While engaging in couples counseling I work with a lot of couples whose relationships have been threatened by infidelity. Many of these affairs can be linked back to Facebook.
Naturally, some affairs are due to the simple fact that one or both members of the couple is unhappy and looking to satisfy their needs through an extramarital affair. There’s not much to be done about this. A large proportion of affairs, though, aren’t consciously pursued. It’s not unusual for my clients to say “Dr. Brad, I can’t even tell you how I got into the affair. I’m still confused about it.” Here’s how many happen. You get back in touch with a friend from high school. You post a few things on their wall and they reciprocate. Soon enough you’re chatting with them through Facebook’s chat function. Then come the private email messages and phone calls. Feelings begin to develop and, ultimately, many of these emotional affairs turn into sexual affairs.
In psychological terms there’s a “foot in the door phenomenon” at play. When we say yes to an initial, small request (in this case the friend invitation) we become more likely to say yes to a large request (to have an affair). It’s basically a slippery slope. Imagine asking someone to have an affair or being asked before introductions are made. Would you even consider this? Of course not. But if you engaged in numerous small escalations of requests you just might find yourself in a situation you never predicted.
Having said this, what you should you do? If you’re like most people you not only have a Facebook profile but you’d be appalled to delete it. But there are ways to use Facebook safely. Check out the this blog post (How Safe Is Your Relationship From an Online Affair?) for some tips on how to keep your relationship safe from an affair.