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An "Affair" with the Internet?

QUESTION: I am interested in knowing how to deal with my husband's interest in the chat rooms on the Internet. My family seems to think it is harmless and they feel I should leave him alone, but I feel very left out. As soon as he comes home from work he is on the Internet and he doesn't come to bed until three in the morning. I realize he needs friends and I don't want to take this away from him. Please tell me how to deal with my feelings of resentment.

ANSWER: Your husband is having an affair with the Internet. No wonder you are upset! It is one thing to have a hobby, but not coming to bed with you means it is a hobby that is interfering with your marriage relationship.

It doesn't sound like these people are "friends" in the usual definition of the word, which includes face-to-face interacting. This may suggest problems with intimacy that could be at the heart of your marriage difficulty. However, the person you are angry at is your husband, not the chatters on the internet. Your jealousy is understandable, as you believe they are getting more of him than you are.

It is time to sit down with your husband and talk with him about the priority you have in his life. It is likely that the two of you do not have enough shared activities or interests together. What is he sharing with others that you want or need more of? What is the nature of your bond? What needs, emotionally and otherwise, do you fill for one another?

You may find that you need to take time to get reacquainted. The lack of time spent relating suggests that there has been a lot of space between you for some time. This void may have been filled by other interests, activities and people. This kind of situation is often a precursor to marital affairs by either partner that can lead to divorce. However, with or without a sexual affair, marriage partners can drift apart, substituting other activities for intimate relating in the marriage.

If you do not get anywhere talking about this with him, or if the discussion reveals significant relationship dynamics, attributable to shutting you out of his life in this way, suggest marriage counseling. Consultation with a reputable marriage counselor could help you both to get your marriage back on track.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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