Online Flirting: Harmless or a Marriage Killer?
“I can’t believe I slipped up again,” a woman said tearfully to me, recounting how she had begun flirting in a chat room again, to her own dismay and the fury of her husband.
Lydia is 40-year-old woman who works at a mortgage company in the heart of the city. Her husband, Frank, also works in the banking industry across town. With two children just recently having gone to college, their lives have changed quite dramatically.
“We have more time than we have had in the past,” she said tearfully. “We have financial stability, we go to church and I even lead a Bible study. This is crazy what I’ve done. I have a good marriage. It just doesn’t make sense. I feel so guilty.”
Lydia went on to say she goes to the gym regularly, prides herself in staying fit and has strong family values. She shared her history of having been on social media and “slipped” into a chat room, only to find the experience exciting. She had been confronted once before about a previous emotional affair. She vowed she would never, could never, allow herself to slip up like that again. Now here she was again, grasping to explain how she ended up chatting with another man secretly.
“I am so ashamed,” Lydia said. “I talk to women about not doing these kinds of things. I talk to them about not exposing themselves to needless dangers. Then, here I go and do something like this. My marriage is at risk, not to mention my role in the church as a leader. Can you help me understand this?”
Lydia and I spent a lot of time exploring her life—specifically, what was happening in her life currently, what vulnerabilities she had that she knew about and those she hadn’t known about. We talked about her marriage, her sleep patterns, her recent losses, her work and the excitement she felt when talking to men. We explored how opportunity plus vulnerability equals catastrophe.
Together we reviewed the candid words of the Apostle James: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)
We specifically went through the following process, which I recommend for you as well:
First, if you don’t know your vulnerabilities, you can be taken off guard by them. Someone has said that if we aren’t aware of our “shadow side,” we destined to be ruled by it. We all have a “shadow side,” that part of our personality we tend to push away. We are embarrassed by those traits or ashamed of them. Additionally, we have areas of vulnerability we also tend to downplay. Here again, if we don’t understand them fully we can be taken off guard by them. We fall prey to temptations we believe ourselves to be invulnerable to.
Second, take an inventory of your life—your marriage, your job, your faith life, your physical/emotional well-being and relationships. Reflect upon your life, considering all aspects of it. Ask yourself if you are happy or content with the direction of your life. If not, do have a sense that you are in control of the direction of your life and can change circumstances so that your life is more meaningful?
Third, specifically list your vulnerable areas. If your life is not what you would like it to be, specifically list out where you are vulnerable. What aspect of your life is not positive? How would you like things to change? Where might you be tempted to act out of your own values? What situations exist where you may be vulnerable and tempted?
Fourth, be transparent and accountable to others. Are there any areas of your life where you are secretive? Hopefully you are living a life of transparency, where others can see how you are living and whether you are living according to your values and integrity. If not, why not? What can be done to become accountable and transparent to others?
Finally, develop a plan to strengthen vulnerabilities and monitor/manage them. After you have discovered your vulnerabilities, make a plan to strengthen them. Discuss your plan with a trusted friend, mate, pastor or counselor. Then, once you’ve developed a plan, follow it. Strengthen your vulnerabilities to ensure you don’t have a moral, physical or emotional collapse.
Do you know where you are vulnerable? Are you living with transparency and accountability? We’d love to hear from you. What has worked in your marriage to restore connection? Please send responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.