Cheater Tweets: Emotional Infidelity – Day 5

 

I’ve been thinking about this particular post for a while now. It has undergone several changes over time, from content to title, and I’m still not sure I’m really ready to write it. But, I did promise. And, I am a woman of my word.

IRL (in real life, remember), good and bad are very clearly defined. It is good to help old ladies put groceries into their cars. It’s bad to murder kittens. Clearly, there may be times when those things reverse roles, like if there was an old lady who just stole the groceries you were putting in the car, or the cat was the evil spawn of the devil. But, you get my point. Generally, life has things that are clearly right and clearly wrong.

Cheating is wrong.

No number of literary masterpieces about war-torn Europe are ever going to change my mind about the fact that having an affair is moral bankruptcy. Even in the case where there is abuse, danger, or emotional abandonment, you should get your crap together and leave. Don’t just be sneaky-snaking around, hoping not to get caught.

In the Twitterverse, people become what they want to become, you know? If you are repressed middle-aged balding man who can’t say “hot dog” without turning red, you can be the debonair gentleman that you’ve always imagined yourself. Women who feel lonely and unappreciated can post pictures of their boobs and instantly they are sex goddesses. No one is really who they say they are (or very few are who they say they are), and those who are honest will tell you that it is an easy way to be someone you can’t be in real life.

Now, as I said before: cheaters never prosper. Not even online.

The Twitterscape is covered in lustful comments, winky faces, and straight-up lewdness. Because it is so anonymous, so voyeuristic, it is easy to get sucked into the flirtation game.  People who are friends on Twitter spend a lot of time together, especially if they are both checking in regularly. You talk about things, you joke about things. Sometimes, these little flirtations are that and nothing more.

Often times, they are not.

These online flirtations are words, and not much more, and yet…they touch people. They bring people emotionally closer, regardless of distance or time barriers. I have seen very nice people become obsessed with the idea of a person, so much that it impacts they way they think, their personal habits. Jealousies flare, accusations are thrown…

Over words. Over as few as 140-characters. Over someone they’ve never met.

The saddest thing? Many of these people are married or in long-term relationships in real life. What is the justification? Let me tell you some of my favorites:

  • It’s just flirting. It can’t hurt.
  • It’s not like they’re REALLY real. It’s just words.
  • It’s not like they even know I exist. It doesn’t matter if I flirt a little.
  • This can’t possibly get me into trouble. It’s all just fantasy.
  • This person makes me feel special. Don’t I deserve that from SOMEONE?
  • I’m just fooling around. And, it’s really helping my sex life with my spouse.
  • They live so far away. It’s not like I’m actually going to DO anything in real life…

Do any of these sound familiar? Don’t worry. It’s not like I’ll make you raise your hand and tell the whole class.

The problem with all of these justifications is that they are not dealing with the actual problem. The ACTUAL problem is, no matter where or how these engagements are happening, they are interfering with your real-life emotional landscape. And the most convincing of these “arguments” boil down to just a few.

The #1 Top-Best Cheater Tweeter List of Lame Excuses!

It’s just words

Really?! Well, I guess you can’t fall in love with someone who you’re just sharing words with. Let’s set aside the thousands of years where the only way long-distance relationships were maintained was through love letters. Face it. Women are suckers for a pretty word, and some fellas, too. If you have never read a book, I would say that it might be possible not to fall in love with someone over a few words. Those of us who have, however, have no excuse. Who HASN’T fallen in love with an author, based on a book or a chapter; perhaps just a single line of poetry. Don’t be foolish enough to believe that your heart cares whether you hear it from the lips or from the pen. Words change your soul.

It’s just a fantasy. It’s not real.

Hmm…Interesting. Now that we’ve established you’re a sociopath, let me hide all my sharp objects from you.

The difference with Twitter fantasy people and the vague fantasies that we all have every day is that they ARE real people. Real people who are emotionally interacting with you as well. In a fantasy, no one can get hurt. No one can be jealous. The Angelina Jolie in your mind isn’t going to cry when you’re done messing around with her. In the Twitterverse, there is a real person on the other end of the line. That means that real emotions are invested, which impact your real life relationships.

This can’t possibly hurt my real-life relationship

Really? I think if you’re holding onto this one, you are completely delusional. Whether you are face-to-face with a paramour or you are connected only through a handful of words, your heart is in the wrong place. Your soul doesn’t care about distance. Anyone who has ever had a pen-pal or a far-off friend knows that distance doesn’t change emotional attachment, desire, or real love. And, when you’re giving your heart to someone else, bit-by-bit, that leaves less and less for the people in your real life who you should really be sharing it with.

This person makes me feel special where my spouse doesn’t.

This is one of the most dangerous phrases of all. Perhaps your marriage does suck. Maybe your boyfriend is a total loser. Fine. But, remember: Nothing on Twitter is real. And, this is not just Twitter either. Facebook, KIK, Instagram….all these places where we think we know someone based on their pictures or their funny quips. It’s all false.

On social media, you post things and get immediate positive attention. You get it every time you post, for even the stupidest things. That feeling of being wanted, of being special, is addictive. I believe it is a high akin to several white-colored drugs. Real life can’t compete with that, nor would you want it to. If every time you told a joke, 1200 people came up and gave you a high five, you’d be exhausted and your hand would be broken. We’re not really meant for that kind of continuous praise and self-gratification. It makes us self-centered and constantly seeking to write the next tweet, to get the next big high.

It’s really helping my love life with my spouse.

Well, that’s just a lie.

It might be helping your sex life, but is it really helping you love your spouse better? Just because you’re physically with him/her, doesn’t mean you’re being faithful, does it? I am aware that not everyone agrees with this interpretation, but I believe that sex is not simply a physical act. It is emotional and spiritual as well. It is an incredible force that allows us to share our lonely-by-design universe with another chosen human creature. If you choose to commit emotional adultery, you and your spouse may not feel the damage consciously, but it will still be there.

 What I’m trying to say is…

I would never cheat on my husband in real life. Never. And yet, I admit that the line between online flirtation and emotional adultery is very thin. I wish the emotional landscape was as tangible as the real life one. In real life, it is easy to see what is right and wrong, easy to see the lines so that you don’t cross them. In the world of social media, these lines are often blurred. This pervasive “greyness” makes places like Twitter dangerous. Not in an abstract way, but in a very concrete one. Because, whether online or off, there is nothing more destructive to a family and marriage than a heart that has wandered.

 

20 thoughts on “Cheater Tweets: Emotional Infidelity – Day 5

  1. My, my, my, someone certainly has gotten wordy since leaving the confines of 140 characters.

    Speaking of which:

    When I worked retail a long time ago I wound up with a number of stalkers. That’s not to toot my own horn — if you have any sort of personality at all, you’re liable to wind up with some stalkers because you’re easy to find and they have an excuse to talk to you and you’re supposed to be nice to them, so if they’re not getting treated well in their lives they know where to go to get that. After a particular event with three stalkers and my girlfriend, I figured I should probably pay more attention to when I was unwittingly attracting people. That was easy enough to do in person, and whenever I noticed it happening when I didn’t want it to, I’d do something to ‘break the spell.’

    A few years later I was working on my written communication and got a bunch of penpals online. Some were guys, some were gals. 90% of the gals were so used to getting unwanted come-ons from internet goofballs that they made a point of stating they were only there for friendship and would ice any guy who came onto them (most also had husbands or long-term beaus). That suited me just fine since I wasn’t looking for a relationship, just communication. Anyways, fast forward a few months and I was only speaking to about 10% of the original women, because the other’s had started crossing lines (the fact that I was disinterested didn’t help matters, since that gave them a goal to work away at while their home lives weren’t providing them with challenge or satisfaction).

    When people ask me why I’m still single, I can give them any number of reasons, but I think the real reason is simply because I haven’t found a woman who I love who also really understands or respects what it takes to keep a relationship going long-term: the kinds of day-to-day decisions you have to make in terms of who you interact with, how you interact with them, and what you save for your partner. I don’t want to be with someone for the short haul, and a relationship requires investing not just at the start, but throughout time.

    Here’s the thing though, I don’t really buy totally into the concept of emotional infidelity; I understand it can lead to issues, but I also don’t want whoever I’m with to be at a loss for their emotional needs, and I think of it as kind of co-dependent if they’re expecting one person to fill all those needs (it’s also incredibly taxing for one person to fill all the emotional needs of another). It’s weird, because a woman getting her emotional needs met by a female friend or a relative wouldn’t be considered emotional infidelity (even though it could actually be more damaging to a relationship, depending on the agenda of the friend/relative), but those same needs being met by a man outside of the core relationship could be considered emotional infidelity (and ditto for men getting their emotional needs met outside their core relationship).

    I think it all comes down to self-awareness, and world-awareness: knowing there are people who flirt naturally, but might mean nothing by it and you shouldn’t invest in them/away from your significant other; knowing yourself and your needs well enough to recognize when you’re doing something to try and fulfil your needs, and if that need should be directed solely towards your significant other or not; recognizing the stages of courtship and when feelings are evolving from simple friendship and encouragement to romantic feelings, and putting a stop to it when necessary; valuing your core relationship enough to not let anything else come in the way of it; knowing your needs enough to know if you start misinterpreting things people say as signals of things they didn’t intend.

    I know you’ve come to some of these realizations/understandings in the past few days on your own, which brings me to another point. Everyone has their lives and their priorities. After you disappeared on Twitter (you heartless cad, you) I’ve been meaning to drop by the ol’ blog and drop a note, but I have things to do that take priority (also, it took a while to formulate my thoughts into something semi-coherent) — that’s not a dig at you, just a simple reality. Similarly, the people you tweet with appreciate you, respect you, enjoy their time with you, maybe even want to meet in real life (if you’re willing to put away the camera and come out of the bushes long enough for that), but ultimately, most have real lives that take priority (as it should). I always pay attention to what’s going on in a person’s real life, and while I try to support my online friends, I also try to direct their real love towards their real lives, where it belongs.

    On your death bed (assuming you’ve strapped a bed onto a rocket or something and are about to die), it’s going to be your daughter and hubby who are by your side, hold your hands, and look deeply into your eyes. And while the Tweeps and other onliners may have helped you get through things in life, what’s most important to you will be obvious then.

    That was way more rambling and less profound than I’d hoped, but you deserve nothing less.

    P.S. stay off Twitter: I’ve staked my flag on your profile. I plan on opening a nice little burger joint there and I don’t want the old management devaluing the property.

    1. Well, thank you for your excellent advice and insight. I agree that no one’s total emotional health can be provided by a single person. That’s just crazy. That’s why friends are so valuable and vital. They fill the void that a spouse or whoever can’t. But…there is a definite line, or an indefinite line, that is often crossed, and which can lead to (or is a signal of) real emotional rifts in a relationship. As I alluded to before, when you’re constantly fantasizing about another person, there is the danger of emotionally detaching from the person who is in the same room with you. And, in truth, this doesn’t have to be a spouse. If you are mentally and emotionally engaging with someone or something else constantly (i.e. Minecraft, porn, Conan O’Brien), you aren’t available to the people who might want to interact with you. You have much less emotional real estate to share.

      Speaking of real estate: don’t get too comfy. I have it on good authority that control of my profile real estate will be re-adopted by the previous tenants. Any and all squatter will be shot on sight. With some kind of confetti cannon. You have been warned.

      1. Yeah, that’s definitely true — energy (emotional, mental, physical) should be invested in the core relationship first and foremost. Too many people leave that to happenstance.

        You should know, by the way, I already started the process a few weeks ago to legally change my name to Willow Becker, having foreseen the present vacancy. You can make all the unveiled threats you like, but I am confident I will make a more convincing Willow Becker than you ever could in, and out of, a court of law.

        Now, I realize, as a woman, you feel a need to try to stand in the way of my dream of owning a burger joint, but I feel I must inform you it would be foolhardy to take up arms against me: sure you (Willow Becker) could shoot me (Willow Becker), but that would truly be a form of suicide, and really, you haven’t reached that low a point, have you?

        I don’t want to appear heartless, however, and I have taken steps beforehand to secure an adequate space for your possible return: @chickyvongirlygirl awaits your graceful presence. I’m sure you will find it more than satisfactory, especially if you hang a few curtains and scatter a few knickknacks around to make it feel more homey.

  2. Oh you have no idea how right you are. It was an online flirtation that gave me the final push to express my real life unhappiness in my marriage. Even though I don’t speak with him very often anymore, I will say that what happens online is just as emotionally real as what happens irl.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that. After 10 years of marriage, it’s easy to feel slightly invincible. Still, stuff like this comes around and erodes the weak parts that everyone has in their marriage. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Like you said, though. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it can’t affect your real life. 🙂

  3. My wife and I have been married for 12 years. In that time, both of us have each had our own emotional affair. Hers was cultivated from a relationship in an MMORPG that we both played. Mine was sparked from Facebook and AIM. Going through those things are the most painful memories I have… and yet they made us stronger. They made our marriage stronger because we learned what not to do and when to tell each other something isn’t working. When we’re not feeling appreciated or loved, or feel like we don’t matter.

    Not everyone comes back from that. It ruins lives. I’m glad to see you coming out on the other side. I’ll miss you on Twitter, but you gotta do what’s right for you and yours. Good luck =)

    1. I am really humbled by your response, Marion. It is so honest. I agree, these little emotional philanderies can be a way to expose underlying problems and possibly make them better. But, as you said, not everyone can make it past the hurt of having their spouse become emotionally involved with another person. Thank you for being so brave with your comments. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling with this issue, and that it is possible to recover.

  4. This would be a good thing to bring up on the radio show -as part of the marriage discussion. Also -wanted to add – this isn’t new to Twitter. I have a friend who had serious flirtations during on-line role playing games. Their “characters” would hook up and have a sexual relationship. She wasn’t getting it from her husband so she felt it was kinder to do it this way instead of leave her husband who is physically impaired (he could have sex but he may not cope well on his own). You know I’m socially liberal but I was appalled. Having been the spouse cheated on I have no tolerance for any cheating and emotionally cheating is almost worse. Men have it easy -get a hooker, get your needs met, no harm, no foul. But women… we need brothels for us gals!!!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Mac-Attack. I agree. Social media and marriage is a huge topic for discussion, and I am looking forward to debating it with you live. *evil laugh*

      I can’t say a bro-thel doesn’t sound inviting, but not really my style. Unless all the dudes did was just massage our feet and tell us how amazing we looked all the time. Also, chocolate.

  5. Hi, Willow.

    I haven’t really been following the series, but as your blog is tweeted online, especially during a time I have blocked for building my writing skills through #FP, I am surmising you have decided to stop using twitter for a number of personal reasons. I’m probably not the first to congratulate you in your efforts to look introspectively and forge a new path. I have had to do the same at various points in my life, both online and offline, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to do the same thoughout my life.

    I have no idea if I’m the first to offer a little friendly criticism, but I felt compelled to post here versus twitter. (I’m not a fan of subtweeting or even intentionally referring to others in what I write. Although I do try to exercise reasonable intentionality in what I tweet, I can not control how others interrupt my work. I think this not only applies to “real” life, but it is also a journey that I think all writers must surely travel at some point in their careers.)

    I think my biggest concern is the generalizability of your posting. Perhaps you have mentioned in previous posts that this is a personal journey, but read out of context, it appears as a scathing indictment of anyone who participates, especially in your rigid list of reasons to support your argument. When you make general claims like twitter is “dangerous” it fails to recognize the varied individuals participating. Perhaps at one time, women were told that it was “dangerous” for them to work outside of the home, potentially even validating and perpetuating stereotypes of both men and women that were socially constructed. (Something far more dangerous if you ask me!) Bottom line, I personally find this line of reasoning a little insulting to my own judgement, discretion, and free will that I will always fight to exercise.

    One other point, specifically related to relationships, I also wanted to encourage you to think about how just as individuals differ in the way they approach social media, the “real” relationships of the people participating also differ. Whatever our conceptions of what the “ideal” should look like, I think most would agree that it *should* include mutually agreed upon terms to meet the needs of both individuals in the relationship. Of course the more people you add to the equation (I.e. kiddos, in-laws, friends, neighbors, community members, etc.) the more complex the dynamic. Still, at the heart, there is an intention on each others’ needs despite how “outsiders” interpret the relationship. I’m not suggesting that people on twitter are flawless in their attention to their “real” relationships, but rather perhaps there are relationships where partners actually encourage their partners to participate in larger circles, whether online or offline, without fear that they themselves will be neglected. I think this takes a tremendous amount of trust, discipline, and self-respect on the part of EACH partner in the relationship.

    I only share this because you mention feeling a weight and responsibility for your words. Please know I mean absolutely no harm in replying to your post; in fact, I respect you and wish to share a little of my perspective to give you more points of reflection, something I greatly appreciate when people do the same for me. I personally love exploring my own self and finding others who have had both similar and different experiences than me; I just don’t enjoy being pinned to a box by unhealthy ideologies, whether inadvertent or intentional.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate your comments greatly.

      You bring up a good point: Twitter is not evil. There are a lot of great things about it. I have met amazing people who I may love for the rest of my life. How we let our online relationships interfere with or undermine our real life relationships is the dangerous part.

      I was aware when I posted this that not everyone would agree. In fact, that many people would not agree. While I recognize these differences, I can only say what I’ve found in my experience, and the experiences of those I have observed.

      Here is what I find:

      The instances of “Social Cheating” are increasing. From the time of this Social Media Today article to this research study quoted by the Huffington Post, there are clear indications that the instances of emotional infidelity are not only increasing, but having increasingly damaging effects on real life relationships (especially under 3 years).

      In a more recent study by Russell Clayton, of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, 581 couples were polled about how Twitter specifically has affected their relationships. The result was that it can be damaging to both young and new couples, especially in instances where Twitter usage is very high. The full report is here.

      I understand. Couples make mutual decisions that are designed to positively impact their relationships with each other. I can’t speak for them. I do know that having a relationship where emotional detachment and sex are intermixed is a dangerous combination. Regardless of whether that is gay, straight, or polyamorous, if you are with one person physically and somewhere else emotionally, it’s gonna suck. Also, over a long period of time, it can be divisive and damaging for the relationship. Psychology Today did a very interesting article about open relationships and how they can work/not work depending on how these emotional lines are protected.

      Now, all of this aside, I know what I know. Relationships are a combination of body, mind, and spirit. If there are incongruities in these three aspects, relationships have trouble. I’ve seen a lot of people who had a lot in common lose their marriages. And, I’ve seen a lot of marriages that seemed impossible work out. I’ve found that loyalty, kindness, honesty, communication, and respect, with a dedication to hard work, are the key elements to these successful relationships. It is hard to be loyal when you’re imagining yourself with someone else continually. It’s hard to be honest when you’re keeping it a secret.

      I do appreciate your comments, and it’s a vital counterpoint. I guess it is up to the individual to decide how much they’re willing to wager on the potential outcomes of that kind of experiment.

      1. Indeed, it is an interesting time in which we live, and it seems as though we try to make sense of the world around us in different ways. I’m at a point in my life where I am more suspicious of what others profess as “truth” than at any other time in my life, so thanks for thoughtfully entertaining some of my own weird little words : )

        In the end, I think we both could potentially agree that an individual’s motivation for participating in social media itself is a worthy topic for self-consideration and healthy discussion.

        Best of luck to you, Willow! I’ve skimmed your blog now and discovered that you were a former English teacher turned stay-at-home mom, so we have even more in common than we initially knew of each other prior today’s exchange of ideas. Hope you have a great weekend with your family : D

        1. I agree. Motivation may be the most important element of all. Thank you so much for reading and commenting so gracefully and intelligently on my post. I have always loved your #FP’s! We should get together and have some virtual hot chocolate and try to figure out all the mysteries of the universe. 😉

  6. There’s a song by a guy called Daniel Bedingfield and it’s called “Wrap my Words Around You” Part of it goes like this:

    Am I a hunter if
    I send poems to please you?
    Am I a cad if
    I mean everything I say?
    Should I even let you know
    This song’s about you girl
    Just because I want to see you smile today
    And my words may bind you
    To me much too tightly and
    You may choke upon them if we fall apart
    It’s not fair to write a song to a woman
    Because a woman takes a song into her heart
    Because a woman takes a song into her heart

    Now it’s not about the exchanging of words online necessarily but it is about the power of words. Especially on women.
    I think the lyrics sum up what you are saying perfectly.
    Words cause emotional attachment. We should always be careful with our words because people can easily take them to heart. I see a lot of false flattery online (I think I wrote an FP poem last week on it.) I am always cautious now. I had a good friend in RL who spoke all kinds of lovely words to me and we invested in friendship then he dropped me like a hot brick. I was distraught as I’d trusted what he’d said. If that can happen in RL with someone who had invested time in you there’s nothing to stop us investing in online friends and them dropping us or us dropping them. BUT these are people. We are people typing here as you say with feelings. No one should play with them. Oh and it is easy to fall for the words and personalities of others. I am single but if I wasn’t I know I would feel these emotional attachments could easily cause problems. A great post Willow and I think you did the right thing posting it. For what it’s worth.

    1. Thank you so much for the song, Joanne! I really appreciate that you read this post. It is really easy to dehumanize and idealize someone who exists mostly in your own mind. One of the weirdest things I ever realized was that I was reading everyone’s awesome tweets and getting to know them, but…it was all in my own head. Every single person has my voice. I don’t know. I wrote a 6 words once that described it for me:

      We woo ourselves with others’ words.

      The words may belong to someone else, but we are in complete control of how we let them emotionally affect us. And, if you’re heart is not “locked” it can be easy for those words to worm under your skin and take root. Unfortunately, this can sometimes displace things that are already there.

  7. Beautiful post & words… and all is so true 🙂 Thanks for sharing & reminding of this danger ^_^ Hope you are doing great there & wishing you a wonderful weekend! xo

  8. Oh, lord. Very true, very brave.

    I’ve gone to an invitation-only locked account, and deliberately left behind some of my biggest ego boosters/people I skirt the line with. And its SO hard, not having the level of flirtback, and the ego massaging…but you’re right about the emotional adultery. I made promises IRL, and they are what counts.

    This pebble you dropped has made big ripples x

    1. I appreciate you reading through to the end. I can be…verbose.

      It’s good to have written it. There is a confessional quality here, although I can safely say that I never crossed my own personal lines. It was the skirting them that was the real danger. I hope I can help someone reevaluate their online behavior, or maybe see it is as potentially damaging as it can be.

      Also, tell me if you haven’t gotten your package!

      1. I crossed the line once, and it felt so horrible, I jumped straight back. Worst feeling ever. Not going there again.

        No package yet! But Royal Mail moves on a strange and inexplicable timetable 🙂

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