Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428
Throughout the day, most of us have our eyes focused on and our noses buried in our smartphone or tablet. If we aren't browsing, we are communicating with others. Today’s communication technology is revolutionary, allowing us to call, text, and e-mail anyone with speed and ease. Here’s a question: have your communication skills improved as a result? One might conclude that all this furious communication would inevitably lead to better communication between people. In my experience, this question does not have a straightforward answer. The advantages of today’s communications technology are nearly endless. the affordability and Ease of communicating with others allows us to stay in touch with loved ones many times during the day, whether they are close by, or overseas.
Yet when I work with couples, I often hear about the darker side of texting and e-mailing. Its mere existence can cause conflict and lead to distrust within committed relationships. Sometimes problems arise because of how or how often a couple communicates. most often, however, problems erupt when one partner discovers that the other Has been texting or e-mailing someone else - someone who isn’t them, and someone they perceive as a threat to the relationship.
If any of the quotes below are familiar, read on:
“I checked his cell phone and found text messages from an old girlfriend. Why didn’t you tell me she had been texting you? How long has this been going on? Have you texted her back? Are you covering something up? How can I trust you if I don’t know who you’re texting?”
“Her e-mail account was open on the iPad. I took a quick glance, then couldn’t help but snoop around. I couldn’t believe what I found. Why would she keep old e-mails from her ex-husband? I’m her husband now, and she needs to cut her ties with him. How can I trust her if I don’t know who she’s e-mailing? Who else has been contacting you?”
“I checked his cell phone and found dozens of text messages from a girl named Nancy. Who the heck is Nancy? He told me she’s just a friend he met at work, but they text each other over a dozen times each day. Some suggestive comments are going back and forth – what the heck am I to make of all of this? Are you having an affair?”
When I work with couples, one or both partners may confess to phone snooping, e-mail checking, and rapid-fire texting during disagreements (“I’m trying to work, and he continues texting me non-stop, all day. It’s 100% compulsive and out of control. I can’t go on like this.”)
Why do people do it? most are motivated by one of two beliefs, 1) “I don’t trust him” or 2) “I’m afraid of losing her.” driven by 'fear', snoopers snoop hoping to waylay their fears or confirm their suspicions.
But snooping can be dangerous. upon discovery of possible incriminating evidence, Strong emotions can overpower the snooper and cloud their view of reality. It is Essential to Pay attention to the evidence in front of you - on what is real, and not on what might be real. If you fail to do this, strong emotions can lead you to misinterpret and misunderstand what you find. For example, discovering that your partner recently received a text from an old love may be completely innocent. The text came in, he ignored it, and did not respond. But when you discover it and read it, fear kicks in and convinces you that a) he is going to leave me for this other person, b) he is starting an affair with or is having an affair with this woman behind my back, or c) he has been communicating with this woman for a long time and has been erasing all the texts between the two of them. In all 3 of these examples, Your snooping has lead you to feel unsafe, fearful, and distrusting. Most essential, Any Misinterpretation of what you've uncovered will damage the intimacy and trust you and your partner currently share.
Again, you must examine the evidence. One text message does not prove any of the above. If you trust your partner, you will likely conclude that it’s just one unsolicited text from a curious or lonely past partner. To avoid conflict, you and your partner can agree to keep each other informed of any incoming texts (or e-mails) that either of you receives from past loves. keeping your partner fully informed of unsolicited communication from an ex can help avoid misunderstanding and senseless arguments. This applies to e-mails as well. Finding an old stash of e-mails your partner has saved written by her ex does not mean that she is unhappy and coveting a past relationship; perhaps they remind her of her youth, of her past life, and of who she once was. They’re just old e-mails, and your partner might simply be sentimental.
Of course, sometimes our fears are realized, and we discover that our partner has been having an affair. At a crossroad, you must decide to leave or remain together. To rebuild, both partners must commit to sharing the whole truth. The unfaithful partner must come 100% clean, and if you have secrets to tell, now is the time for you to reveal them. Trust cannot re-establish itself until all secrets are revealed. I always recommend working with a couple’s coach during relationship rebuilding. Your coach will provide a clearer understanding of what steps need to be taken to rebuild your relationship, as well as provide support and guidance while you recover.
A Word on Emotional Affairs
An emotional affair can be as devastating to a relationship as a sexual affair. Emotional affairs deplete emotional energy and create relational distance. As humans, we have a finite amount of emotional energy to share. An emotional affair depletes your energy and leaves little for you to share with your primary partner. the emotional and sexual intimacy you share with your partner will begin to fade, and distance will continue to grow between you. Here are some signs that you are having an emotional affair: a) Frequent contact with the person when you are not physically with them. Frequent communication with this person and at questionable hours. Much time spent texting and e-mailing this person. B) Very private matters are discussed. You begin to share the details of and problems with your current relationship. You share most of your personal problems with this person. This often leads to further discontent with your spouse. C) You begin to think about him or her all the time, and you find that you cannot wait until you connect with this person again. D) Instead of calling your spouse for emotional support, you call your emotional spouse. You call them first when something new or exciting happens in your life. You also call them first when you’re feeling down or depressed, valuing their support over that of your spouse. 5. Infatuated, you believe this person understands you best. They get who you are and what you need emotionally. E) Secrets begin being kept. You lie by omission, not telling your spouse about your communication with or time spent with this person. Text messages become secret, and you find yourself deleting texts and e-mails from this person, scared you will be found out. F) You give more of yourself to him or her than you give to your spouse. You share your innermost thoughts and feelings with this person and leave your spouse in the dark. G) Although not sexual, the level of intimacy that is created in an emotional affair can destroy your primary relationship just as a sexual affair can.
Ending emotional affairs and rebuilding following an emotional affair is often difficult because the offending partner continues to believe that their emotional partner is just a ‘friend’. They struggle to understand and see the harm that their emotional affair causes or caused.