Dear Dr. Bob,
I have been married for 10 months now. I met my wife playing spades on the internet then we started talking on the phone for hours and hours until I left CA. and moved to TN. with her we have a good relationship but now she spends so much time on the internet that’s making me worried and I don’t like it when she talks in IM’s to strange guys or gets too close online with them. What should I do? the only thing we fight about is that I asked her many times not to get close to guys on the spades games and she tells me I’m being jealous she hides her computer so I can’t see what she is doing on there. All I hear is her typing on it in games you click the mouse not type as much as she does she was under her screen name on my computer so I looked at her mail I saw something that is bugging me very much i saw that she had been talking to this guy and was telling him that she was going to call him when i go to work what should I do?
As Yogi Berra once said, �This must seem like deja vu all over again.� Does it certainly appear that her behavior now on the net finds some parallels with how your relationship with her started? And, of course, you have a right to be concerned � here she goes again!
You describe behavior that could be labeled �addictive.� Her focal point becomes these relationships that generate excitement, intrigue and fantasies? She seemingly can�t keep her fingers off the keyboard? Other parts of her life take a back seat? And, she denies that she has a problem or minimizes her activities � she�s not doing anything wrong!
Please understand that usually, beneath this minimization, are some guilt and shame and a part of her that is truly looking for something else. And, you want her to find that �something else� with you�not in a series of net/phone �romances.�
Confronting, pleading and arguing won’t work. She will resist, retreat to her keyboard and you will feel increasingly frustrated and alone.
I suggest you start with a tactic I call, �problemize.� Periodically make comments about the problem(s) you see. MAKE SURE you use words, tone of voice and body language that convey acceptance, concern and lack a tone of judgment, condemnation or a sense of superiority.
For example: �Does it ever seem to you that you are going through the same thing now as when you first met me?� �Do you ever stop to think what impact your net/phone relationships will have on our relationship?� �Do you ever think there is more to life than meeting someone on the net?� �You must get a �high� out of these relationships?� �I wonder what you are REALLY looking for?�
�I wonder what I eventually will do with this.� �I wonder if you will always be looking?�
Get the idea? Leave a question in your voice. Open the door for her to talk and explore. This is your first step. If, over time, her actions persist, begin to think about what you are willing to tolerate and what actions you may need to take. But, first, �problemize� and see where that goes.