Why your online relationship isn't working and what you can do to save and improve it
How do you make a success of an online relationship? Advice is at hand!
If you’re looking for online relationship advice, I’m going to assume that you’re currently dating someone online. And that you're in love and hoping for a long-term relationship, but that you're struggling right now.
So, I hope to help you here with advice on how to deal with the most common problems with cyber dating and online relationships. And, of course, I'll give you some healthy relationship tips too.
Online relationships can start after meeting someone in forums, game-rooms, dating or social media sites. Your intentions at the start of your relationship matter, so - how and why did you meet? Perhaps...
- You have a common interest, you became friends and then fell in love
- You were looking for an online relationship with the hope of finding a long-term partner
- You set out to get into an online relationship whilst already having a committed close couple ‘in person’ relationship. In this case - hop over to my page on surviving infidelity.
(The search engine could have misinterpreted your search. If so, Click Here to connect with an online, licensed counsellor for online advice on your relationship.
Can an online relationship be happy and fulfilling?
There’s no reason why not! Our lives become more and more online as technology continues to advance. We can now fulfill so many of our needs (and wants) on the internet. And if it’s something that appeals to you, that includes finding a partner - and having a relationship - too.
When it comes to the ins and outs of your relationship, it will of course be different if it takes place solely online. For one thing, you won’t have the regular physical presence or contact that you would with a partner who you met up with often, or who you lived with. But there are plenty of opportunities to build strong emotional connections. And, of course, plenty of options to explore if you want to include physical intimacy in the relationship too.
But, as with any relationship, there can be difficulties and upsets along the way...
Read on for online relationship advice, guidance and tips on each point...
1. Not sure you can trust your online friend or partner?
What you're being told doesn't 'add-up'? You keep having some niggling doubts? Trust your intuition! Read my articles on being catfished, online dating scams and infidelity (see The complete guide to surviving infidelity).
2. Can long distance online relationships ever work?
It doesn't really matter if other people can make their online relationship work. You need to know if yours can work long-term.
So, you've fallen in love, and you’re totally absorbed by your relationship. Naturally you're wondering if dating long distance can work out and lead to marriage.
Here's my take on it...
As human beings, we’re born with certain essential emotional needs. These have to be met in balance for us to become or remain mentally and emotionally (and physically!) healthy.
These innate needs include:
- in-person friendships, fun and laughter
- in-person intimacy with close physical and/or sexual contact
- being part of a wider community with people who can be there for you in person when you're in need of practical and emotional support, and to share the joys of your achievements.
Of course, you can have people around online who can offer all kinds of support. But they can't put their arm around you in such a way that you can feel their physical warmth.
In addition, an in-person close couple relationship involves intimacy that includes...
- seeing and observing someone in their everyday life, away from any screens
- hearing them speak - not through a speaker
- the ability to touch and hold them
So, online relationships can absolutely work, but if you're having a long-distance relationship, read on for my online relationship advice...
Expert advice on your online relationship
Your online long-distance relationship may offer you bundles of one of the most important emotional needs: the need to give and receive attention. That's seductive for sure! But can this need be met in balance when dating long distance?
I’m afraid, if I’m being honest, I don't think so!
The seductive nature of having all of your attention needs met makes it all too easy for you to ignore the fact that the relationship may not have a long-term future.
Here’s what may scupper your chances:
Ultimately, when you’re looking for a long-term relationship, it’s because you want to meet someone you could imagine spending the rest of your life with. And I’m afraid to say that there most likely will come a point where one or other of you feels frustrated at the lack of in-person time you can spend together.
But this doesn’t mean you have to end your online relationship right now! There’s plenty to be gained from it - as long as you have realistic expectations about its longevity, and what you really want from the relationship. Be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re choosing the right path for you, whatever you decide.
3. 5 Tips and online relationship advice for when you're unlikely to meet
My advice probably won't come as a surprise and you may not like it!
First off, though, I have no doubt you'll have gained much with this relationship, learnt a ton and had your attention needs met. It's therefore a really valuable experience regardless of what happens next.
However, I hope you see the value in my lovingly spelling out my online relationship advice:
- All the while you're investing in dating long-distance, you're diminishing your chances of meeting someone closer to home
- A long distance online relationship makes it hard for you to meet all, or a good majority, of your inborn emotional needs (see above)
- You're spending valuable resources - your time, energy and maybe money - with a limited return
- Don't fool yourself by thinking you could remain friends after it ends, when you're deeply in love. You would so pain yourself and diminish your chances of getting over it
- Don't draw out the ending - be brave and bold - your future happiness is at stake
If you don’t mind the thought of never meeting your other half in real life, as long as the other person feels the same, there’s no harm in that. (Be aware, though, that if you're having an affair, you are harming your primary relationship.) Just be sure to help yourself meet all of your essential emotional needs in balance in different ways - and don’t expect your online relationship to give you everything you need.
4. 8 Potential reasons why your partner is becoming distant
Here are some potential reasons from my perspective. Click on the links for more online relationship advice to deal with your particular situation:
- Perhaps you’ve been arguing lately and you're unable to resolve your differences?
- Maybe one of you has been or is abusive.
- One of you has been using any of the communication spoilers on this page.
- Maybe your online partner perceives you as too 'high maintenance' - too demanding of his or her attention. See my article on how to 'make' your partner love you.
- Or, you're in a long distance relationship with no hope ever of getting married (see above).
- Perhaps he or she has met someone closer to home.
- Or maybe they have several online relationships and someone else has become more important than you.
- Maybe they’re simply not getting out of the relationship what they were looking for - don't take it personally.
Whatever’s happened, if you’re experiencing any of the above, your relationship is likely to end - but your partner may find it difficult to be direct. That could be because they fear your reaction, lack the confidence or they just don't know how to do it. No excuse, I know, but the only control you can exercise over this is by ending the relationship yourself.
5. How do you end an online relationship?
I have a number of articles on ending relationships - see my page: Complete Guide to Breaking up with someone.
6. Is it a truly loving relationship or could you be fooling yourself?
Even if you're not actually being catfished, here’s what your online partner may not have told you about (without judgement!):
Real age, body modifications, unemployment, debts, abject poverty or great wealth, long-term or terminal illness, a never talked about spouse or partner, children that weren't mentioned, etc.
None of these are inherently 'wrong' of course. The lies are though.
The problem is that when you're in love, you're wearing rose-tinted glasses. You have a vested interest in being able to believe what you're told: you may want it all to be true. You can be - I'm very sorry to say - an easy target, in particular when you have little experience in online dating relationships. And we haven't even talked about online scams with disastrous financial consequences for the victims.
My advice for an online relationship is to talk it over with a good friend who can spot when you’re 'projecting' onto the other person what you really want.
In other words, when you're assuming he or she has certain - for you, personally desirable - characteristics, beliefs and attitudes.
7. Is it love or an infatuation and obsession?
Well, that's a bit mean! It's totally normal to, at least in the initial stages, be totally infatuated and obsessed by the object of your affection. But...
- Have you stopped doing much of what you usually do in terms of entertaining yourself with hobbies, studies and interests in 'real' life?
- Are you neglecting your in-person relationships? You may do this too when you've fallen in love with someone who is physically nearby, but if all is well you're also likely to meet new people. Not so with a cyber relationship.
- Are you stalking the other person? Are you hacking into their accounts? Or are you being stalked?
- This is where the real danger lies. Have a look at my article on the signs of an abusive relationship.
If the relationship’s in its early stages, it’s natural if it’s taking up much of your time and attention. Gradually, you’ll focus outwards again and devote time and energy to other interests and people alongside the relationship.
But, if you begin to focus only on the relationship to the exclusion of everything else in your life, you do need to take a step back. Ask yourself what’s driving your obsession - what are you getting out of it? And should you be meeting that need some other way?
8. How do you know if you're truly compatible when dating online
You won't know, I'm sorry to say, if you do not have sufficient opportunities to meet - simple. Consider getting my relationship compatibility test to become clear of what information you might want to get from your potential long-term partner.
9. Is it a friendship, a platonic relationship or an affair?
Only you know the answer!
It can be so easy to initially feel comfortable with the idea that you're developing a 'special friendship'. Whilst that may indeed be the case, at least initially, there comes a point at which you overstep the boundary and you are in fact cheating on your partner.
Take a look at my article: What is emotional infidelity - I suspect you'll be much clearer about your own situation.
Don't be hard on yourself, though - it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to deeper connection with another human being. If by any chance your primary relationship is not as satisfying as it used to be you may be even more tempted.
You'll have to take action and address it tough. Have a look at my article on surviving infidelity to learn how traumatic the discovery of an illicit affair can be to your partner.
10. You have lied to your online mate
Whatever the reason you lied, you're going to have to own up for your own sake. If you’ve read this far, I know you care about building a solid, deep and rewarding relationship. So don't let a lie stand in the way of that. Don't damage your own self-worth by continuing to lie. Be bold and courageous - tell the truth.
My advice for a healthy online relationship
You have every chance of building a really strong and rewarding online relationship - when there's a realistic expectation of being able to be together in person. Many of my clients had met online. These days it's a normal way of starting a relationship, despite the inherent difficulties.
You may find my Loving Communication Kit for Couples with lots of tools, advice and tips really helpful, as well as the following tips:
All relationships - online or otherwise - have their ups and downs. There can be problems galore, but there can also be an abundance of happiness and love. If you’re having problems with your cyber partner, there’s just as much chance you can fix the issues as with an in-person partner… if you decide that fixing is the right way forward.
If it’s time for the relationship to end, my online relationship advice is near enough the same as for any other breakup.
If you’re not sure of the best way forward, don’t be afraid to reach out for help - either to a friend, or a professional (see the blue box further down for instant access to a qualified, online counsellor). Online relationships are just as valid as those in real life. Whatever you decide to do, stay safe, and make sure you’re giving yourself every opportunity to meet all of your essential emotional needs.
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Other helpful links
"Catfish, the TV Show." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.