Thursday, October 30, 2008

Internet Adultery

The OW who crossed my path had already had five or six adulterous flings under her belt, so to speak. I have to give her credit for her perseverance, because she managed to accomplish all that during a 12-year marriage and while caring for her two young children. Eventually she zeroed in on a wealthy older man -- also married with kids -- and their affair spiraled into a domestic drama worthy of Tolstoy. These two, whom I often think of as Bonnie and Clyde, left devastation in their wake, blowing up their marriages, wrecking two families and leaving their children in emotional turmoil for years to come.

Their affair had been largely conducted through secret email accounts, lovey-dovey instant-messages, and clandestine cell phone calls, particularly because they lived a couple thousand miles apart. I was interested to see that a new study, reported in the New York Times, found that infidelity is on the rise, especially among older men and young couples -- a demographic that matches the above-described duo. Moreover, the study found that growing numbers of these affairs are centered on electronic contact.

"I see a changing landscape in which the emphasis is less on the sex than it is on the openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets," says one marriage therapist. "Everybody talks by cell phone and the relationship evolves because you become increasingly distant from whomever you lie to, and you become increasingly close to whomever you tell the truth to."

Food for thought. While it's no surprise that the new technology fuels illicit fantasies and infatuations, perhaps the biggest danger is the lying and secrecy that it enables, driving a growing wedge between spouses that becomes, in effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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