Increasingly couples are citing the internet as a problem in their relationship.
Some signs that a partner may be in a relationship over the internet:
- They are spending more and more time on the internet particularly in chat rooms and those to do with sex and sexuality
- They try to hide information from you
- They have difficulty in not logging on
- They become distant, secretive or even critical of you
Some warning signs that you may be at risk of having an internet affair:
- All of the above
- You find yourself thinking about using the internet for purposes of making sexual contact
- You find yourself talking with one or more individuals on a regular, or pre-arranged, basis
- You make attempts to contact these individuals by other means
- You become aroused by the contact you have on line - more than with your partner
- You feel guilty about your online activities
Even though the relationship is termed "virtual", the sense that a partner is cheating on you is real and what's worse it can feel as if the 'other person' is under your roof - even if they are miles away.
The time spent on the internet is time spent away from the primary relationship, the intimacies that are shared with a virtual person don't get shared with a real partner and this leads to feelings of betrayal, rejection and worthlessness. It's not just partners that are neglected; children and friends also suffer to.
The person going online can feel they're escaping from real life problems but retreating into cyberspace only exacerbates what's happening in real life. Online relationships carry the danger of detaching you from reality - the virtual partner can become idealised, by comparison the real partner can look inferior. Unfortunately internet relationships can lead to break-ups and whilst some of these may've happened anyway, some are mistakes - leaving real partners for virtual partners whose online personas bear little relation to what they're really like.
It's not the internet that's to blame for the rise in break-ups and relationship problems caused by online affairs. As human beings we have choices - to engage in what technology has to offer, or not. Just because technology is offering you access that is affordable and provides you with anonymity, it will not reduce the trauma of a partner discovering what they are likely to feel is as much a betrayal as a real life affair.
Tips to try if you find yourself becoming involved online or suspect a partner is:
- Consider what is going on in your primary relationship that is creating a need for cybersex
- Talk to your partner about your concerns and feelings, the areas of your relationship that are no longer working for you
- If you can't talk together then seek the assistance of a counsellor
- The internet can be addictive, try taking a moratorium from the computer or internet
It isn't all doom and gloom though, the internet can provide an invaluable way for couples to stay in touch. Some couples who are separated through work, those in the forces for example, find the emails a great a way of maintaining their relationship. It also helps children to keep in touch with an absent parent. The bottom line is personal responsibility.