relationships - dating - love - intimacy - health
The way you think about your relationships, the skills and attitudes you bring to them and the time and effort you put in can make all the difference. People are social creatures and relationships matter to us. We enjoy them, we cry over them and we're curious about how to get our relationships to be the way we want them. How well your relationships work can have a big impact on how satisfied you feel with life. Stimulating, resilient, satisfying relationships with partners, friends and family rank high on many people's wish list for a happy life.
Intimate and meaningful, friendships can develop easily on the internet. This can pose a real threat to committed relationships. A relationship psychotherapist looks at the phenomenon of cyber affairs.

Online communication is wonderful for many people. It can provide easy access to friendship and support for the physically less-abled, the elderly, carers, and those living in remote locations.

And for people who struggle with shyness or low self-esteem, it gives the opportunity to build confidence and social skills in a non-threatening environment. But for others, this same accessibility has created problems.

One click to intimacy
Communicating online allows intimacy to build very quickly. When you can't see the person you're talking to and they can't see you, you're less likely to feel judged. You won't be looking to see if they raise their eyebrows in disbelief. And they can't see if you look nervous or embarrassed. This means you're both more likely to reveal personal information much earlier than you would in a face-to-face situation.

The downside is that if you can't see someone's face, it's hard to know if they're lying. It's easy to misrepresent yourself online, to kid someone you're something that you're not. And if someone is desperate for love or friendship, they are more likely to fantasise that the person they're talking to is the perfect partner.

Online relationship success
Online relationships can and do last. As, the internet hasn't been around long enough to prove that online relationships can stand the test of time, early indications are good.

Some people argue that relationships established online are actually more likely to last because the couple know each other better before making a commitment. Usually, we meet someone and then decide if we want to get to know them better; online, it's the other way around.

But meeting people online also has its darker side.

Cyber betrayal
For those who feel lonely or isolated in their relationship, the web is somewhere they can find a comforting ear. Whatever the reasons for being unhappy, the internet can become a tempting distraction from the heartache and hassle of tackling relationship problems.

But meeting with others online, often makes things worse. Many partners feel resentful of the amount of time spent online when they could be spending time together. And the more time you spend chatting, laughing, and sharing your problems with someone other than your partner, the further apart you're likely to feel from them.

As you become more and more emotionally detached from your partner, your chances of embarking on a cyber affair increase.

Cyber affairs
Some people go online specifically to find sexual partners. But for many, cyber affairs start off as genuine attempts at friendship. Intimacy can develop so quickly online that many are shocked at how soon an online relationship becomes sexual.

Some will try to justify their behaviour saying it's not really an affair, but relationship experts agree that any intimate activity between two people that breaches the trust of a partner is. And that most certainly includes online relationships.

Coping with online betrayal
If you're the person meeting others online, you need to realise that it isn't going to solve your relationship problems. It may make life more comfortable in the short-term, but in the end you're going to have to face the difficult decisions about your relationship's future.

If, on the other hand, you suspect your partner of an online affair, you need to confront the problem head on. Talking about the problems you're both having is the essential first step.