Social media and smartphones have radically changed not only how we live but overturned the old unspoken rules about what is acceptable behaviour in a relationship and what isn’t.
A Reader Shares Their Experience…
I found out my fiancé had been receiving more than friendly texts from a woman that he previously worked with. We had a horrific argument which ended in me leaving with our 9 month old baby – as my fiancé would not show me his mobile phone bill to prove he had not been participating in these texts.
We separated for one week and after discussions and an agreement that he would not contact this woman we decided to get back together. One month later, I checked his phone and found he had saved the woman’s number under another name and had been phoning her constantly, and texting her at 2am when I went to bed and also throughout the day – even when he went to the shops to get nappies.
In the pre-internet age, with the phone in the hall way, a phone call after ten o’clock would be an emergency – like a teenager stranded at a party or the death of a family member. Nowadays you can send or receive a text or an email at any time of the day or night.
If the phone rang, in the past, it was most probably a close friend or someone calling to arrange a social event (like a match in a golf tournament). Any body in the house might answer and everybody had a rough idea of each other’s friends and engagements.
Today, the message could be from work (who consider it fine to email at weekends and late at night), your bank confirming a new payment or a flirty text from a work colleague.
In effect, the old boundaries have fallen away and anybody can come into your house – metaphorically – at any time and you’re going to be none the wiser if your partner is text cheating.
That brings up a whole range of new dilemmas:
- Is texting another woman cheating?
- Is it OK if your husband has ‘no intention of meeting up’ with her?
- What about ‘just looking’ on an adult dating site?
- When is someone not ‘just a friend’?
- Should you confront your partner or would it be better to wait and hope it dies a natural death?
Five reasons you should act
Social media and smart phones can undermine family life
In the happiest marriage, it is easy for technology to intrude and come between you and your partner. So even if your suspicions are ungrounded, it is worth having a debate about when and where it is acceptable to use your smartphone.
How to turn it round: Perhaps you’d like to make the bedroom a smartphone/tablet-free area, so you can concentrate on each other – chatting over the day or having sex together. What about meal times, when you’re watching the TV or going out together? There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to smartphone etiquette but what gets our attention is what thrives.
Think about what message you are giving to each other if you routinely put interacting with others on your phone over your relationship.
It could be the canary in the coal mine
Miners used to take canaries down pits to warn of the approach of harmful gasses. If the canary died, it signalled the need for a quick exit. Your partner getting caught up in social media is probably a sign that he is unhappy about something but believes it’s pointless to say anything as he expects to be attacked or his concerns dismissed.
Turn it round: Ask him whether he’s fed up and whether he thinks you relationship is in a rut or not. Don’t be fobbed off with ‘OK’ or ‘I don’t know’. Actually, you do know what the issue might be because he’s mentioned it a hundred times before (but you’ve downgraded or dismissed it).
If you’re still at a loss, discuss whether the kids take up too much of your time and the state of your sex life. Ultimately, it is better to try and solve the root causes – before they tip over into more dangerous behaviours – than get diverted into discussing is texting another woman cheating.
She’s probably more than just a friend or on the way to becoming so
He is either in denial about the proper nature of this relationship or he believes that cheating involves having sex (or has persuaded himself their intimate contact was ‘just a kiss’ – so doesn’t count). In my opinion, it is the pattern of communication that’s most worrying – even more so than the content.
Most men hardly talk to their friends and text conversations / joke sharing on twitter etc happen only sporadically. So if he’s constantly texting someone that’s a bad sign, as is deleting text messages and suddenly putting a password on his phone.
Turn it round: Don’t panic. Ask questions (‘What impact do you think this is having on our relationship? Or ‘Why don’t you talk to me as much as you do her?) rather than making accusations (‘You’re having an affair’). The first approach will provide information that might be useful for rescuing the relationship but the second only invites a counter-attack.
The problem hasn’t gone away
Most wives have a good idea of the identity of the woman he’s texting or messaging. This I because when someone first becomes enamoured, we can’t stop talking about them so your alarm bells will have rung. When he stops mentioning her, you think the madness has passed and you can breathe again. However, it can equally be a sign that the ‘friendship’ has moved to the next phase and your husband knows either consciously or unconsciously that he has something to hide.
Turn it round: Listen to what isn’t being said and look closer at his actions. Does he seem to find constant fault or is irritable and snappy for no reason? This is because he’s looking for reasons to justify his bad behaviour, so what used to mildly annoying has become proof, in his mind, that your relationship is fundamentally flawed.
You should trust your gut instinct
Perhaps you love him so much that you want to believe him or you don’t think ‘he’s that type of guy’. Alternatively, he’s such a good debater that he’s persuaded you that you’re being paranoid (and therefore beginning to doubt your own instincts) or he claims your constant questioning is doing his head in (and you’re frightened of ruining the relationship).
Turn it round: If he is having an affair (emotional, physical or both), it is better to bring things to a head rather than hoping things will get better when he’s changed jobs, the kids go back to school or Chelsea win the cup. You will also avoid the trap – which many women fall into after an affair is discovered – of blaming yourself for not acting sooner.
Five reasons why your previous interventions might have failed
You’ve most probably tried to tackle your husband texting another woman but nothing has really changed. In my experience of thirty years helping couples as a marital therapist, you’ve fallen into one or more of the following traps.
You’ve only brought it up when you’re stressed, upset or as part of an argument
Nobody will step back, look at their behaviour through fresh eyes and assess the impact on other people, when they feel under attack. They normally defend themselves, counter complain or close down the conversation by walking away. Alternatively, you’ve burst into tears and he’s felt the need to reassure you and promise the moon and the stars – rather than actually change.
You’ve tried to lay down the law rather than negotiate
Time and again, couples don’t properly listen to each other and start arguing because one partner has already done a lot of thinking about an issue, come with his or her preferred option and tries to sell it. So keep an open mind and truly listen to what your partner has to say. If you give him this courtesy, he will probably return it.
You’ve not offered anything in return
For change to stick, there’s got to be something in it for both parties. Perhaps he thinks you spend too much time chatting to your friends too.
You’ve used sticks rather than carrots
When it comes to hearts and minds, we respond better to positive rather than negative messages. So instead of complaining about what you don’t like, aim for more of what you do: nights out, great sex and talking more to each other.
You’ve been too busy taking the speck out of his eye
There is a great Hungarian saying that some clients taught me about “preaching water but drinking wine”. In other words, you’re telling him to prioritise your marriage but don’t ask yourself where he come in your list of priorities. For example, does he think you put the children first and he comes a distant third or fourth? Does he think wiping down the kitchen counters trumps coming to bed at a decent time and having sex with him?
Andrew talks through the strategies
- For more strategies to deal with a husband texting another woman – My Husband Doesn’t Love Me And He’s Texting Someone Else: The Love Coach Guide To Winning Him Back
- If he has had an affair How Can I Ever Trust You Again?: Infidelity From Discovery To Recovery In Seven Steps
Share your experience
Please leave your comments below.
- What strategies worked for you when your husband texting another woman?
- What made things worse?
- How big a threat are smartphones and social networking to marriages?