As I have become a minor expert on this topic over the past year, I have found many resources that deserve a wider audience. This is one of them. Hopefully it will help spare someone out there the same trouble. These things sneak up on you. Before they happen, you think they never could. Once you realize it has happened, it is usually several months too late to do much about it. Hopefully, this will help you catch it early, whether it is you or your partner beginning to fall into this trap, and will get you turn off the computer and talk to your partner instead (and if that does not work on its own, go together to a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) who can help you get perspective and frame things as "us against our problems" instead of "me against you"). Best wishes. And now, the quiz:
Quiz: Warning signs that your online chatting has become an 'affair'
By Rosalie Pattenden
Clinical Practice Leader, Relationships Australia (Victoria)
1. Looking back over the past week, have you spent more than three hours talking to your online 'friend'?
2. Have you begun to plan for and look forward to your next communication with him/her?
3. Does your partner know about this friend, and would you be comfortable if he/she wanted to join in?
4. Do you 'chat' when no-one else is around?
5. Do you make excuses to go online?
6. Do you 'exit' the screen if someone walks into the room when you are chatting?
7. Are you telling your online 'friend' more about your thoughts and feelings, your achievements and disappointments than your partner?
8. Have you told your online 'friend' about problems you are having in your relationship with your partner?
9. Are you beginning to think that your online 'friend' understands and supports you more than your partner?
10. Are you finding that you are becoming unpredictable with how you treat your partner - sometimes very loving, and sometimes unnecessarily impatient?
11. Are you finding that your sex life with your partner has changed since you have had this online 'friend' - either that you are having substantially more or substantially less sex with him/her?
12. Have you considered, or actually begun to take the next step with your online friend by sending photos, talking on the phone, or meeting for coffee?
If you have answered "Yes" to five or more questions, you are crossing the line from 'online friend' to 'affair'. Are you willing to risk losing your partner and family? This is the risk you are running.
This quiz appears at the end of a short article at: http://www.aifs.gov.au/afrc/pubs/newsletter/newsletter2.html#internet
Another resource worth reading for both partners in any committed relationship, especially ones that still have no problems or only minor problems (why take risks?), is the outstanding book by Dr. Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.
I think the first 60 pages should be required reading in high school. Given the choice between learning another trigonometric identity or taking a few class periods to learn how relationship dynamics really work, and how to keep relationships close, I know which one I would choose! No matter what the state of your relationship, this will make it, and all your relationships, better. (Unless, of course, you are reading it after it's too late for your relationship, like I did. Ouch.)