I just spoke to a dear friend who recently discovered her husband has a secret life on the internet. He sent sexy emails to women on websites that exist for casual hookups. That life led him to wanting more adventure and he has been visiting prostitutes for a thrill. My friend is understandably deeply hurt. Her trust in her husband is so broken she doesn’t know how to rebuild it. She doesn’t know what to tell her teenage daughters about the obvious tension in the household. She says she has little emotional energy to give to her daughters as she is so wounded by the betrayal. She knows they need her, but she is, in her own words, “empty.”
Recent reports published in psychology magazines indicate that cheating will most likely take an upward swing as the economy sinks lower. Both men and women feel the pressures of hard times. Men feel a hit to their ego if they are laid off or their paychecks cut. Women might feel the same, or they might feel they want a “better” mate who hasn’t lost his job. These are hard times for all of us. Our emotions are a bit more raw, and based in fear, anxiety and depression.
Reaching out to someone outside of your primary relationship won’t help put money back into our 401K. It won’t get your job back. It will, on the other hand, work to destroy your relationship and possibly erode your already weak sense of self. I am encouraging all of my clients to do better at listening to each other, and caring for one another in these challenging times. Now is an opportunity to turn towards your partner and get to know them better. What are they worried about? What are they feeling about themselves? Now is a good time to ask questions and be supportive. Running away from each other isn’t the answer.
When spouses (or b/f or g/f etc.) cheat, the hurt trickles down to the children in the relationship. No matter that the children may never find out about it, somehow, the energy from the deceit flows right down to them. If you are considering stepping out of your primary relationship, even for a “harmless” flirty chat on a website to a total stranger I ask you to reconsider. Whatever need is driving you to seek solace in a stranger, or to get attention from someone other than your spouse, how might you get that need met with your spouse?
Now is the time for honest sharing. Now is the time for true listening to each other. Our teens need mom and dad to turn towards each other, not turn away. Cheating isn’t the answer. It only cheats everyone in your family out of a respectful, loving relationship. Turn off the internet. Turn towards each other and begin talking and listening. Do it right now! Hit the close tabs button and go find someone in your family to talk and listen to. Let me know how it goes when you are back on the computer!