself.

The thoughts she has about divorce are more like brainstorming than plans for the future. She does not have much to look forward to in her relationship with you, and she is thinking of alternatives. Make sure that her future with you will be just as fulfilling as her future would be with her fantasy friend. Learn how to make it turn out that way. Encourage her to teach you. And when you've figured it out, keep it up for the rest of your lives together.

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