Danielle Colley is a staff writer who also writes popular blog Keeping Up With The Holsbys.
This post first appeared there.
A few months ago an acquaintance of mine called me in tears. I didn’t know the mum of three that well so when she shared her sordid tale with me a little part of me wondered why on Earth she was divulging such a personal tale to me.
She’d been having an online affair.
A random person contacted her on Facebook, they had an instant rapport and she struck up a little cyber dalliance. Initially, it was fairly harmless.
A little instant messaging here, a little flirting there but after a few months of her allowing this person into the inner sanctum of her marriage and health troubles it deepened into something a little more serious.
This woman, who had been married many years, had been dissatisfied with her relationship for some time. Children and life had wearied them and they had grown apart. She knew what she was doing wasn’t right, however, it was exciting and it made her feel sexy and desirable.
When he asked for pictures of her in lingerie, she obediently donned her prettiest, and sent them with the click of a button via email.
It was exhilarating to watch the arrow dance over the send icon. Hearing the whoosh as the mail winged its way to the man who now occupied her every thought.
She was falling for this charming German man living in Malaysia. He was attentive, engaged and interested in what she had to say. She felt vibrant and fluttery for the first time in years.
He was working in Asia as an engineer, but when his passport and credit card got stolen he confided in her that he was in a bind for cash. She didn’t think twice about secreting away some of the family savings and wiring it to him.
When she was away from home on business they video Skyped for hours although his camera was playing up. It was ok though, he could still see her perfectly.
When he requested she masturbate for him via the camera in her computer the idea was so titillating that she did, and it was incredible. She was discovering how sexuality for the first time.
The following week his money situation still wasn’t sorted and he needed to pay his employees, so she sent him some more money... And then once more.
After the third cash injection she delivered, the money totalled over $5000.
She didn’t care. She was addicted to this feeling and she would have done anything to keep it. He gave her everything that was lacking in her relationship. He showered her with praise and sweet words. He made her feel sexy.
After a series of convoluted events, she realised this man was not who he said he was. This Lothario was a cyber con man, and she ended their relationship, refusing to give him any more of her time or money.
She was heart-broken because she thought he loved her and she felt like a fool.
He didn’t want to let her go so easily. He told her he had filmed her touching herself, and he was going to release it on the web if she didn’t give him $20,000.
He also threatened to email the lingerie photos to her husband. Everything was done via Facebook so he knew everything about her. He knew her friends, and her husband. He’d seen photos of her children.
That’s when she called me beside herself with fear and guilt.
I called the police who told her there was not much they could do about the images, about the money. She had willingly sent them. They suggested she come clean to her husband.
This particular instance is obviously quite extreme but I really think that cyber flirting is something worth discussing. At what point does this story cross the line?
Flirting is part of human nature. Flirting is harmless.
Cyber flirting is another matter. Flirting with intention is a whole different subject entirely.
Behind the safety of your computer, you may feel as though you can be more open than you normally would. You may divulge more than you should.
You may end up in trouble.
As for when it crosses the line from harmless flirtation into cheating, you really need to use your moral compass. I think a fairly basic rule of thumb to go by is –
If you need to keep it a secret from your partner, you’re crossing the line.
Chat rooms are fast becoming a way for dissatisfied partners to have cyber affairs. It feels safe, because you’re not actually doing anything but it is as innocent as one might like to think?
Our protagonist took a big risk and called the con man's bluff. She said she wouldn’t give him any more money and she never wanted to hear from him again. Luckily, he went away and her secret has remained secret, except for you and I.
This is a cautionary tale in case you think it could never happen to you. If someone you don’t know approaches you for friendship on Facebook you need to be careful. Sometimes boredom or marriage dissatisfaction can make you easy prey.
Have you ever been approached online? Have you heard a story like this?