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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Partner Found out I Was Flirting with Men on the Internet

September 5, 2020

Dear Stavroula,

I do not know how to write about my problem to you, because I am very ashamed. I have been divorced for eight years. My husband left me for another woman after five years of marriage. Ever since I divorced, I have been trying to rebuild my life, but the relationships I’ve had always fail because of me.

My last relationship, which lasted two and a half years, ended because my partner realized that I was chatting online with other men. This break up hurt a great deal and I cannot forgive myself for ruining a friendly and calm relationship by communicating – and sometimes meeting, but never proceeding to sexual relations – with men who seemed interesting to me, through social media dating sites.

I really do not know what drives me to this kind of behavior. I am very attracted to romantic flirting, but, I repeat, it almost never goes any further.

I tried to honestly explain to my partner that it was something like a game for me which never went beyond just a few messages and some rare encounters, but he did not believe me.

He has cut off all communication with me and I really miss him a lot. I regret this mistake of mine every day. How do you advise me to approach him? Is there a chance I can win him back?

Anastasia

Dear Anastasia,

It is a very common phenomenon nowadays, romantic flirting via the internet. The fact that we have access to it from everywhere facilitates communication but also infidelity. However, the prevailing view is that online flirting is not infidelity but merely a game, since there is no physical contact – often not even personal contact, and the chances of such a relationship being revealed are slim.

From what you write to me, I understand that you may have the same attitude towards this issue.

But for some, perhaps for your partner, it is a form of infidelity or at least a betrayal of feelings about infidelity. To understand how your partner may feel, try to put yourself in his shoes for a while. If you found love messages on his computer, how would you feel? Would you consider it a game, and could you ignore it? Would you feel that you can trust him in the same way as before? If you were your partner, what would convince you that this person has romantic feelings for you? What would convince you not to feel hurt and not to leave him?

By answering these questions, you may be able to see if and when you can approach your partner again.

I really cannot answer your question about whether there is a chance to win him back. But what I could suggest to you, in order to better understand yourself and avoid such situations in the future, is to try to find, perhaps with the help of an expert, what is pushing you towards online flirting, even when you feel secure in your relationship.

Usually, there is a strong need for approval and self-acceptance behind such behaviors. Let us not forget that on the internet we can present ourselves as we would like to be and not as we really are.

Other times, flirting while being in a stable relationship can reveal a dysfunction in the relationship but also intense emotional insecurity that prevents the problem from being addressed or the situation clarified.

Finally, there are people who unknowingly cause the end of their relationship when they feel emotionally attached to someone because they are afraid that they are not good enough and there is a chance that their partner will leave them. Maybe this corresponds more to your case, from the moment your first husband left you.

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