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 | By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle

"I caught him 'chatting' online to another woman"

“I caught him ‘chatting’ online to another woman”

Cheryl says: I walked into Jim’s home office in the middle of the night, when I heard him talking to someone on Skype. He quickly shut down the computer, but not before I caught a glimpse of a woman in a negligee on the screen. He says this is “nothing,” but I feel betrayed.

“What’s the big deal?”

Jim says: I don’t know what the big deal is – it’s not as if I’m having an affair. Cheryl is blowing this all out of proportion – the woman on the computer screen is just a friend I met in an online chat room. We’ve never even met in real life, so what’s the big deal?

What do they do?: Cheryl has a legitimate reason for concern because (1) she is being betrayed and (2) one of the major causes of marriage failure today is due in large part to the Internet and the proliferation of social websites. We are reminded of the scripture passage from Matthew 5:28 that says, “… but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Any person appearing on a social network site in clothing that is revealing (a negligee would fit that category) is probably not looking for simple friendship or just to chat!

We are surprised that Jim is unable to see why Cheryl is upset! Let me see; at home in the middle of the night, Skyping with someone of the opposite gender who is wearing a revealing negligee, and then you try to hide it from your spouse when she walks in on you – of course she is upset. Jim’s actions certainly sound to us like the beginning of an affair outside his marriage relationship which will end in disaster if Jim and Cheryl do not start communicating with each other immediately.

As parents, if we walk into a room and one of our children quickly shuts down the computer, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out they were doing something inappropriately; there is no difference here. Cheryl could rightly judge that Jim was doing something inappropriately if he does not wish Cheryl to see. Jim’s actions remind us of when children do “damage control” by lashing out at the parent for violating their privacy by walking into their room. Most of the time, this is transference – trying to pass the guilt along. That appears to be the approach Jim is taking.

When one partner disregards the impact his actions have on his spouse, there is a deeper problem and that partner is venturing into dangerous territory. Their relationship is in need of repair and rebuilding

Venturing outside of marriage can be remedied if Jim and Cheryl would talk to each other about their specialness, by complimenting each other frequently, and by focusing on building the best marriage relationship they can with each other. We suggest some simple ways to start after Jim terminates his on-line relationship with the other woman. First, begin to rebuild trust by sharing with each other how thankful you are that your spouse said “yes” to your marriage, how grateful you are to God for allowing your spouse to be part of your life and what specialness attracted you to your spouse in the first place. Follow that with a discussion about the impact this online relationship has had on your relationship. Cheryl might share how it feels to be second best to a chat-room friend and Jim may wish to share why he felt it necessary to have a female chat-room friend. The discussions should take place over several sessions lasting no longer than about 15 minutes at the beginning. Because these discussions will need to come from the heart, we recommend each session begin with verbal prayer asking the Holy Spirit for guidance, patience and strength, followed by a closing prayer of thanksgiving. With prayer, the time to rebuild your marriage relationship will be shorter and the work will become more solid.