Happy marriage partners are fiercely loyal to each other. They make their spouse their best friend, lover, fantasy and confidant. However, social media can pose a threat to that loyalty.

Online affairs are commonplace. There is the belief by some that if you aren't actually coming into contact with the person, then it can't be classified as infidelity. That takes away the guilt that keeps many people from engaging in a physical affair.

However, online affairs are hurtful, and they do have consequences. Cathy Meyer says that one-third of divorce litigation is caused by online  affairs.

Here are some ways to enjoy social media while protecting yourself from disloyal behavior.

Don't romanticize the past

. Tammy was excited to see a friend request from Allen, an old boyfriend from high school. She accepted his request. She enjoyed catching up and reminiscing about the good times. As she compared their young love to her current marriage, she began to feel more and more discontented.

Reconnecting with an old flame on social media can bring up happy memories. However, when we think back to an old romance, we tend to forget the bad parts. It is easy to compare the best times of a past relationship to the worst times of your current marriage. Don't forget, there was a reason you broke up then, and you are different people now. Don't jeopardize your marriage for an unrealistic fantasy.

Don't keep secrets

. Dan and Susan were business acquaintances who connected online. She started to message him privately, and soon, they were chatting regularly. Their conversations turned flirtatious and then downright steamy. Dan changed his passwords so that his wife wouldn't be able to read their messages.

The best way to keep inappropriate relationships from forming is to be upfront with your spouse from the beginning. Tell her that your old girlfriend has friended you on social media. Let her know what your conversations are about. Share your passwords with her. You will be less tempted to flirt with someone online if you know that your wife could stumble upon it.

Don't share intimate information

. Brenda was frustrated with a problem she was having in her marriage. She made an offhand comment on a social media website. Her friend, Kyle, messaged her and asked if everything was OK. Brenda shared her frustrations, and Kyle was sympathetic. Brenda appreciated his kindness and sympathy, and she began sharing more intimate details of her life with him. Soon, she felt more connected with Kyle than she did her husband.

When you are having difficulties in your marriage, it is normal to want to find someone in whom you can confide. You can show loyalty to your spouse by sharing such confidences only with a clergyman or professional marriage counselor. Don't discuss the intimate details of your hopes, fears and dreams with anyone but your husband. Use this rule of thumb: don't say anything in a private message that you wouldn't share on your public wall.

Don't browse through virtual profiles

. Jack enjoyed browsing through the virtual profiles of different women. If he found someone who was particularly attractive, he'd spend some time going through their pictures. He didn't feel anything was wrong with it because after all, the women were always wearing clothes. He found one profile of a woman who was not only attractive but seemed interesting and engaging as well. On a whim, he sent her a friend request.

Browsing virtual profiles seems like a harmless escape, but it can hurt your marriage. You are creating an unrealistic fantasy about the people you see that your wife can not compete with. Send and accept friend requests only to those people that you actually know.

Address the problems in your marriage

. Many people attempt to escape the dissatisfaction in their marriage by engaging in inappropriate behavior online. Address the problems in your marriage directly. Find healthy ways to resolve conflicts in your marriage. Talk to your clergyman or a professional marriage counselor if you need extra help.

Loyalty is a form of respect that is essential to a successful marriage. By being fiercely loyal to your spouse, you can strengthen your marriage and enjoy greater happiness.

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