Do you know the signs of a social media affair? They are becoming more and more common, as 81 percent of the nation's top divorce attorneys say that over the past 5 years, they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking as evidence. This reveals the growing magnitude of the dangers of social media. It's a problem I witness daily in my office; one member of Affair Recovery wrote:
"Facebook is a trap... I wish I could rewind things back to the day when I took the bait. I knew not to accept this guy's friend request. He was such a bad boy in high school and, truth be told, I broke up with him because he was a hell raiser and a partier..."
Another person wrote...
"My wife's affair was more of a texting adventure gone bad, although I can see how being friends on Facebook contributed to the warm fuzzies that led to the affair, which was ignited one day when this "friend" began to text her with more daring and intimate thoughts... instant access to people's actions and lives plays into the affair"
What makes us vulnerable to social media relationships?
1. Quick Response: The instant gratification of online access allows rapid reinforcement of behavior, which causes emotions to drive the process rather than our rational self.
2. Accessibility: The Internet provides access to people we would never rub elbows with in our normal life.
3. The Online Disinhibition Effect: Due to the invisibility provided by the Internet, people are less inhibited and will say or do things online they would never speak or do to someone in person.
4. Anonymity: Not being known by the other party allows an individual to role play whatever personality they can imagine. It's a powerful drug to have others respond to you as the person you've always wanted to be.
5. Affordability: People think that if it's not hurting anyone, then there's no harm. The fact that there seems to be no apparent cost associated with the behavior (either financially or relationally) makes it seem more acceptable.
6. The Illusion of Secrecy: This allows for self-gratification. People think that no one will know they are living a secret life and fulfilling their fantasies while living as a married person.
How do you know if your online behaviors are nearing dangerous?
• You hesitate before friending this person
• You're more committed to checking your email
• Getting away from a computer or mobile device is more difficult than working a Rubik's cube
• You're far more open with your online friend than with your mate
• You lock your mobile device and computer tighter than Fort Knox to assure your mate doesn't invade your privacy
• Meeting face-to-face seems like a better idea then talking online
• Time spent with your online "friend" exceeds time spent with family or work
• Wondering what your "friend" is doing becomes your primary past time
• Either of you expresses feelings for the other person
• Your attraction for your "friend" exceeds your attraction for your mate
• If either of you say, "this may be inappropriate, we need to slow down." When that happens, you don't need to cut back, you need to cut it off because you've become addicted to that person.
What to do if an online relationship has become a problem:
• Do what is necessary to terminate the relationship or behavior. The gradual process is of no use at all. Cut it off if possible, and if you find you can't stop it, then get help either from a professional counselor, pastor, or 12-step books. Do whatever it takes to get disentangled.
• Do the work to discover what it was that made you vulnerable in the first place and what made your marriage vulnerable.
• Tell your mate what's going on, but don't blame your mate. Bad marriages don't cause this, bad choices do. Take personal responsibility. I realize they will be upset, but they need to know you're choosing them over the behavior or person.
• Work on healing and growing your marriage.
If your marriage is in trouble, visit AffairRecovery.com and take the free Affair Analyzer. Our success rate over the last decade is three out of four marriages saved, even when lies, adultery, porn, anger or other serious issues have deeply hurt the relationship. Social media and online networking may seem harmless but if you have been affected by their temptations, know that there are countless others like you and that there is hope.
Affair Recovery specializes in helping people heal after infidelity. After recovering from his own affair 25 years ago and helping 2,000+ other couples do the same, founder Rick Reynolds and his team have developed research-validated, groundbreaking online and in-person programs for redeeming the losses created by infidelity, betrayal, and sexual addiction. To learn more, visit AffairRecovery.com and take the free Affair Analyzer.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more