If your man cheats online, my heart goes out to you and I know that finding evidence of his romantic, sexual or loving words written to another woman can be like a dagger through the heart.
I never went through this with my husband or with a serious boyfriend but I did briefly date a guy who had a harem of women that he 'Facebook-ed' with and the sexy things these women were writing on his wall (for everyone to see) made me wonder what was in his message inbox. We broke it off after a few months but even though we weren't serious, I was very heartbroken and angry when I read the cyber love notes on my News Feed. I can only imagine how you feel and I send you strength and compassion.
So, how do you handle him now that you have caught him cheating online? And what if it's not the first time but the 5th or 6th?
Educate Yourself About The Affair
First, I want to ask you about the 'flavor' or gist of his connection with this woman or women? Are the conversations hot & steamy and packed thick with flattery? Or are they more intimate in nature (two people soothing and tenderizing each other with comforting and loving words, as if sharing a deep care for one another)?
If your man is sending hot and steamy messages, he's probably using women to boost his ego and validate him as a virile man.
If your man is sending more intimate messages, more than likely he's craving emotional intimacy and feels unloved inside.
Now that DOESN'T mean that you're not appreciating him enough or aren't showing him love. His feelings and reasons for going online have nothing to do with your worth as a woman and they never excuse his actions. A cheater's reasons usually have to do with their self-image and/or inability to communicate emotional needs. Please don't beat yourself up if your man cheats online-- he's the cheater!
The reason I mention it at all is to simply say that men who send intimate messages are having emotional affairs, which can be even more painful to the betrayed partner. I do find, however, that these types of affairs can offer more hope to the relationship than the affairs that are wrapped up in ego boosts. Those kinds of affairs are usually a sign of emotional detachment (propensity toward serious intimacy problems) and are even a characteristic of Narcissism. (Doesn't mean your man is necessarily a narcissist).
It's best you are armed with a general sense of the issue at hand so you can know how you want to proceed. Afterall, he may lie to you about the extent of his cheating (he may even be addicted to his cheating), and these are things you should think about. A couples' therapist or even your own personal therapist can better help you understand his motives and actions.
Put Up Your Personal Boundaries
Regardless of the type of affair your man is having, the first thing you have to do when your man cheats online is put up your boundaries. You have to know what you will and won't tolerate. You should be prepared to stop being emotionally and physically intimate with him until he stops the affair. If you aren't prepared to kick him out, separtate or breakup, at least speak up and tell him that you are no longer going to be intimate with him until he stops the affair.
Tell him what you don't want in a relationship; "I don't want to be with a someone who has inappropriate conversations online with women"; "I don't want to feel this pain because of a man who goes outside the relationship for validation and intimacy."...
Be calm, direct, soft and honest when you speak with him. Take deep breaths and try as hard as you can to not to get hysterical, be an ice pick or act condescending. Talk to him like he's a friend or a mature child who needs to understand how he has upset you and what you won't accept from him.
Refrain from arguing, blaming, yelling, begging, pleading, making passive aggressive comments and li'l jabs (even if he gets defensive, acts clueless or becomes argumentative). In fact, express your boundaries and try to have no more contact than that. Hold back from engaging him. If he engages you in dialogues or even in loving physical touches, simply tell him again what you don't want in your relationship and if he isn't willing to talk about it or open up, leave the room.
If you have children in the house, remember that being a good parental team is still a must, but you don't have to allow him to use the kids to make you show affection and intimacy to him in their presence. Be kind and polite and keep your children out of it but still stick with your boundaries.
Handling him in this manner allows both of you to cool down and process things. It will show him that you are very upset and are strong enough inside to do something about this problem and not let it continue behind your back. It also shows him that you are mature and know how to handle yourself without getting overly emotional. (Most times strong emotional outbursts or numb cold shoulders keep us 'plugged in' to the drama instead of helping us crawl out of the blackness.)
If he does open up, listen to him and try to be proactive about the health of your relationship. Tell him you want to seek counseling. If he admits that he's wrong (lots of online cheaters claim innocence due to the nature of the connection) and he apologizes, ask him why he does it. Welcome his honesty and try not to guilt-trip him; he may not even know why. If he has been having an emotional affair, ask him what he isn't getting from you that he needs. Refrain from prying or defending yourself. If you feel too emotional, tell him politely that you have to end the conversation for now.
Wait a few days letting things process, and then ask him if he'd like to resume talking about things or would like to go to therapy together. If he says no, remain calm and accept his decline. Refrain from getting angry, pushing him to speak or crying to pull him close to you. Leave him be.
Take Your Life Back
If your man cheats online, it's time you put the focus back on your life and your happiness. Afterall, you have to focus on what you CAN control-- as much as you'd like to, you utlimately can't control him. At a slow and easy pace, I want you to be kind with yourself and allow time for extra sleep and room for all your feelings to be felt. Be calm and still in your heart throughout your days (in the mornings especially). Remaining calm and still allows you to slow down enough to stop bottling your feelings and putting your anxiety into nonstop working and doing at the job and in the house. It's important that you feel all your feelings right now and let them surface inside you. Whatever you feel-- anger, sadness, loneliness... invite it all to emerge by not busying yourself too much.
Take time to do little things for yourself and pamper yourself when you can: Stop by the farmers' market on your way home and pick out some fresh fruit for yourself or some cheeses. Get a manicure and a pedicure. Go to coffees with friends and make a promise to yourself not to complain about your man for more than 15 minutes with them. Read a touching and uplifting book. DATE YOURSELF. This is a big one. I want you to go on dates by yourself (no friends). Go bowling, to the movies,to the park, to a fancy restaurant. Make a point to do this once every week and make it something fun and recreational.
His wrongdoing is a chance for you to get to know yourself better and spend more time having a love affair with yourself. You should even write yourself love letters. You can put a stamp on one and mail it to yourself. Or send yourself flowers. This is a beautiful way to celebrate the fabulous woman you are. Refrain from purchasing expensive jewelry, etc. on his credit card or vengeful acts like that, because as delicious as that sounds to your ego, it's an act that's more about him than you. And YOU are what counts right now-- the you that's separate from him.
When your man cheats online, it can shatter your self-esteem in ways you may not even be aware of. Suddenly, you may be doubting your sex appeal or questioning your ability to be tender and loving. Because all these insecurities bubble-up, it's best that you 'unplug' from him as much as you can (that also means no games, silent treatment, punishing him, ignoring him for results-- just mental and physical disengagement) and take care of yourself best you can. The rest will work itself out over some time. You may feel confident enough to leave after a few weeks or months of taking your life back or he may respond well to this new dignified, heartfelt, ladylike you who doesn't take any crap from a cheating man.
I wish you the best! You are amazing!
My ebook Red Rose Woman: The Enchantress Inside You is all about taking your life back and owning your Female Fire (your radiance, your vivaciousness, your confidence) and learning how to stop giving men power over your happiness. It takes you by the hand and shows you how to communicate with a man and how to touch him and make love to him in a way that makes you the queen and him the humble servant. It may just be what you need to feel strong again and face the problem head-on. This book will fill you with goddess energy!
This article is for straight women involved with men who cheat, but I know that all different types of partners cheat-- men and women, straight and gay. I'm not implying otherwise.