Everything was going fine in Rishita Nayak's (31) four-year-old marriage, when things started falling apart just a week prior to their anniversary. She discovered certain texts on her husband Harsh's phone that pointed to him having an extra-marital affair. "I simply could not believe he would cheat on me, he never showed any indications of this earlier," she recalls, adding, "I had never checked his phone before this, but one day when I was looking at an app on his mobile, messages cropped up and I just couldn't handle it! What felt more disheartening is how he (Harsh) used to send her late-night texts too, under the garb of official communication." While their marriage
hit rocky waters, psychologists warn that such online
infidelity can happen anytime, more so, with the increasing addiction to technology.
It can lead to a complete breakdown of relationships
Online affairs or cyber
affairs can be just as damaging to a relationship as any other affair. Since they are rooted in secrecy and stealth, they bring about mistrust and can damage emotional and sexual intimacy
. Says psychological counsellor
Dr Pradnya Ajinkya, "What brings people into it is a need; it's about how he or she gratifies his or her mental and physical need, facilitated by the easy availability and accessibility of platforms that provide easy connections. We see it as threatening to emotional health of individuals in marriages and I have seen complete breakdown of relationships with it. This stems from a kind of addiction and people who engage in online infidelity
become a slave to the habit. It can result in a complete lack of trust – spouses who are affected by infidelity take a long time to recover from the post-trauma, and they are always in fear of a relapse, that this may happen again at any time."
Heed the warning signs
In any relationship, apart from the physical aspect, mental and emotional quotients are key, explains marriage counsellor Dr Sanjoy Mukerji. "Any kind of infidelity takes place when a person is not happy in a relationship in any one of these areas, too." He adds that warning signs will always be given. "It's not sudden. Remember, he or she will always give signals. Sometimes, it can be verbal, like someone saying, 'I can't connect with you' or 'I need more time with you.' Sometimes they may be behavioural cues like aloofness, don't disregard it. Watch for these red flags that can save your relationship," he says.
Blame the times we are living it in too, says Matunga-based psychologist, Purvi Shah. "People are in this greedy phase right now where nothing satisfies us, whether it comes to their career or more. The partner you're looking at every day, can seem boring. This is when people look for flings and the cyber world becomes an easy escape for it. We tell couples who come for counselling to first divert their minds. They must take up a hobby like reading or playing a sport instead of engaging in it," she advises.
It's not always about being sexual
Cyber affairs don't have to be about intimacy. Even late night talking with someone or chatting that your partner may not approve of, constitutes such an affair. Adds Purvi, "An emotional connection online can be damaging to the marriage if it interferes with the relationship. Confiding secrets to someone, engaging in private conversations or even looking for emotional support, all play culprit. People may not be looking for a long-term relationship or invest in the emotional burden, but prefer to go cyber dating, which is short and comes without strings attached. People may also engage in infidelity to get rid of stress
, loneliness or crave attention. But all these can be detrimental to a real-life relationship." Caught your better half in the 'net'? Here's how to deal with it
- Find out what boundaries were crossed and then decide on how to react. It could be that your partner or spouse is only engaging in work-related communication or harmless banter with an old colleague or pal, in which case you can save your breath. If it is a serious infringement, then it would call for longer-term action.
- If you think a cyber affair is going on, you must be prepared to confront your spouse.
- Define what is expected. If you haven't done so before, state explicitly what you expect from the marriage and see if your partner shares these same concepts like you do.
- You may feel betrayed and angry, but the next step is to move on. To save matters, go in for couples' therapy to repair the relationship. Seek help from a licensed marriage therapist for this.
Cyber affair is defined as a romantic affair in which all contact takes place via the internet