Shayne on You: Internet affairs can be really dangerous

Dear Maggie,

My best friend is having what I can only describe as an online affair, and her poor husband has no idea. She tells me about it, and I feel so squirmy I can hardly stand to sit there and listen.

Sheís never met this ďother man.Ē But theyíve exchanged photos, and they e-mail each other every single day. They spend time chatting through Instant Messenger, and their discussions get extremely sexual. And my friend acts like a young girl whoís madly in love for the first time.

And yet, she says she has no intention of leaving her husband, or even meeting this guy in person. She says as long as itís only online, itís not really cheating. I just feel like thereís something not quite right about that. And I canít keep quiet about my feelings any longer, even thought telling her what I really think might end our friendship. But I want backup before I tell her.

She reads your column all the time, and loves it, so I think she might listen to you. So tell me what you think?

Friend to the End

Dear Friend to the End,

You really are a good friend and I hope she knows how lucky she is to have you. Itís a rare thing to have a friend who will tell you what they really think, even when they know it could damage the friendship. Good for you.

On the other hand, has she asked what you think? Just a thought, there, one to ponder. It might be a good first step to just ask her to stop discussing it with you. To tell her that youíre not comfortable hearing about it, and to please keep it to herself. That way itís no longer in your face. Also, that will tell you whether she really wants your opinion, because suddenly it will occur to you that you have one and that it may not be the blind support she thought it was. If she asks, then tell her. If she doesnít, itís not your business. Sheíll know you disapprove just by what youíve already said. And donít kid yourself in thinking for one minute that she doesnít know exactly what she is doing. (Yet, if it looks like sheís going to meet this person, you do need to jump in and try to stop her.)

And now Iíll tell you what she is doing. She is cheating on her husband. She is putting her marriage at risk. She is making some screenname (who is more than likely a morbidly obese, acne covered teenager or a bored, married middle aged slime bag, or a burly female lumberjack) more important than her own husband. And when he finds out (and he will, itís inevitable) their relationship is going to be damaged forever.

It already is, even though the husband doesnít know. Sheís done that damage. She canít undo it.

Further, it must have been a bit damaged before this affair. Something she needs isnít being provided through the relationship with her husband. And itís more than likely something no relationship will ever be able to provide. Itís probably something she can only get from herself.

She needs to be aware of why these online relationships are so appealing. Itís because they are pure fantasy. You fill in the blanks (and there are MANY) with your own imagination, creating a person that does not exist, but is perfect for you because you, after all, invented him. Heís not real!

Iíd suggest a great therapist, daily meditation, clear thought, and a reality check for your friend. If she pursues this thing, it will escalate. Phone calls will come next, then an in-person meeting, and then a divorce.

Or maybe a bunch of volunteers searching the state land for her body.


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