Have you and your partner lost your connection? Maybe you’re just stuck in a rut after picking up a few bad habits. Reconnect with your partner by establishing a new, strong connection. Here is how to do it:
To reconnect emotionally:
- Don’t let the gap between the two of you grow larger. It’s normal to feel a bit disconnected from your partner during our fast-paced lives and it’s understandable that you want a bit of space after the two of you had a fight, but don’t withdraw.
- Know how, when and where to show remorse. Did you give your partner harsh criticism or forget her birthday? Say that you are sorry. If apologizing is hard for you, tell your partner that you are feeling remorse and that you are struggling with a feeling of regret. This way, your partner will know that you are feeling remorseful.
- Don’t use dangerous fighting tactics. If you’re feeling compelled to threaten or blame your partner, or to set an ultimatum, don’t act on it. These are negative emotions that will have a damaging outcome on your relationship instead of a good outcome.
To reconnect spiritually:
- Discuss the intense topics and questions! Start a conversation about why you think you are on earth, what you think God’s plan is with your marriage, what the Afterlife looks like, and about your prayers that have already been answered by God. Don’t be afraid of having an intense conversation – not only could it give you new insights about your faith, but it can also help you to get a new perspective on your partner’s ideas and outlook on life.
- Embrace faith when you are going down the wrong road. On com, Tiffany Fletcher writes: “Many times we get derailed because we have forgotten where we are going. Our destination is muddled because our purpose for continuing is unclear. When we embrace faith, with it comes knowledge of why we are here and where we are going. We gain a clearer understanding of God’s purpose for our life and what we can do to better fulfill his plan for us.”
- Be graceful towards your partner. Remember that you are two individuals and each of you is on his or her own spiritual journey. Maybe the two of you are not feeling the same regarding your faith. In the same way that God shows mercy towards you, you need to also be merciful and forgiving towards your partner. Be patient and understanding.
To reconnect intellectually:
- When was the last time that you talked about the future? The future that you used to muse about may have already arrived and it could look vastly different from the picture you had painted for yourselves. Make time to sit down in a coffee shop with your partner and discuss your health, educational, career, business, financial and political goals for the year ahead.
- Set aside time to talk to your partner, and ask him or her the following questions:
- What do you think would be a good investment for our marriage?
- What do you love about our marriage?
- What do you think is better than earth-shattering sex in a marriage?
- Stay curious about your partner. Forget the everyday questions like “How was your day?”, and ask open-ended questions that require a bit more thought, such as:
- What did you do today that you really enjoyed?
- How are things going with your team at work?
- What do you think of Lisa and Ken’s decision to immigrate to New Zealand?
- How do you think so-and-so’s fraud case is going to pan out?
- Show your partner that you are really interested in him or her.
To reconnect physically:
For you and your partner to reconnect physically, you need to spend time together and be completely present.
- Give each other proper massages. Learn how to appreciate the value of a sensual massage, but make it an act of love and service as opposed to a means to an end.
- Sleep naked. A recent study showed that couples who sleep naked have a more satisfying sex life. Even if there is no physical touching throughout the night, the skin-on-skin contact is good for you on an emotional level.
- Be sensitive towards your partner’s needs for physical affection. Remember that not everyone requires or wants the same level or amount of physical touch. While some people flourish on physical closeness, others feel ‘overstimulated’ by too much touching. You don’t need to be holding hands, hugging and kissing to be physically close. Body language like the tone of your voice or certain facial expressions, such as a secret smile, can also help you to connect with your partner on a physical level.
To reconnect sexually:
- To establish a newfound sexual connection, start by flirting. Maybe you haven’t flirted for so long that it makes you uncomfortable, but the more you practice the better you will get at it.
- Initiate sex if you’re not the one who usually initiates it. By initiating sex, you are showing your partner that you are willing to make yourself vulnerable to be intimate with him or her. You will also be communicating that you desire your partner, and everyone wants to be desired.
- Give your partner a spoil session. This means that you take turns giving each other pleasure for a period (such as half an hour or an hour) without expecting anything in return. According to relationship coach Jordan Gray, this will help you to practice being selfless while it simultaneously teaches you to ask for what you want.
Being disconnected from your partner can be the catalyst to a growing sense of panic within you, but know that the situation can be reversed. To reconnect with your partner requires mostly small gestures that are born out of bravery to make big changes within your relationship. Start fresh – your marriage deserves it.
Additional sources: www.crosswalk.com, www.psychologytoday.com, www.hitchedmag.com, ourpeacefulfamily.com and “Emotional intimacy: A comprehensive guide for connecting with the power of your emotions” by Robert Augustus Masters.
When Peter decided to take his wife, Tessa, on a love journey, he could never predict how it would impact their relationship. Or which spiritual truths would arise . . .
The couple met when they were still students and after life took its turns, ended up farming and managing a guest house. After having three kids and despite having a healthy marriage, Peter decided to do something special for his wife. It had to be more meaningful than roses and chocolate, and it had to be more memorable than dinner at a fancy restaurant. So he decided on a love journey . . .
Where did he get the idea?
“I don’t know how I got the idea, but what I do know is that God always shows up where there is love. One day, I started thinking about the hierarchy that we are supposed to function within. God comes first, then your husband or wife, followed by your children and then your job.
“Why do we get so involved with our careers and kids that we tend to lose the spark that exists between you and your spouse? We forget about God, who brought us together. This is when I realized that the biggest gift I could give my children wouldn’t be paying for their private school education or buying them expensive gifts – it would be showing them that I truly love their mother.
“I see how my sons admire me and idolize everything I do. If I can show them how to treat their future wives, then I would have taught them a valuable lesson about life. And I obviously wanted to show my wife how much I care about her.”
What did the journey entail?
Although the love journey wasn’t planned as a birthday present, the timing of the journey coincidentally coincided with Tessa’s birthday. Peter explains that he isn’t a romantic guy by nature and that he found it challenging to come up with something completely original.
“Everything about the journey had to be fresh and true to us. I forced myself to think outside of the box and stay away from the same old gestures, such as taking her to dinner,” says Peter.
One morning, when Tessa was taking the kids to school, Peter handed the challenge over to God. Within half an hour, nine ideas came to his mind. Although all men are not handy with DIY tasks, everyone has their own unique talents and Peter started to work with determination.
He didn’t have time to work on his love journey project during the day, so he had to secretly plan everything without Tessa noticing what was going on. Each of the activities for the nine days was carefully planned so that the journey could flow smoothly.
This is how the love journey panned out:
I brought Tessa coffee in bed and put three flowers from the garden on a tray. I also included a glass vase filled with little wooden stars and a letter. Only one of the wooden stars was perfectly carved out and I placed this perfect star in the middle of the vase.
In the letter, I wrote: “There are many stars in the universe. Big ones, small ones, bright ones and pretty ones, but to me you are the biggest, brightest star. You are my star. Try to find the perfect star in this vase – this is what you are in my eyes.” I then left the house and continued with my farming activities.
I’m an involved father, but if I’m really honest I must admit that I don’t pull my weight when it comes to changing nappies and bathing the little ones. My wife takes care of everything.
I decided to show Tessa that I appreciate everything she does by writing letters to her from the point of view of our one-year-old daughter, and hiding them in the nappies that she would be using that day.
The letters read: “Thank you for changing my nappy when Daddy is too grossed out to do it”; “If I had to wait for Dad to change this nappy, my bum would have a rash”; “When I look at you while you change my nappy, I see the best mom in the whole world”; and “Mommy, do you know how beautiful you are?”
I brought my wife coffee and a small bottle of her favorite perfume in bed, with a note that read: “You might need this today. I love you.”
I continued with my daily activities and phoned my wife at home at about 11am to ask her to look for something specific in my office. Next to the computer, I left a bottle of rose-scented cream with a little poem that had a private joke that only the two of us would understand. She was laughing helplessly when she phoned me back. It was great fun!
At 2pm, I gave her a wood-based invite that had information engraved on it. It read:
Place: Our farm.
Time: As soon as you are done with everything you need to organize at the guest house (my wife runs the guest house on our farm).
What: Dinner for two by candlelight.
Dress code: Sexy.
Arrangements for Cara (our one-year-old daughter): Pack her overnight bag, she has a sleepover date.
Reason: You deserve it. I love you very much and I want to be with you, around you and inside you. Words can’t express what I feel.
The moment when she read the invitation, was priceless. The expression on her face looked like something between crying and laughing. While Tessa was busy helping the guests to settle in at the guesthouse, our neighbor dropped off a four-course meal that she had prepared for us and she took our daughter home with her for the sleepover. I put on my wife’s favorite music, set the table, and placed candles and roses around the living room and dining room.
When Tessa arrived, I blindfolded her and led her to the room, where she could change into her fancy outfit. The best times I’ve had with my wife have been at home, because the atmosphere is just right. No fancy restaurant can compete with the level of comfort we feel at home.
My wife was so relaxed and emotional about the whole setup that she found it hard to speak without crying. We spent time talking, dancing and just enjoying each other’s company in the empty house.
Afterwards, I told her that coffee would be served in bed. I bought her age-appropriate sexy nighties and I left it for her on the bed. It was an unforgettable night filled with passion and romance.
I work hard on the farm and didn’t have a lot of free time during the morning. My next surprise could only be kick-started at around lunch time. I made Tessa a ‘love box’, which was a wooden chest filled with six red wooden hearts, a lavender scented soap and a bottle of lavender cream.
I tried to remove all stressors from her day. I tended to the guests at the guesthouse, took care of some household tasks and got Cara to sleep with me in a different room so that she could get a good night’s rest.
I timed my appearance perfectly to coincide with the moment when she got out of the bath. I took a towel, dried her wet body and massaged the lavender cream all over her body. I felt such awe and appreciation for my wife in that moment. I was in awe of the fact that God had blessed me with the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and that I have the privilege to love her the way that I do.
Today is the day of love letters. I didn’t write any of the letters beforehand, but as the day progressed, I focused on Tessa and wrote down my thoughts. I surprised her with three letters throughout the day.
The first letter was about the previous night and how much it means to me to be able to care for her. The second letter was about all the feelings I experience whenever I look at her. The third letter was a letter asking for forgiveness. I asked her to forgive me for all the times that I was too selfish to consider her needs above my own.
Our sons are in boarding school during the week. Now it was weekend and we had a full house, so my plan was to involve my two sons so that they could help me make their mother feel like a princess.
We morphed a piece of metal into a sign that read ‘We love you’, and after the sun had set, we set it alight on the grass. When Tessa came out into the garden and saw it, she was visibly moved. One of my sons said: “Dad, we really have a great family, right?”
I got all three of my children to dip their hands in paint to create an invitation, which was inviting Tessa to a picnic in our tree house that evening. Throughout the day, each of the children gave their mom a handwritten letter telling her why they think she is the best mom in the world.
We cleaned the tree-house and placed pillows everywhere for us to sit. Tessa read the letters from the children out loud, and we had a great time eating and enjoying each other’s company. At one point, Tessa suggested that we all share secrets. The kids shared personal stories that we never would have known about. They shared insights about burdens they had carried. It was an amazing evening of laughing, sharing, crying and comforting. It felt very liberating.
On Sunday we had guests and I read to Tessa from the Bible. I read a passage from Song of Solomon to convey that there is a reason why I, as a man, am more focused on sensuality and sexuality than she is. God made us this way. I told her that the description of a woman in this part of the Bible is how I feel about her. I think she is the most beautiful thing on the planet.
Today is my wife’s birthday. She is turning 38. It’s a special day for her, even though I didn’t give her a present (I had bought her a Le Creuset casserole a month prior to her birthday).
Tessa took the kids to school at 6am, which is a two-hour drive from our farm, and she spent time with her girlfriends to celebrate her birthday. I made a big red heart, filled with 108 candles, and I got 200 roses. I arranged the flowers in bouquets all around the house, poured Tessa a bath and chilled a bottle of champagne.
When she came back, we got into the bath and chatted to each other. After the bath, I blindfolded her and led her to the bed before I massaged her entire body with cream and oils. When she took off her blindfold, I had 38 red hearts hanging from the ceiling. This concluded our love journey. My wife had to wipe away tears of appreciation and gratitude from her cheeks.
What did the love journey mean to Tessa?
Peter had warned her that he was planning something, but Tessa thought it would be a romantic evening out. When the love journey started, she immediately realized that this would be something different, something deeper . . .
She says that Peter regularly tells her he loves her and appreciates her, and that he is more of a practical guy that a romantic one. “I could tell that all the romantic and loving ideas came from him, it was something that God had catalyzed for us. Peter was definitely inspired by something, and he spent a lot of time planning and perfecting my love journey.”
She says that she once again realized that intimacy is something that we receive as a gift from God.
How did it change their sex life?
Peter says the frequency hasn’t changed, but the intensity has changed drastically. “Both me and my wife feel like we can’t get close enough to each other – we want to melt into each other. We could talk openly about our needs, we were less self-conscious and shy, and we were both really focused on pleasing each other. We were able to be in love selflessly again.
“Today I look back on our love journey as something that taught both of us how to appreciate each other again. It was much more than a journey, it was a path that God took us on to understand the true meaning of love between a husband and wife, as well as the love between the two of us and Him.”
It can be very hard to forgive someone who has broken your trust, but if your marriage necessitates forgiveness, you must try. How do you do it?
Caren and Jacques were the perfect couple. After being married for seven years, having two kids together and both having stable careers, Jacques cheated on Caren with a woman he met at the gym.
The affair only lasted a short time, but it led him down a path of strip clubs, Internet pornography and multiple lies. For two years, Caren felt like she didn’t even know her husband. He became a stranger to her, a person who didn’t respect her.
After attending a faith-based camp for men, Jacques turned his life around. He admitted all his transgressions and sins, showed true remorse and asked for forgiveness. But this was a big request from his side . . .
On his website, marriage and family therapist Bernell Christensen writes that he regularly works with spouses who find it hard to forgive their partners after years of betrayal. “A partner can experience rejection, confusion, feelings of inadequateness and self-doubt, as well as other strong emotions.
“If you don’t deal with these emotions in a productive and healthy way, it can become toxic. These feelings can damage the health and wellbeing of the spouse who is experiencing the negative emotions, and it can cause damage in the relationship.”
Maybe you can relate with Caren’s story. No marriage is completely free of transgressions. Everyone is prone to saying something in the heat of the moment, but if you hurt your partner, you must be prepared to ask him/her for forgiveness and accept the consequences. The people that we love the most, are often the ones that we hurt the most. In many marriages, forgiveness is something that needs to happen often.
What is forgiveness?
Christianity, as well as many other religions, promotes forgiveness. It is a God-given instruction, but it’s one thing to say you forgive your partner and a completely different thing to truly forgive him or her. For example, it isn’t true forgiveness when you say that you can forgive, but not forget. If you can’t put something behind you, then you have not truly forgiven.
Forgiveness means freeing yourself from a range of negative emotions and energy. It’s about letting go of your bitterness, rage and frustration, and replacing it with a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for your own blessings, talents and self-worth, as well as for the positive things that your partner contributes to your relationship. Forgiveness is the tool that you use to give you peace and takes a weight off your shoulders.
Why is forgiveness necessary?
Forgiveness makes you stronger. However, many women feel that forgiveness would make them weaker and more vulnerable. They are also scared that by forgiving their partner, their partner won’t understand how hurt they are and may transgress in the same way again in the future. However, trying to punish your partner isn’t the answer.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
The inability to forgive can become a prison, says Dr Nicki P Anderson on www.nikianderson.com. If you can’t forgive your husband for the pain he has caused you, you won’t be able to forget about it, the wounds will get deeper and your rage and fear won’t subside.
Pride often stands in the way of true forgiveness. Although some women walk away from the marriage, they continue to feed their rage. This can increase their stress levels and lead to other psychological and physical problems.
If you continue holding on to your hurt, disappointments and rage, you are wasting your precious time and energy. Harbored hurt will lead to bitterness and hate, which in turn will lead to spiritual and physical ailments.
How do you forgive?
You have to practice forgiveness. There is no magical solution, but you have to free yourself from anything you are holding onto. This implies that the change needs to happen within you, but you also have to proactively change your thoughts and behavior. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend that nothing happened and that everything is normal, but you must realize that true forgiveness is a process that requires hard work and time.
If your partner has done something that requires your forgiveness, try the following:
- Call the transgression or hurt by its name. Say: “You went to a strip club, had a lap dance and lied to me about it. This hurt me a lot because it feels like you don’t respect me or the intimacy we share.” Ask questions such as: “What moral code did you break, what does this mean and what are the consequences?”
- Experience true healing. You may feel that you don’t want to revisit the painful situation, but if you try to avoid the healing and recovery that need to take place, it could lead to more pain and hurt. You need to admit, feel and experience the pain that you feel. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel hurt because your partner broke your trust.
- Break the silence. It can benefit you to share the details of the transgression with a therapist, a trusted person or a legal advisor (depending on the nature of the transgression). To heal and to forgive requires that you admit that something is wrong and that someone is to blame.
- Prevent the situation from happening again. You need to do everything in your power to stop the transgression from taking place again. If the transgression entails your husband going to a strip club, you may feel that the situation is beyond your control. What you can do, is to tell your husband that you won’t tolerate this type of pain and hurt again, and that he will have to protect you from this pain and hurt in the future.
- Restore the balance in your relationship. The balance will be restored when the transgressor accepts the consequences of his or her actions. If your husband is addicted to Internet pornography, admits there is a problem and joins a support group, then he is accepting responsibility and trying to change. You can’t force him to change by withholding sex.
- Be honest and forgive. To receive the full benefits of forgiveness, you need to forgive your partner by saying it out loud. Be specific about what you are forgiving him for. Don’t say “I should forgive”, “I will forgive” or “I want to forgive”.
Remember that even though the Bible tells us to continue forgiving each other, it doesn’t mean that you should stay in a damaging or dangerous situation. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but if you have been able to work through the forgiveness process and your partner continues to mistreat you, lie to you or cheat on you, it’s time to get professional help or even end the hurtful relationship. In this situation, the process of forgiveness will take even longer (www.marriage.about.com).
Losing weight has never been such a fun-filled activity! A good sex life not only helps you to sleep better and boosts your energy levels, but it can also burn a lot of calories. So how do you start following this fitness plan?
- Think sexy. If you go to the gym for an aerobics class, you need appropriate attire. The same is applicable to your mattress aerobics session. Invest in a seductive outfit to motivate both of you to ‘work out’.
- Do the Elvis-pelvis. For this move, you need to be naked with your pelvises touching each other. Lift your arms and lean backwards while keeping your pelvis connected to your partner’s pelvis. Stay in this position for three seconds and repeat five times.
- Make sex a priority. Try to have sex three to five times per week for half an hour at a time. This may sound like too much, but if you consider how much time you spend in front of the television, then it is only a drop in the ocean . . . and sitting on the couch with a packet of chips definitely won’t help you to get rid of the weight that you gained during the winter!
- Keep your goal in mind. Sex burns the same amount of calories as brisk walking. Energetic and longer periods of sex can burn up to 1 650 calories. The active partner (which is usually the person on top) will usually burn more calories.
- Stay focused. It’s easy to get caught up in the pleasures of sex with your partner. Remember that your goal is to burn calories, so ensure that you are active. Within weeks, you will see a difference in the shape and tone of your muscles.
- Keep your mattress aerobics interesting. An exercise regime doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative and try new things. As you lose weight and become stronger, you will both be able to experiment with new positions. Make sure that both of you are comfortable with the activities and enjoy it.
- Keep an eye on your diet. A healthy diet will help you to reach your weight loss goals much faster. A balanced menu of fruit, vegetables, whole grain and protein will help you to satisfy your nutritional needs. Limit your alcohol intake to get results faster.
- Exercise together outside of the bedroom. A healthy sex life can do wonders for your body, but regular exercise outside of the bedroom is still important. If you exercise with your partner, it could help both of you to get in the right mood . . . The endorphins, healthy glow and lively feeling that you get from being physically active, is the perfect preamble for an exercise session in the bedroom.
- Encourage each other. A compliment that makes you feel flaming hot, is worth gold when you are trying to lose weight. Tell him how sexy his tight bum looks or admire his biceps that are growing after each ‘workout session’.
- Enjoy each other afterwards. Take a shower together when you need to get rid of sweat after a ‘workout’. Touch each other softly and be loving – this may even motivate you for another session!
Combining your exercise regime with sex is like hitting two birds with one stone – you and your husband will be losing weight together while increasing your level of intimacy. So, what are you waiting for? Start searching for the perfect sexy outfit for tonight!
Wives do several things to show their commitment. Whether it’s staying faithful to your husband, cooking dinner every evening, helping with household tasks or making love regularly, we all do things that can contribute to a happy marriage . . . but does this really contribute to having a truly committed marriage?
Commitment is much more than never cheating on your spouse. Commitment is a choice that you make, every day, to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Both partners need to be committed to the relationship, to each other’s goals and to the goals of their marriage.
Every marriage will have challenges and stumbling blocks, but commitment is the glue that will help you and your partner to face the storms that come your way. Instead of seeing a rough patch or a challenge as an excuse to bail out of the relationship, you refocus and realign to ensure that you are on the same page and can be a united front – this is what commitment does for your marriage.
Commitment is a choice
According to Julie Lowe from Savingyour-marriage.info, you can’t make a marriage work without commitment, as your marriage can’t grow and flourish without it. But how do you do it and where do you start?
If you’re on the brink of getting married, you need to do a lot of introspection to make sure that this is what you really want and that you are prepared for the work that goes into having a committed marriage. Once you have decided that this person and marriage are what you want, you need to commit to it for life.
If you are already married, you will know that commitment is a choice that you make every day. You wake up and choose to love your partner and give him or her the support, time, care and encouragement that he or she needs on a daily basis.
Your emotions and feelings will deepen, and although there will be times when being in love will feel like a lot of effort and work, marriage and commitment are a choice that will get you through the tough times.
Tips for a committed marriage
With choices come priorities – what is at the top of your list, what gets preference and what can wait until later.
Tony Derbyshire from Relationship-secrets.com explains that commitment should be one of your top priorities. “A relationship is something that you must work on, and it takes care as well as effort if you want your marriage to blossom and grow. A beautiful flower gets more beautiful when it gets care and attention, to prevent it from dying. The same applies to marriages!”
Some people stay together for the sake of their kids or due to an obligation. Although this type of dedication can be admired, you also want to be happy throughout your marriage. True commitment goes further than loyalty and responsibility, and it is cemented by duty, trust, friendship, hard work and long-term vision for the relationship. True commitment is rewarding and it brings you closer to each other, so that you want to be in the marriage (not because you feel you have to).
Here are a few practical tips for commitment:
Step 1: Make your relationship a priority. How important is your relationship to you? How much time have you spent with your partner recently? What specific things have you done to protect your friendship? Does your partner know that you are committed? How can you show each other that you are committed to the marriage?
Step 2: Both of you should get a pen and paper. Make a list of five categories: Money, work, marriage, entertainment and friends. Number each item according to what you think your partner’s priorities are. Swap your lists and talk about the changes that you can make in your lives to make your commitment even stronger. Ask yourself: What I can do to show more interest in the things that interest my partner?
Step 3: Get rid of all forms of infidelity, including pornography and relationships with colleagues or friends that have a romantic element to them. It causes unbelievable damage to your unity. Ask yourself: When was the last time I flirted with my spouse? If you are attracted to someone else, limit your contact with this person.
Step 4: Show a bit of initiative during the day to make your partner feel special. Whether your marriage is rock solid or a bit wobbly, make time to spend together. Always work on staying committed to your marriage.
Everyone is busy these days, but spend quality time together as often as possible. Celebrate each other’s successes and support each other through thick and thin.
The blurred lines between fantasy, reality and virtual reality can take a marriage down the slippery slope of a cyber affair. A divorced man tells the story about how a virtual relationship cost him his marriage, but how there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
John* (48) and Lisa* (45) were high-school sweethearts who dated throughout college, until they got married when John was 27 and Lisa was 25. Less than two years later, they welcomed their firstborn child – an unplanned surprise – to their family. Lisa wanted a big family, but John wanted to travel a bit more first. Despite his wanderlust, he and Lisa had four kids together.
Even though everything looked great on the surface, John harbored feelings of frustration and boredom. “I love my kids more than anything or anyone in the world. But our marriage quickly became very predictable. I wanted to be able to see the world and experience new adventures with Lisa, but we were parents and had a different role to fulfil,” says John.
“She is just a colleague . . .”
John went away for a week to attend a work conference. “I work for a multi-national corporation. A colleague from an overseas branch joined my team at the conference and we really hit it off at the event.”
The two experienced an immediate connection and they sought each other’s company when they had to work in groups. Their shared professional interests also complemented each other and enhanced their connection.
After the conference, the female colleague went back to her office and John to his. He immediately contacted her on Skype, while convincing himself that this was an above-board interaction.
“We are colleagues that had to work together, so I could rationalize the interactions as work-related,” said John. But John didn’t want to admit to himself that he might be experiencing more than just a platonic work interest in the woman, and their interactions morphed into a full-blown cyber affair.
From light-hearted to intimate
Initially, their conversations were light-hearted. As John’s frustration with his marriage and home life grew, their conversations became more intimate. They spent hours chatting online and John was able to convince Lisa that his virtual friend was a colleague who was working on a work-related project with him. “This was obviously not true,” says John.
At the peak of their cyber affair, they had phone sex. “I knew that we crossed a line, but because I had never touched her physically – she was on the opposite side of the globe – I convinced myself that I wasn’t really doing something wrong.”
John was very careful to avoid getting caught. “I always carried my phone with me and I never left my laptop unattended. This carried on for about a year.”
One day, Lisa popped in unannounced at John’s office because she wanted to take him out for lunch. He was in a meeting and his laptop was left open on his desk. Lisa saw what had been going on and she was heartbroken. A few months later, they were divorced.
Stepping back into the real world
“A cyber affair looks different than a ‘normal’ affair,” says psychologist Carien du Toit-Joubert. “But the damage that it can cause isn’t less severe or painful.”
Carien says it’s easy to engage in low-stakes cyber contact without fully realizing how the relationship is gaining momentum and getting stronger. “The initial stages of a cyber affair look so innocent and it’s often due to curiosity and boredom, but the apparent innocence can quickly evolve to something much bigger, especially if both parties feel an attraction.
“And the psychological energy that you are supposed to be giving to your spouse slowly gets drained from your marriage and makes its way to the inbox of another person!”
According to Carien, many people who have been involved in virtual infidelity don’t want to admit to themselves that they “cheated”. “The internal dialogue they keep telling themselves sounds like this: ‘I’m at home with my husband or wife, I do my part and fulfill all my responsibilities. I’m not sleeping with anyone else . . . we are just chatting!’
“Unfortunately, the reality of what is going on is much different because the online ‘friendship’ is both an emotional exit from your marriage as well as a way to keep a back door open for another romantic connection.”
Another dimension of cyber affairs is that it’s easy to live in a fantasy world with a person who doesn’t have to face the usual challenges of a real-life relationship. “Your online partner doesn’t have to change diapers with you, and they don’t have to discuss how you’re going to get the leaky furnace fixed. You’re living in a fantasy that a real-life relationship can’t compete with,” says Carien.
The cyber affair then develops and grows in the privacy of your psyche, because there is no way for you to verify the idea of a person that you’ve built up in your own mind with reality.
“The peak of a cyber affair is when a partner starts blurring the lines between reality and fantasy by making sexual contact online. This can happen through phone sex or sexting. The dangers of this are as clear as daylight.”
However, a marriage can survive a virtual affair and it can even flourish afterwards. Carien says that a couple in this situation needs to investigate the gaps in their relationship that could have led to the cyber affair.
“You have to investigate the root of the problem individually, as well as together. Maybe your relationship has stagnated. Maybe one or both of you are bored with the status quo of your marriage.”
Secondly, says Carien, you have to start rebuilding the trust that was broken by keeping secrets from each other. Get rid of the obstacles. “To simply start policing your partner’s phone and Internet activity, isn’t the solution because it’s rooted in distrust.”
Lastly, it will help to remind yourself that no “perfect” partner exists. “Rather try to bring the fantasy world and playful curiosity to the safe space of your marriage.”