Be sure to note # 10 below for a 10 minute test you can take !
WITHIN THIS TOPIC ARE:
Emotional Affairs ~ Infidelity?
THE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN IN-PERSON
AND CYBERSPACE RELATIONSHIPS: WORDS AND LISTENING
Surviving a Long Distance Relationship
Pen Pal Romance
5. Psychology of Cyberspace
6. Cyberspace: Love Online
7. Psychological Dynamics of Online Synchronous Conversations in Text-Driven Chat Environments (now that's a mouthful)
8. Cybersex and Infidelity
Implications for Evaluation and Treatment
9. Internet Relationships and Their Impact on Primary Relationships
10. Internet Relationships – Blessing or Curse?
How do I survive a long distance relationship?
Conclusion ~ 'It is what it is' I say to myself with a smile.
**** 13. Curious about yourself and your relationship with people on the internet?
Wondering why some things that seem they should be so easy actually are quite difficult? Looking for some insight as to 'what
makes me tick" ~ what traits do I have that may be causing me difficulties in relating to and with people?
10 minutes to test yourself. This test is amazingly accurate & insightful. Be prepared for some difficult questions, certainly
many to make you really examine yourself. Above all, BE HONEST !!
Personality Disorder Test
This test, sponsored by 4degreez.com, is meant to help determine whether or not you have a personality
disorder. It is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool, but rather as a tool to give you insight into a potential disorder
that may be having a negative impact on your life. If you believe you may be suffering from a personality disorder or any
other disorder, you should ask your family doctor to recommend a therapist in your area to meet with.
If you are looking
for a personality test that features a professional analysis of your results, try Tickle.com's test.
First, what is
a personality disorder?
A personality disorder is basically a set of traits that combine to negatively affect your life.
They have a wide range of causes and some are easier to treat than others. This test is set up to look for the ten recongized
personality disorders which are Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant,
Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive.
Once again, this test is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool. Only a trained
professional can properly diagnose a personality disorder.
Finally, be honest! This test is completely anonymous,
so please be honest otherwise you will not get the proper results.
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The topic of infidelity is a frequent
topic with couples experiencing problems. When most people hear the terms 'infidelity' or 'affair', they almost always think
of a passionate, romantic, physical relationship. Certainly many people engage in physical affairs borne out of immaturity,
acting out of hostility and even sexual addiction.
What is less understood however,
and at times can be even more threatening to a long-term relationship than a physical affair, is an emotional affair. An emotional
affair occurs when one member of a relationship consistently turns to someone else for their core, primary emotional support
in life. It often develops slowly, even innocently, as a friendship with a co-worker or friend. There may or may not be a
romantic/sexual attraction initially accompanying this budding friendship. But when the primary relationship is experiencing
ongoing hostility, conflict and/or distance, and one member of the relationship pulls away from their partner and consistently
turns to their 'friend' for companionship, support and sharing of deep personal material, an emotional affair has begun.
For many people, the emotional
affair is a great source of relief and comfort during relationship difficulties. But the danger is that there is a finite
amount of intimate emotional energy to go around, and when one begins to regularly invest significant amounts of their emotional
energy in someone outside the primary committed relationship, the primary relationship can be seriously compromised.
Frequently, an emotional affair
will deepen through consistent contact through in-person discussion and/or numerous email and voice mail messages. There becomes
an excitement and ease in hearing from the person. And when this type of relationship does lead to physical intimacy, it's
often a little sex and a lot of talking. The sex may be intense and passionate, but it is the feeling of emotional safety
and companionship that really fuels the bond at the deepest level.
This companionship can doom the
primary relationship. Once the door of emotional intimacy has been opened and the bond deepens, the person having the emotional
affair cannot help but compare. "It's so easy to talk to her, and so hard to talk to my spouse" is the common refrain. "My
husband always complains and criticizes, but my friend is always there, always in a good mood, and always understands and
listens to me." It is much easier to open up and feel safe in a superficial new friendship compared to a long-term committed
How do you know if you are developing
an emotional affair? Ask yourself these questions:
do I feel like it's easier to
talk to my friend than my partner?
does my friend seem to understand
me in a deeper way than my partner?
have I stopped confiding my deepest
feelings and concerns with my partner and now turn to my friend for these needs?
If you find yourself
or your partner developing an emotional affair, you need to put your attention on your primary relationship as soon as possible.
Get help to understand why you drifted to this other person in the first place. Begin the work of re-investing emotional energy
in your primary relationship. Turning to someone else during a time of conflict or distance often is merely escaping and avoiding
other issues which won't go away. And don't kid yourself: these same issues will resurface again should you develop a real
relationship with your emotional affair partner. You may as well learn to deal with them now, before putting yourself and
your partner through a terrible crisis.
ONLINE AFFAIRS - Emotional and Physical
Some emotional affairs occur online, with
someone you've never actually met in person. Here are seven signs that your significant other may be having a cyberaffair:
Chat rooms and meeting places for cybersex
don't heat up until late at night, so the cheating partner tends to stay up later and later to be part of the action. Often,
the partner suddenly begins coming to bed in the early-morning hours, may leap out of bed an hour or two earlier and bolt
to the computer for a pre-work e-mail exchange with a new romantic partner may explain things.
The computer may be
moved from the visible den to a secluded corner of a locked study, the spouse may change the password, or cloak his or her
online activities in secrecy. If disturbed or interrupted when online, the cheating spouse may react with anger or defensiveness.
an intimate relationship, sharing chores often is regarded as an integral part of a basic commitment. So when a spouse begins
to invest more time and energy online and fails to keep up his or her end of the household bargain, it could signal a lesser
commitment to the relationship itself -- because another relationship has come between your marriage.
spouse may hide credit-card bills for online services, telephone bills to calls made to a cyberlover, and lie about the reason
for such extensive net use. They also may tell you they will quit.
A once warm and sensitive wife becomes cold and
withdrawn. A formerly jovial husband turns quiet and serious. If questioned about these changes in connection with their Internet
habit, the spouse engaging in a cyberaffair responds with heated denials, blaming and rationalization. Often times, the blame
is shifted to the spouse.
Some cyberaffairs evolve into phone sex or an actual rendezvous, but cybersex can include mutual masturbation from
the confines of each person's computer room. When a spouse suddenly shows a lesser interest in sex, it may be an indicator
that he or she has found another sexual outlet.
Those engaged in a cyberaffair no longer want to participate in the
marital relationship - even when their busy Internet schedule allows. They shun those familiar rituals like a shared bath,
talking over the dishes after dinner or renting a video on Saturday night. They don't get as excited about taking vacations
together and they avoid talk about long-range plans in the family or relationship.
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SHOWDOWN BETWEEN IN-PERSON
AND CYBERSPACE RELATIONSHIPS:
WORDS AND LISTENING
by John Suler, Ph.D.
A powerful way that people connect to each other is through words. In the beginning, CSR relied
mostly on language conveyed through typed text - mostly e-mail and newsgroups posts. Even today, typed-text accounts for a
very large majority of communication over the Internet. There are at least three distinct advantages of these text-mediated
relationships over IPR.
1. The interaction is asynchronous. It doesn't occur in "real time" so you can respond to
your net-mate whenever you wish, at whatever pace you wish. That gives you time to think about what you want to say and to
compose your reply exactly the way you want. This comes in very handy for those awkward or emotional situations in a relationship.
Unlike IPR, you're never on the spot to reply immediately. You can think it through first, do a little researching or soul-searching,
if you wish. My advice for those very emotional moments is to compose a message, wait at least 24 hours, reread your message,
modify it if necessary... then send it off. This wait-and-revise strategy can do wonders in averting impulsiveness, embarrassment,
2. The written dialogues of CSR may involve different mental mechanisms than in-person talk. It may reflect
a distinct cognitive style that enables some people to be more expressive, subtle, organized, or creative in how they communicate.
Some people feel that they can express themselves better in the written word. Surely, there have been truly great authors
and poets who sounded bumbling or shallow during IP conversation.
3. Text-mediated relationships enable you to record
the interactions by saving the typed-text messages. Essentially, you can preserve large chunks of the relationship with your
net-mate, maybe even the entire relationship if you only communicated via typed-text. At your leisure, you can review what
you and your partner said, cherish important moments in the relationship, and reexamine misunderstandings and conflicts. This
kind of reevaluation of the relationship is impossible in IPR, where you almost always have to rely on the vagaries of memory.
In fact, if you want to get downright philosophical about it, you could make the argument that your complete archive of text
communications with your net-mate *is* the relationship with that person, perfectly preserved in bits and bytes. It's not
unlike a novel, which isn't a record of characters and plot, but rather *is* the characters and plot.
The big disadvantage
of text-driven relationships is what's missing vis-a-vis IPR. There are no voices, facial expressions, or body language to
convey meaning and emotion. That issue takes us to the first of the five senses -- hearing.
The human voice is rich
in meaning and emotion. A sharp edge to someone's words can rouse your suspicion or anger. Just the sound of a loved one's
voice can be enough to create feelings of comfort and joy. Singing - one of the most expressive of human activities -- powerfully
unites people. In CSR mediated by text only, both obvious and subtle nuances in voice pitch and volume are completely absent.
And singing is impossible (unless you consider the mutual recitation of lyrics as singing... which some onliners do).
of text-driven CSR do have a comeback to this criticism. Lacking auditory and visual cues, the e-mail message or newsgroup
post can be productively ambiguous in tone. When reading that typed message, there is a strong tendency to project -- sometimes
unconsciously -- your own expectations, wishes, anxieties, and fears into what the person wrote. Psychoanalytic thinkers call
this "transference." Your distorting the person's intended meaning could lead to misunderstandings and conflict. It could
stimulate countertransference reactions from your Internet partner. On the other hand, if you discuss your (mis)perceptions
with your friend, you are revealing underlying (perhaps unconscious) elements of how you think and feel. In a sense, you are
being more real with the other person, allowing a deeper relationship to form. Of course, this more rich and meaningful relationship
will only develop when people are mature enough to talk about and work through those projections and transferences with each
An entirely different comeback for cyberspace advocates is that one's voice can be heard via the Internet.
It's only a matter of time before audio-streaming becomes perfected to the point where it matches the quality of IP. In fact,
conversing in cyberspace may have some distinct advantages. If you so desire, conversations easily could be saved and replayed
-- which isn't possible in IPR, unless you're carrying a tape recorder. Using software programs, nuances in voice pitch and
volume can be examined more carefully for subtle emotions and meaning. Programs also could allow you to modify your voice
as you transmit it. If you want to speak in the voice of Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwartzenegger, or Daffy Duck, so be it. Or
you can add in any auditory special effect you desire in order to embellish your words -- Pomp and Circumstance, explosions,
quacks. As we'll see over and over again, a unique feature of CSR is the ability to use imagination and fantasy to shape the
way in which you desire to present yourself. This can be a fascinating and revealing dimension to a relationship.
Suler, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Rider University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has published on psychotherapy,
mental imagery, and eastern philosophy.
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Surviving a Long
Challenging and difficult, though they may not be what we want to hear, are the words that best
describe long distance relationships. Keep in mind however, that the words are challenging and difficult, not impossible.
Many people choose to give a long distance relationship a try, with the constant curiosity if it was the right decision to
make and if it even stands a chance. The truth is, a long distance relationship has just as much a chance of succeeding as
any other relationship!
Long Distance Relationships share the same facts as an average relationship. It involves two
people who share an interest in each other’s lives, care for one another and of course have a love for each other that
they hope will only continue to grow. On the other hand, a long distance relationship does have its differences as well. It
takes away your ability to see each other on a frequent note, as well as the choice of being intimate whenever you desire,
not to mention that there would be major trust required. Being unable to spend time together in a physical presence makes
it harder to hang on to, but does not spell out doom for your relationship.
The first step is to make an agreement
of what your expectations are in the relationship and how much of a commitment you are willing to give and receive. If the
two of you decide to be monogamous, then it is clear that neither of you will be dating anyone else as long as your romantic
relationship exists. Being clear about what you both want is extremely important, especially in a long distance relationship,
in order to prevent future misunderstandings and mistakes. Do not feel afraid to tell your partner what you really need and
want from him or her, you deserve the chance to speak from your heart and he or she deserves to know the truth and judge whether
they can give it to you.
Trust is a major necessity if you wish to have your relationship from a distance. Without
trust and honesty, the relationship is in for danger and unsuccessfulness, just as it would be any other relationship. By
accepting the challenge of a long distance relationship, you also accepted the fact that you will have to have the trust and
faith that your partner will not be seeing anyone else as promised. Being paranoid and accusing will only grow doubts, insecurity
and tension between you and none of those three will help the relationship survive successfully.
Keeping each other
informed of the friendships you have with other people and the events that take place in your personal life is a great way
to keep your relationship alive and healthy; and continues to make your partner a part of your life. It is essential that
you receive the same information from your partner as well, so you both feel the same security and satisfaction that you both
crave. Be creative with the way you keep in touch, such as calling, e-mailing, faxing and sending cards. Pay attention to
how many times a week you are staying in touch as well. If you want your bond to stay strong and loving, you have to hear
from one another often, leaving as little room for any of you to start getting paranoid about anything.
cannot be romantic towards each other on a physical note, you can still perform romantic acts that will keep the romance department
happy. You can do this by sending love letters and poems, having flowers and gifts delivered, or even sending a video of yourself
with a loving message. Reminding your partner of how much you think about and love him or her will score high points, making
them miss you more with the constant urge to see you.
Planning reunions play a big part in keeping your relationship
exciting, plus serve you the satisfaction of being able to see and touch each other occasionally. It gives you the opportunity
to catch up on each other’s life in person and to be able to share physical and intimate activities together, which
will fulfill both of your needs and desires. Not re-uniting every once in a while will only damage the relationship you have,
so if one of you are not willing to visit the other occasionally, then you may need to question the interest and care your
partner has for you and should probably end the relationship and move on. If you and your partner truly want this to work
out, then you will both continue to be eager to see each other as often as you can and every time to have the chance to.
a limit of how long you will be apart is a wise thing to do if you do not want to end up waiting forever. There will be a
day when you and your partner will have to start planning a serious future, which can only happen when you are living in the
same area or perhaps even living together, whichever makes you most comfortable. If none of you are willing to agree on a
place to settle and start having a relationship where you see each other on a regular basis, then you can pretty much forget
about accomplishing anything out of your long distance relationship. If your partner truly loves you and wants to be with
you, then they would not want to wait forever to be with you.
With the right amount of effort and interest on both
parts, a long distance relationship can survive the obstacles it will frequently be challenged with. As long as you both refresh
your memories of why you chose to do this in the first place, trust each other, inform one another of your personal lives,
keep in touch, and visit, your relationship can turn out to be one of the most successful and happy relationships that ever
existed. You both will be secure, happy and satisfied until the day comes when you will re-unite for good and build your wonderful
- by Alina Ruigrok
Alina Ruigrok is an independent relationship expert
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Pen Pal Romance
by: Skye Thomas
We have all heard the wonderfully romantic stories of pen pals that wrote to each other for years
without meeting because they lived hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. Some friend of a friend set them up as pen pals
or she decided to write to some unknown soldier away at war. They exchanged a few pictures and spent countless hours drafting
letters back and forth, baring their hearts and souls to each other. Without ever dating, they fell in love. When one could
eventually travel across the distance to finally meet the other, they both knew immediately that this was indeed the one they'd
spend the rest of their life with. The physical attraction was every bit as strong as the emotional attraction they had felt
for each other. It's a classic story that's existed as long as there's been a postal system for delivering the letters between
would be lovers.
Today we have an Internet version of the same thing. People go to these dating sites to find love.
It seemed a bit weird at first like most things that are new and different, but eventually we became used to the idea. Is
it really any different than meeting in any other manner? You still have to weed through the riffraff. You still have people
presenting themselves as something other than what they really are. You still have crooks and cheats, predators. And you still
have honest real folks looking for true love. You still have single parents worried that people won't accept their kids as
part of a package deal. You still have married folks looking for a way to cheat on their partners. The only real difference
is how fast the system works. You can weed through a heck of a lot of less than desirable matches really fast and you don't
even have to waste time or money on dinner and movies, or on babysitters and a new dress.
It's my hope that you would
take your time with the ones who do seem promising. When you find a profile that seems interesting, don't rush through the
process. Sure, a lot of people say that the eyes are the windows to the soul and that you need to meet in person to get a
real feel for each other. And there is a lot of truth to that. Ultimately you do have to meet in person to determine if there's
any type of chemistry between you or not. It's not something that can be logically determined You feel it or you don't and
you won't know until you meet them face to face. But what about those old pen pal stories? They fell in love without it being
about sexual attraction. When we meet face to face with someone that we are physically attracted to, it's human nature to
want to speed up the process so that we can get to the really good stuff! I'm thinking that if we took more time in the passing
notes back and forth portion before actually meeting face to face, then we'd be more inclined to fall for the person inside
rather than for the physical beauty that can be so blinding to the truth about people. We all know someone who's been completely
consumed by a hot passionate attraction for someone who was so incredibly wrong for them. It takes forever for them to open
their eyes and see the sexy person for what they really are. Please don't think that I'm saying that all good looking people
are bad relationships waiting to happen. I just don't want you to confuse sexual attraction with real intimacy.
you're just looking to get laid, then by all means disregard this article! It's not written for you. If you're looking to
find that once in a lifetime incredible love, then why not take the extra time to do it right? Why not agree to write emails
back and forth for a while before meeting in person? Chances are you've already seen their picture on the matchmaker's web
site. Make up fun questionnaires for each other to fill out. Ask them all sorts of interesting questions about themselves
like 'if you could invite four people to dinner regardless of what time in history they lived or died, who would it be and
why?' Ask them what their number one biggest regret is in life. Ask them what their number one most embarrassing moment in
life is. Ask them what their number one best shining moment was. Ask them if they felt loved as a child. Ask them if they
have felt loved as an adult. What is their next wild adventure in life going to be? Have fun really getting to know each other
before you meet in person. Have a real bond based on more than the fact that you both like moonlit walks on the beach and
want to someday have children. When you do finally meet, you won't suffer those uncomfortable silences either, you'll have
shared laughs and have plenty to talk about. You'll already be real friends.
So many people put in their profiles
that they only want to meet people that are close to home, 50 miles, 100 miles, etc. Why not reach out across the globe. Why
not find new pen pals to write to? Even if you never fall in love, you've gained a new friend and the experience of feeling
connected to others. Who knows maybe your soulmate is just across the ocean. Perhaps they're waiting for a note from you in
their inbox. Perhaps you'll become one of those wonderful love stories worth telling your grandchildren about. "Yep, your
grandmother and I wrote back and forth for a year before I finally saved up enough money to fly over and meet her. And let
me tell you, the first time I laid eyes on her I knew that she was the only one for me. She was well worth the wait!"
Skye Thomas began writing books and articles with an everyday practical approach to life in 1999 after
twenty years of studying spirituality, metaphysics, astrology, personal growth, motivation, and parenting. After years of
high heels and business clothes, she is currently enjoying working from home in
LMAO! This is
my kind of gal for sure !! ;) A screen nick I've used for years is Polka Dot Puh Jommies..... PDPJ :)
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Psychology of Cyberspace
With the advance of computers and online networks -
especially the Internet - a new dimension of human experience is rapidly opening up. The term "cyberspace" has been mentioned
so often that it may at this point seem trite and overly commercialized. However, the experience created by computers and
computer networks can in many ways be understood as a psychological "space." When they power up their computers, launch a
program, write e-mail, or log on to their online service, users often feel - consciously or subconsciously - that they are
entering a "place" or "space" that is filled with a wide array of meanings and purposes. Many users who have telneted to a
remote computer or explored World Wide Web will describe the experience as "traveling" or "going someplace." Spatial metaphors
- such as "worlds," "domains," or "rooms" are common in articulating online activities.
On an even deeper psychological level, users often
describe how their computer is an extension of their mind and personality - a "space" that reflects their tastes, attitudes,
and interests. In psychoanalytic terms, computers and cyberspace may become a type of "transitional space" that is an extension
of the individual's intrapsychic world. It may be experienced as an intermediate zone between self and other that is part
self and part other. As they read on their screen the e-mail, newsgroup, or chat message written by an internet comrade, some
people feel as if their mind is merged or blended with that of the other. In their April Fools prank, "Tidal Wave Communications"
introduced a new computer accessory called "Orecchio" - a headset, using Telepathic Internet Data Exchange (TIDE) protocol,
that enhances e-mail functionality by enabling you "to send your most important thoughts directly from their source: your
mind." "Imagine no more keyboards and achy hands. No more eye strain from the glare of the screen. Just visualize the message you
want to send, followed by your send command, and poof! Your email is transmitted to our network for quick delivery to its
destination." Truth comes out in jest.
When one experiences cyberspace as this extension of
one's mind - as a transitional space between self and other - the door is thrown wide open for all sorts of fantasies and
transference reactions to be projected into this space. Under ideal conditions, people use this as an opportunity to better
understand themselves, as a path for exploring their identity as it engages the identity of other people. Under less than
optimal conditions, people use this psychological space to simply vent or act out their fantasies and the frustrations, anxieties,
and desires that fuel those fantasies.
As an internet traveller once told me, "Everywhere
I go on the internet, I keep running into...... ME!"
The psychological qualities of cyberspace are determined
by the hardware and software that constitute computers and the online world. An Op has the power to throw you off an IRC channel;
lag can destroy conversation in a chat group; the reply-to in a listserv group might send your e-mail to the whole list or
just to the sender of the message. All of these factors affect the psychological "feel" of the environment. All of them are
determined by the nuts and bolts and program code that comprise the internet infrastructure. As hardware and software change,
so will the psychological aspects of cyberspace. Of particular interest is the expansion of the experiential dimensions of
cyberspace by technological advances that allow more visual and auditory communication. How will the ability to see and hear
other people on the internet change cyberspace? Will people WANT to give up those spaces that lack face-to-face cues but are
rich in imaginative ambiguity?
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Summary: Aaron Ben-Ze'ev's book, Love Online:
Emotions on the Internet, shows how Internet chatting can affect real relationships.
Indeed, online relationships can be unusually seductive.
They are readily accessible, they move very quickly, and under the cloak of anonymity, they make it easy for people to reveal
a great deal about themselves.
Putting themselves into words, getting replies while
they're still in the emotional state of the original message, relying heavily on imagination to fill in the blanks about the
recipient, people communicating online are drawn into such rapid self-disclosure that attachments form quite literally with
the speed of light.
How this happens, and the subtle but important ways
it influences "real" life, is the subject of a fascinating book, Love Online: Emotions on the Internet, by Aaron Ben-Ze'ev.
A philosopher who is now president of Haifa University in Israel, Ze'ev does not think intimate Internet relationships, and
even cyber sex, are all bad. But he does think they could have an impact on the way we conduct offline life and even change
our view of infidelity.
Ze'ev calls cyberspace a kind of "mentally nude commune,"
where people often strip off their masks. What nudity leaves undone, imagination finishes. "Imagination, which paints cyberspace
in more intense and seductive colors, also helps people satisfy some of their most profound desires." It frees people from
the limits imposed by their bodies and their surroundings.
What's so ironic about using the internet is that it's
a solitary activity that leads to social contact-while it isolates users from their own families, the people in the very next
room. One reason it does this is that Internet use is almost addictive; the rewards of contact are so immediate and so pleasurable.
And while cyber relationships can be more sincere and open than offline relationships, they also leave a great deal of room
for deception, although online relationships are marked more by dreams than deception.
There is, of course, a price to pay for this activity-"the
risk of being captured by your own desire," is the way Ze'ev puts it. Despite the opportunity for intense disappointment,
which lies just a click away, online affairs are flourishing. They are not merely a whole new type of relationship with their
own unique characteristics; Ze'ev calls them "the first real alternative" to face-to-face relationships.
Online affairs are, above all, safe. There's no danger
of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. "Having an online affair is like going to a party whenever you want to, without
having to leave your home," says Ze'ev.
The strange mixture of physical distance and emotional
closeness of online affairs is what makes them so intense. And it's such a novel development, such a new kind of interpersonal
experience, Ze'ev contends, that our own emotional systems are not prepared to deal with such contradictory elements in a
relationship. Yet the contradictions and uncertainties of online romantic relationships allow emotions to play a much greater
role than in other relationships.
Ze'ev doesn't think online relationships will ever
replace offline ones, but he does think the advent of internet relationships will ultimately force us to relax our view of
romantic exclusivity and romantic betrayal. We will gain more of a sense of "romantic flexibility." Imagination, he says,
"lets us wander through the jungle of our own wishes and desires."
Still, he says, there are times when chatting is cheating.
And there's a very simple way to know when you've crossed the line-there's deception.
If you engage in an Internet relationship that you
keep secret from your real-life mate, you're engaging in deception. "Chatting is not cheating when the significant other knows
about it," says Ze'ev. The trouble with deception is that it kills intimacy and ruptures trust in the primary relationship.
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(now that's a mouthful)
In the beginning, there
was TextTalk. And only TextTalk. Now that the internet has become multimedia, sounds and images also are whizzing by us. But
even with the advent of video and audio streaming, typed text continues to reign supreme as the primary mode of conversing
on the internet. This is especially true of "synchronous" modes of communication, as in the ever-popular IRC channels and
chat rooms of AOL. Even in the multimedia chat communities, like Palace, where users communicate with avatars and sounds within
a visual backdrop, typed text remains the front line method of "talking."
TextTalk in online chat environments
has evolved into a fascinating style of communication. In some ways, it is strikingly similar to face-to-face (ftf) dialogue.
In other ways, it is quite unique. Many of its unique qualities revolve around the fact that it is an austere mode of communication.
There are no changes in voice, no facial expressions, no body language, no (or very little) visual/spatial environment as
a context of meaning. There's just typed words. Some people find that experience too sparse. They feel disoriented, disembodied,
adrift in that screen of silently scrolling dialogue. Other people love the minimalist style of TextTalk. They love to see
how people creatively express themselves despite the limitations. They love to immerse themselves in the quiet flow of words
that feels like a more direct, intimate connection between one's mind and the minds of others. Almost as if the other is inside
one's head. Almost as if you are talking with a part of yourself. Without the distracting sights and sounds of the ftf world,
TextTalk feels like a more pure communication of ideas and experiences. For some users (like many interested in cybersex),
the bare quality of typed text allows for a greater flight of imagination and fantasy.
A Method in the Madness
Chat room banter can
seem quite chaotic, especially when there are many people talking, or you have just entered a room and immediately dive into
the ongoing flow of overlapping conversations. There are no visual cues indicating what pairs or groups of people are huddled
together in conversation, so the lines of scrolling dialogue seem disjointed (visual chat environments, where users can move
their avatars close to each other, have an advantage in this respect). You have to sit back and follow the flow of the text
to decipher the themes of conversation and who is talking with whom. In almost all types of chat environments, you consciously
and unconsciously set up mental filters and points of focus that help you screen out "noise" and zoom in your concentration
on particular people or topics of discussion. Often, you become immersed in one or two strings of dialogue and filter out
the others. With experience, you develop an eye for efficiently reading TextTalk. Some people may be better at this specific
cognitive-perceptual task than others.
Let's pop you into
an excerpt from an ongoing chat room conversation and see if you can figure out what's happening in this "buzzing confusion."
Here are a few hints: there's an intellectual discussion between Symmetry and TipTop; the greeting of a user (YieldNot) whom
people haven't seen in a while (they know his real-name initials, which means these people know each other pretty well); some
mutual ribbing between Avenger and Barney; and a new user (Newbie) who's having a hard time edging his way into this conversation
among more the experienced users.
||good to see JH back |
||Why do ya ask...Chill? |
||my life is really out of balance....this computer
stuff is far to consuming.... |
||good i would hate to think you beecame a woman
on me |
||Its TheBrat! |
||hi JH |
||good to be back |
||hello everybody |
||NO more crotch jokes, Avenger. |
||good to have you back JH |
||we don't keep our sanity... that's the problem!!
||????????????????it made no sense... |
||reading a book about humor and disabilities
||I love you too Barney, not. |
||that's yer sister calling |
||thanks everyone! |
||Hah! Busted JH! |
||what's up everyone? |
||I wondered that too :) |
||my interest is sociology of time and space
||interesting topics! |
||I love that kind of stuff |
||and philosophy too |
||Chill...gotta show you my server some time!
||i think it is interesting...how cultures think
about time, particular, or even individuals and how that impacts on our behaviors |
||having trouble with my typing and log |
What's interesting about these
types of log excerpts is that they often are more difficult to read and understand than actually "being there" at the time
the chat is occurring. In part, this is due to the fact that during a post-hoc reading of a log, you read at the pace you
usually read any written material - which is QUICKLY, but much too quickly to absorb TextTalk. While online, the lag created
by people typing and by thousands of miles of busy internet wires forces the conversation into a slower pace. And so you sit
back, read, wait, scan backwards and forwards in the dialogue (something you can't do in ftf conversation), and think about
what to say next. There's more time for those perceptual/cognitive filters and lens to operate. There's also more time for
a psychological/emotional context to evolve in your mind - a context that helps you follow and shape the nuances of meaning
that are developing in the TextTalk.
To help you out a
little bit, I've edited the other log excerpts that appear in this article. Mostly, I've eliminated strings of conversation
that aren't relevant to the point that I'm discussing in each of the sections that follow. My editing is doing the job of
those filters that operate automatically (almost unconsciously) while online.
You would think that
the lack of ftf cues and the buzzing confusion of TextTalk would result in many misunderstandings. If five different conversations
are scrolling before your eyes, it would seem easy to lose track of what was said. And if you can't hear people's voices,
or see their faces, you easily might misinterpret what they mean, wouldn't you? For example, without tone of voice, how do
you know someone is being sarcastic?
After searching through my many
megabytes of saved logs, I found no juicy examples of people being confused or misunderstanding what other people were saying.
Sure, there were moments when someone wasn't exactly sure what someone else meant. Situations involving humor and sarcasm
usually were the culprits, because that smile, chuckle, or wry tone of voice were missing. But these misunderstandings were
always cleared up quickly. A quick explanation accompanied by a simple smiley : ) or winky ; ) efficiently resolves the confusion.
about TextTalk is that people mostly DO understand what others mean, despite the lack of visual and auditory cues.
Of course, some chat
users may like to play games with the potential ambiguity of TextTalk. The excerpt that follows is an interesting example
of how the lack of ftf cues can make it difficult to tell whether someone is intending humor or irony, and when they are being
honest or sly. The use of the winky ; ) and smiley : ) are sometimes used to indicate irony or sarcasm, but in this excerpt
the situation is perfectly ambiguous. The excerpt also illustrates how people play with the ambiguity of identity in chat
environments. The illusive use of the smileys add to this ambiguity. BillyBob is trying to figure out if matt or Nuclear (DrZz)
is really MrBig, a well known user in this community. Are Nuclear (DrZz) and matt simply playing head games with BillyBob?
Are they at times being truthful? Are they at times TRYING to be truthful but unable to convey that as a result of the limitations
of typed text. Without face-to-face visual cues, it's difficult to tell. Asterisks indicate a private communication (whispering)
to and from BillyBob:
||matt: are you MrBig in disguise?
||MrBig doesn't hang out in disguise.... or does
||i think yes, BillyBob ; ) |
||BillyBob, you mind if im a doctor in here?
||not sure what you mean... r u a doctor? |
||or a quiz show host................ |
||BillyBob: are you a BillyBob... in real life?
||I am what am I, and that's all that I am |
||if you can be popeye, then i can be a doctor
||--- [Nuclear changes his name to DrZz) ---
||Matt, are you MrBig? |
||no ; ) |
||so how come DrZz thinks you are MrBig? |
||he is being entertaining in his own way : )
||Wait a minute, maybe Nuclear is MrBig in disguise!
What do you think Matt? |
||BillyBob: he is thinking how not to be MrBig
; ) |
||So whatyda think Matt.... is DrZ the real MrBig?
||BillyBob:YES... no doubt 'bout that |
||How does one choose to define oneself at Palace...
that's an interesting issue
||The answer is ANY WAY ONE WANTS TO. |
In and Out of Synch (crisscrossed
messages and "leading")
Due to lag in network
connections, messages do not appear on your screen at a steady pace, which causes temporal "hiccups" in the pacing of the
conversation. People also may be fumbling with their typing, typing a long message, pausing to think... but you can't see
that. It's not easy to know when to wait to see if someone will continue to talk, when to reply, or when to change the topic
of discussion. A conversation may accidentally become crisscrossed until both partners get "in sync." Users skilled in online
chat - and who have a talent for writing - will create incomplete sentences or ideas that lead the companion into the next
message. To allow the other user to express a complex idea, you may need to sit back into a "listener" mode. Some users will
even type "listening to Joe" to indicate this posture to others.
||i think she's interested in me |
||I've been wondering about that |
i don't know what to do |
||Are you interested in her? |
||i got to email you about it |
||[...... long pause.......] |
||you still thinking about moving? |
||no, I'm not interested. That's the problem
||ugh... a tough situation |
||still thinking about it... it's a big decision
||where would you move to? |
||you're telling me! I don't want to hurt her
||you first..... |
||the thing is that because we're together at
work a lot she's beginning to think that... |
||we're developing a relationship. |
||even other people see us together and are assuming...
||we're an item. It's making me uncomfortable.
||I was in a situation like this once and I think
the only thing you can do is |
||talk to her and be as honest as you can, |
||and try to be gentle about it. |
||You're right, but no matter how gentle I try
to be, it will still boil down to one thing for her - |
Text communication in a chat room
or channel often assumes a staccato style. Most of the time people express what they have to say in a brief sentence or two,
or in sentence fragments. This style works well when people are joking around and ribbing each other, often in what turns
out to be a playful game of "can you top this." In these kinds of exchanges, it usually doesn't matter too much if the other
users' messages arrive on your screen out of the order in which the users may have intended them (which happens often in chat
rooms), since there is no specific logical sequence that is needed for the ideas. It is more of a group "free for all." The
following example illustrates this - and also lends fuel to the hypothesis of some psychologists that computers serve as sexual
symbols for some people.
||next ur gonna say she has a 15 inch
monitor, right? |
||20 inch, Dragon |
||geez and black and white haha |
||17 in rotating |
||bigger is... bigger! |
||wow, no wonder you gals like macs so much |
||doesn't have to be bigger, just better |
||and rechargeable |
||or plugged in the wall... |
||what about bigger AND better? |
||its not the size of the monitor, but the driver
behind it |
||with loads of amps |
||as one of my friends like to say, "How hard
is your big drive?" |
||more importantly, Hawkeye, is it compressed?
||more importantly, is it unzipped |
||and how often do you optimize it? |
||or is it backed up? |
||only in san francisco |
The staccato style
of speaking is very apparent in a chat room or channel where people are meeting each other for the first time. Because none
of the visual cues of face-to-face encounters are available, people feel the need to quickly test the waters to determine
the qualities of the users around them and whom they want to engage. Questions that would be considered less than tactful
in face-to-face encounters are a bit more socially acceptable here. Terse inquiries tossed out to a fellow user, or the entire
room, might include "Age?", "M/F?", "Married?"
Staccato speak also
includes a wide range of acronyms, like BRB (be right back), AFK (away from keyboard), IMHO (in my humble opinion), LTNS (long
time no see), and LOL (laughing out loud). Different acronyms evolve in different online cultures, but the LOL is ubiquitous.
So important is the need to express pleasure and laughter that a graduated series of such expressions have evolved. "Hehe"
or "hehehe" indicates a giggle, or a polite/obligatory chuckle: the user finds something humorous, but not humorous enough
to deserve a LOL, ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) or LMAO (laughing my ass off).
style of talking in chat environments can result in either superficial chat, or a very honest and "to-the-point" discussion
of personal issues. One doesn't have the verbose luxury of gradually leading the conversation to a serious topic, so self-disclosures
sometimes are sudden and very revealing. The safe anonymity resulting from the lack of ftf contact - as well as people not
knowing who you "really" are - also contributes to this honest and open attitude. In the following excerpt, both superficial
and very personal conversations are occurring simultaneously. Dan and Diamond sense the seriousness of Helen's distress and
try to address it. On the other hand, LostBoy tends to speak inappropriately because he is unable to detect the seriousness
of this discussion - partly due to the fact that he can't see or hear Helen's depression, and partly due to his lack of interpersonal
sensitivity (the lack of ftf cues probably amplifies the interpersonal insensitivity of some people). Arriving in the middle
of the discussion, Yabada also cannot sense the serious atmosphere in the room - which, in the ftf world, most people would
pick up almost immediately. He decides to leave - rather ungraciously abrupt by real-world standards, though acceptable in
cyberspace - when he finally realizes what is happening in the room and what Helen wants and needs: an understanding stranger
to listen to her anonymous self-disclosures about her problems. It's a need that brings some people to chat rooms.
||Helen, you sound depressed |
||I am forever depressed |
||If you traveled back in time and killed yourself,
you wouldn't be alive now so you could go back in time to kill yourself. A paradox! |
||I was like that alot.... now I am doing better
thanks to prosac |
||Helen, why are you depressed? |
||my heart hasn't healed from life yet |
||I have a family of depressed people |
||hi folks!!! |
||and .. like I said... am doing better |
||hi Diamond! |
||Helen, I have almost no self confidence...but
I never let it get me down. |
||hi Yabada |
||I pale to see myself typing this...but how
old are you Helen? |
||Yabada, are you hitting on poor Helen? |
||Helen, did you just break up? |
||no he's being very nice |
||I have never officially had a girlfriend before.
||I am in therapy now |
||I have a psychiatrist |
||Never been on a date. Never done the hunka
||actually a good listner is all I need right
||Gotta go. See you all later.
When a whole room is focused on discussing a single topic, the conversation often takes the form of group free-association.
Unlike face-to-face discussions, it's not clear who is reacting to whom because there is no eye contact. Any given user may
be addressing a comment to one other particular user, or to the whole room. If people don't preface their message with the
other user's name, it's not easy to tell who is reacting to whom, or if someone is indeed speaking to the whole group. Messages
also appear on your monitor in an intermixed, slightly non-sequential order, unlike face-face-discussions where people typically
respond to the idea that was just previously mentioned. The logical flow and transitions of face-to-face encounters are much
less apparent. The net result is a group "free association" where ideas bounce off each other and the "owner" and "recipient"
of the ideas become secondary. In the excerpt below, people are discussing internet romances.
||You can make the other person look
anyway you want them to |
||mental love is powerful |
||I think the internet is a very dangerous place
for some marriages |
||a few friends argue that cyberaffairs aren't
a problem to their marriages |
||i think they may be deluding themselves in
some cases |
||if you are looking, you can find love anywhere
||some say cybersex isn't really adultery |
give me ambiguity or give me something else |
||i don't think you can really love someone in
||hmm is this the topic we started on? |
||until you've spent time with them in person
||can you say "infatuation"?
Just Between You and Me (public and private self)
unlike face-to-face encounters, people can send private messages to another user in the room - a message that no one else
in the room can see. There may be very few or no messages appearing on YOUR screen, but the room may not be quiet at all.
There may be numerous private exchanges among the other people. In face-to-face encounters, the equivalent would be a silent
room filled with telepaths!
you are engaged in one of those private discussions, as well as conversing with people out loud, you are placed in the peculiar
situation of carrying on dual social roles - an intimate you and a public you, simultaneously. Even more complex is when you
attempt to conduct two (or more) private conversations, perhaps in addition to public ones. You may be joking privately with
user A, conducting a serious personal discussion with user B, and engaging in simple chit-chat out loud with the rest of the
room. This highly complex social maneuver requires a psychological mechanism called "dissociation" - the ability to separate
out and direct the components of your mind in more than one direction at the same time (the same mechanism that becomes pathologically
exaggerated in multiple personality disorders). It takes a great deal of online experience, mental concentration, and keyboarding
skill (eye/hand coordination) to pull it off. There is no equivalent for this in face-to-face encounters, except perhaps having
two or more people on different phone lines. But in that situation, your phone partners know you are dividing your efforts
to other people, while the chat room users may have no idea of your social juggling.
In the excerpt below, Alloy skillfully maneuvers his private conversations with Ocean and Cowboy, while also carrying
on a public exchange with Mr.X. Asterisks indicate a person who is sending a private message. This excerpt is hard to follow,
so read it slowly. It's a good example of how "being there" - in contrast to reading a log excerpt - makes it much easier
to understand what is going on:
||Hey MrX... you got any good CUSeeme
reflector lists! |
||hi again |
||I just got CuSeeMe...and have no reflectors
||almost every reflector I try doesn't work!!!
||my daughter is giving me grief about online
||it takes time Alloy... I'm sure we'll both
get familiar with it : ) |
||my kids complain sometimes too |
||so ya got a camera MrX? |
||yes : ) |
||Hey, ltns, Alloy. How're you doing? |
||MrX... can you TYPE text with CUseeme? |
||pretty good, Cowboy |
||no Alloy, I can't...but I think PC users can
||does your daughter REALLY get annoyed about
the computer? |
||how are things at work? |
||an exaggeration but she is annoyed.... feeling
||yeah... I feel guilty sometimes about being
on the computer so much |
||very busy |
Who Says Chat is Superficial?
The word "chat" surely connotes a superficial mode of relating. Indeed, conversation in a chat room often is less than
"deep." But as we've seen in the log excerpts so far, the conversation sometimes is very meaningful. Despite the staccato
style and the potential for buzzing confusion, discussions can be very fluid, sophisticated, and personal. In the excerpt
below, the ideas are complex and the interactions subtle. It also illustrates the "leading" strategy. These three people are
discussing whether Palace is a "real" community:
||do you think Palace is a "community"?
||yes i do |
||question is... what is "community" |
||there are some members that depend on it |
||but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a community
||hmmmm... interesting |
||there are repeated interactions |
||its a group of people with commonalities |
||certain people care about each other...look
for each other |
||is that community? |
||as much as any other "community" |
||or more so |
||there are "relationships" which are beyond
the sum of the individuals |
||if people hang out at a bar regularly... is
that a community? |
||this is not just a bar, BigThink |
||I'm playing the devil's advocate |
||ah... and doing well at it ; )
||some people here call each other, see each
other in "real life".... help each other |
||so there are commitments to each other, and
the group |
||if that isn't a community,
what is? |
Humans are funny. Present them with a limit, and they find ways around it. Give them a seemingly simple and straightforward
medium, and they find all sorts of ways to creatively fiddle with it. For example, in TextTalk, all you have are some letters
to represent your identity. You create a word to represent you. Sure, that's enough in itself for people to invent all sorts
of imaginative names for themselves. But people go beyond that. They elaborate and decorate their name with any variety of
keyboard characters that your fingers can tap. Names may range from a highly ornate:
to a quasi-auditory:
to a stark, abstract, preverbal:
Because there are no visuals in TextTalk, body language is impossible... Or is it? "Parenthetical action" can convey
any almost physical expression, some that even may be impossible in the ftf world. The parenthetical icing added to one's
message can clarify or amplify the message, add subtlety to it, and sometimes even sarcastically contradict it:
Ah, shucks... That was so nice of you to say! (blushing)
- That's fantastic news! (doing a backflip)
- I'm Mac. You're
PC?... Sorry bout that (ducking in anticipation)
- Gee, aren't you just the sweetest thing I ever saw (gag)
A Dying Art?
Sooner or later, bandwidth is going to increase
substantially. Video and audio streaming will make it much easier for people to chat with voices, and facial expressions,
and body language - almost like "really" being there. When that happens, will text-only chat environments die out? Will TextTalk
become an amusing bit of history in the fast-paced world of internet technology?
Perhaps not. Some people strongly prefer the minimalist style of TextTalk. They enjoy the anonymity, as well as the
challenge of creatively expressing themselves given the barest bones possible. They see beauty in the clean, simple, quiet
flow of scrolling words. Sights and sounds are but extraneous noise that clogs the pure expression of mind and soul. To these
people, TextTalk is an art that must not die.
See also in The Psychology of Cyberspace:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
and Infidelity Online:
Implications for Evaluation and Treatment
by Kimberly S. Young, Alvin Cooper, Eric Griffiths-Shelley, James O'Mara, and Jennifer Buchanan
Published in Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7(10, 59-74, 2000
Prior research has examined how marital
relationships can result in separation and divorce due to Internet addiction. This paper examines how the ability to form
romantic and sexual relationships over the Internet that can result in marital separation and possible divorce. The ACE Model
(Anonymity, Convenience, Escape) of Cybersexual Addiction provides a workable framework to help explain the underlying cyber-cultural
issues increasing the risk of virtual adultery. Finally, the paper outlines specific interventions that focus on strategies
for rebuilding trust after a cyberaffair, ways to improve marital communication, and finally how to educate couples on ways
to continue commitment.
Recent research has explored the existence
and extent of pathological Internet use (Brenner, 1997; Griffiths, 1996 & 1997; Morahan-Martin, 1997; Scherer, 1997; Young,
1997a, 1997b, 1998a, 1998b, 1999) which has resulted in significant social, academic, and occupational impairment. In particular,
aspects of this research (Griffiths, 1997; Young, 1998a, 1998b, 1999a) and prior research on computer addiction (Shotton,
1991) has observed that computer and/or Internet dependent users gradually spent less time with real people in their lives
in exchange for solitary time in front of a computer. Young (1998a) found that serious relationship problems were reported
by fifty-three percent of the 396 case studies of Internet addicts interviewed, with marriages and intimate dating relationships
most disrupted due to cyberaffairs and online sexual compulsivity.
Cyberaffairs are generally defined as
any romantic or sexual relationship initiated via online communication, predominantly electronic conversations that occur
in virtual communities such as chat rooms, interactive games, or newsgroups (Young, 1999a). A Cyberaffair can either be a
continuous relationship specific to one online user or a series of random erotic chat room encounters with multiple online
users. Virtual adultery can look like Internet addiction as the increasing amounts of time utilizing the computer. Meanwhile,
the person is addicted to the can online lover only to display compulsive behavior towards the utilization of the Internet
as a means to meet and chat with a new found love.
Infidelity online has accounted for a
growing trend in divorce cases according to the President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Quittner, 1997).
However, the nature and scope of marital dissolution caused by such virtual infidelity has been greatly underestimated due
to the Internet’s current popularity as an technological advancement (Young, 1997a). Furthermore, healthcare professionals,
especially marital and family therapist who are most like to deal with such couples, are often unfamiliar with the dynamics
associated with relatively new concept of cyberaffairs and the electronic process of virtual-based "cheating". Therefore,
this paper utilizes Young’s ACE Model of Cybersexual Addiction (1999b) to understand the underlying motivation of infidelity
online and outlines specific treatment strategies in working with such couples.
Potential Explanations of Infidelity Online
It is hard to image that a husband who
would never walk into an adult bookstore could download online pornography or a wife who would never pick up the telephone
to dial a 900-number could engage erotic chat or phone sex with men she met online. It is equally difficult to understand
how stable marriages of 15, 20, or 25 years end because of a three or four-month old cyberaffair. Yet, these are typical scenarios
plaguing many couples today.
In order to understand the increased
incidence of infidelity online, this paper applies the ACE Model of Cybersexual Addiction to explain how cyberspace creates
a cultural climate of permissiveness that actually serves to encourage and validate sexually adulterous and promiscuous online
behavior (Young, 1999b). The ACE Model examines three variables, anonymity, convenience, and escape that
lead to virtual adultery.
First, the anonymity of electronic transactions
allows users to secretly engage in erotic chats without the fear of being caught by a spouse. Anonymity provides the user
with a greater sense of perceived control over the content, tone, and nature of the online experience. Online experiences
often occur in the privacy of one’s home, office, or bedroom, facilitating the perception of anonymity and that Internet
use is personal and untraceable. Cyberaffairs are initiated via online communication (Young, 1999a) and typically begin in
chat room setting allowing users to talk in real-time by typing messages to each other through "screen names" or "handles."
Messages can either appear in the public forum for the entire room to read or an "instant message" can be sent privately to
a single member of the room. The anonymity associated with electronic communication allows users to feel more open and frank
in talking with other users. Anonymity also allows an online user to feel comfortable without needing to look for signs of
insincerity or judgment in their facial expression, as would be true in real life. The privacy of cyberspace enables a person
to share intimate feelings often reserved for a significant other that may open the door to a potential cyberaffair. Soon
typed messages passing along the computer screen carry with them emotional significance that often precedes more erotic dialogue
between online friends, which may blossom into virtual adultery.
Second, the convenience of interactive
online applications such as ICQ, chat rooms, newsgroups, or role-playing games provides a convenient vehicle to meet others
and their proliferation makes for easy access for a curious person’s initial exploration. What starts off as a simple
email exchange or an innocent chat room encounter can quickly escalate into an intense and passionate cyberaffair that leads
to secret phone calls and sexy real-life meetings. Or a curious husband or wife may secretly step into one of many rooms designed
for martial infidelity with titles such as the MarriedM4Affair, Cheating Wife, or Lonely Husband, only
to be shocked at the permissiveness of others engaged in virtual adultery. A husband who lives in New York considers it harmless
to flirt with a woman who lives in Australia. A wife rationalizes that having cybersex isn’t really cheating because
of the lack of physical contact. Soon, a once loving husband suddenly becomes evasive and demands his privacy when online
or a once warm and compassionate wife and mother turns towards the computer instead of caring for her children. In the end,
a harmless cyber-romp spells trouble as a spouse may leave a once long term and stable marriage because of someone they just
met over the Internet.
Many people falsely assume that the primary
reinforcement to engage in adultery is the sexual gratification received from the online sexual act. Studies have shown the
experience itself is reinforced through a type of drug "high" that provides an emotional or mental escape and serves to reinforce
the behavior leading to compulsivity (Young, 1997, 1998a, 1998b). A lonely wife in an empty marriage can escape into a chat
room where she is desired by her many cyber-partners. A sexually insecure husband can transform into a hot cyberlover that
all the women in the chat room fight over. While sexual fulfillment may provide the initial reinforcement, the more potent
reinforcement is the ability to cultivate a subjective fantasy world whereby the online can escape the stresses and strains
of real life. The courts have already argued the role of online compulsivity as a mental disorder in the defense of online
sexual deviancy cases. For example, one landmark case, the United States versus McBroom, successfully demonstrated
that the client’s downloading, viewing, and transferring of Internet pornography was less about erotic gratification
and more about an emotional escape mechanism to relieve mental tension.
Implications for Marital Therapy
While the ACE Model of Cybersexual Addiction
provides a workable framework to understand the cyberspace climate that serves to encourage and validate the cyberaffair,
clinicians working in aftermath of such cases need guidance on appropriate ways to improve a couples communication and cohesion.
Therefore, this section outlines specific interventions that focus on strategies for rebuilding trust after a cyberaffair,
ways to improve marital communication, and finally how to educate couples on ways to continue commitment. To achieve this
goal, this paper outlines how to: (a) detect a cyberaffair, (b) improve communication and confront the cheating spouse, (c)
deal with underlying issues contributing to the cyberaffair, and (d) rebuild marital trust.
Detection of a Suspected Cyberaffair:
Unlike spouses who catch their husbands
or wives in open adultery, a spouse may initially enter counseling with little more than a suspicion of a partner sharing
intimate words with another woman or man on a computer. In such instances, the first step is to evaluate the situation using
these early warning signs as a guide in order for therapists to make more informed choices and act to intervene more swiftly
- Change in sleep patterns
in sleep patterns - Chat rooms and meeting places for cybersex don't heat up until late at night, so the cheating partner
tends to stay up later and later to be part of the action. Often, the partner suddenly begins coming to bed in the early-morning
hours, may leap out of bed an hour or two earlier and bolt to the computer for a pre-work e-mail exchange with a new romantic
partner may explain things.
- A demand for privacy
demand for privacy - If someone begins cheating on their spouse, whether on-line or in real life, they'll often go to great
lengths to hide the truth from their wife or husband. With a cyberaffair, this attempt usually leads to the search for greater
privacy and secrecy surrounding their computer usage. The computer may be moved from the visible den to a secluded corner
of his locked study, the spouse may change the password, or cloak all his or her online activities in secrecy. If disturbed
or interrupted when online, the cheating spouse may react with anger or defensiveness. If someone begins cheating
on their spouse, whether on-line or in real life, they'll often go to great lengths to hide the truth from their wife or husband.
With a cyberaffair, this attempt usually leads to the search for greater privacy and secrecy surrounding their computer usage.
The computer may be moved from the visible den to a secluded corner of his locked study, the spouse may change the password,
or cloak all his or her online activities in secrecy. If disturbed or interrupted when online, the cheating spouse may react
with anger or defensiveness.
- Household chores ignored
chores ignored - When any Internet user increases his time on-line, household chores often go undone. That's not automatically
a sign of a cyberaffair, but in a marriage those dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and un-mowed lawns might indicate that someone
else is competing for the suspected person's attention. In an intimate relationship, sharing chores often is regarded as an
integral part of a basic commitment. So when a spouse begins to invest more time and energy on-line and fails to keep up his
or her end of the household bargain, it could signal a lesser commitment to the relationship itself - because another relationship
has come between marriage. When any Internet user increases his time on-line, household chores often go undone.
That's not automatically a sign of a cyberaffair, but in a marriage those dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and un-mowed lawns
might indicate that someone else is competing for the suspected person's attention. In an intimate relationship, sharing chores
often is regarded as an integral part of a basic commitment. So when a spouse begins to invest more time and energy on-line
and fails to keep up his or her end of the household bargain, it could signal a lesser commitment to the relationship itself
- because another relationship has come between marriage.
- Evidence of lying
cheating spouse may hide credit-card bills for on-line services, telephone bills to calls made to a cyberlover, and lie about
the reason for such extensive net use. Most spouses lie to protect their on-line habit, but those engaging in a cyberaffair
have a higher stake in concealing the truth, which often triggers bigger and bolder lies - including telling a spouse that
they will quit.
- Personality changes
spouse is often surprised and confused to see how much their partner's moods and behaviors changed since the Internet engulfed
them. A once warm and sensitive wife becomes cold and withdrawn. A formerly jovial husband turns quiet and serious. If questioned
about these changes in connection with their Internet habit, the spouse engaging in a cyberaffair responds with heated denials,
blaming, and rationalization. Often times, the blame is shifted to the spouse. For a partner once willing to communicate about
contentious matters, this could be a smokescreen for a cyberaffair.
- Loss of interest in sex
of interest in sex - Some cyberaffairs evolve into phone sex or an actual rendezvous, but cybersex alone often includes mutual
masturbation from the confines of each person's computer room. When a spouse suddenly shows a lesser interest in sex, it may
be an indicator that he or she has found another sexual outlet. If sexual relations continue in the relationship at all, the
cheating partner may be less enthusiastic, energetic, and responsive to you and your lovemaking.
- Declining investment in
your relationship -Declining investment in your relationship - Those engaged in a cyberaffair no longer want to participate in
the marital relationship - even when their busy Internet schedule allows. They shun those familiar rituals like a shared bath,
talking over the dishes after dinner, or renting a video on Saturday night. They don't get as excited about taking vacations
together and they avoid talk about long-range plans in the family or relationship. Often, they are having their fun with someone
else, and their thoughts of the future revolve around fantasies of running off with their cyberpartner - not building intimacy
with a spouse.
The discovery of a cheating
partner is difficult for the spouse to accept. Spouses react to the cheating partner with doubt, jealousy toward the computer,
and a fear that the relationship wParameters should
be established in terms of the communication goals within the cill end because of someone they never met.
Furthermore, spouses often become enablers as they rationalize their partners’ behavior as just a "phase" and they go
to great lengths to conceal the problem from family and friends. When working directly with the couple, practitioners should
assist them in basic communication skills to improve open, effective, and honest communication without blame or anger. Some
general guidelines include:
- Set specific goals
session. To facilitate goal setting for the non-offending spouse, a clinician should pose such questions as, "Do you just
need your partner to end the cyberaffair while you still allow an occasional cybsersex dalliance, or do you want all communication
with the opposite sex terminated as a solid gesture to begin rebuilding your trust?" "Are you hankering to pull the plug completely
on all Internet use, and if so, are you prepared for the likely withdrawal to hit?" and "If you adopt a more modest goal of
time moderation, how many hours per week would you aim for - twenty-five or five?" To facilitate goal setting for the cheating
spouse, a clinician should pose such questions as, "Have you already, or will you, give up the cyberaffair?" "Are you in a
position to give up the computer totally?" or "Have you considered sharing your computer experience together?" These goal-setting
questions evaluate a couple’s expectations related to the computer and assess their commitment to rebuild the present
- Use non-blaming "I" statements
therapist should emphasize the use of nonjudgmental language that won't sound critical or blaming. If the spouse states, "You
never pay any attention to me because you're always on that damn computer," the receiver will perceive it as an attack and
act defensively. As is common practice, the use of "I" statements allows for open communication of feelings in a nonjudgmental
manner. Therefore, clinicians should help clients rephrase statements into non-blaming language. For example, the prior statement
could be rephrased as, "I feel neglected when you spend long nights on the computer" or "I feel rejected when you say you
don't want to make love with me." Practitioners should help clients stay focused on the present experience and avoid the use
of negative trigger words such as "always," "never," "should," or "must," that sound inflexible and invite heated rebuttal.
- Empathetic Listening
clients listen fully and respectfully. Many spouses explain that they never sought cyberaffairs but found the process happening
too fast for them to see and understand. Underneath, they may be feeling guilty and truly wish to stop. Or, the cyberflings
may have stirred up their own resentments about the pain over what's been missing for them in your marriage. If the
offending partner tries to explain their motives for the affair, it is important to help the other partner suspend feelings
of betrayal or loss of trust and listen to these explanations as openly as possible to maximize communication.
- Consider other alternatives
face-to-face communication has been strained between the couple, clinicians should explore alternatives such as letter writing
and even email exchanges. Letter writing provides a longer forum to allow thoughts and feelings to flow without interruption
from a spouse. Reading a letter in a less charged atmosphere may allow the other person to drop their defensive posture and
respond in a more balanced manner. E-mail exchanges not only offer the same freedom of interruptions as letters but also can
demonstrate to the offending spouse that his or her partner doesn’t view the Internet itself as entirely evil. The couple
may share a laugh at the irony of taking this approach, which could open the door to a more productive face-to-face talk.
Cyberaffairs and cybersexual encounters
are typically a symptom of an underlying problem that existed in the marriage before the Internet ever entered the couple’s
lives. Pre-existing marital problems include: (a) Poor Communication, (b) Sexual Dissatisfaction, (c) Differences in child-rearing
practices, (d) Recent relocation from support from family and friends, and (e) Financial Problems. These are common troubles
for any couple. Yet, the presence of such issues will increase the risk of a cyberaffair. When two people are talking over
the Internet, the conversation offers unconditional support and comfort. A cyberlover can type an empathetic message when
he lives thousands of miles away, but in real-life be rude, aggressive, or insensitive to the people he meets. Yet this electronic
bond can offer the fantasy of all the excitement, romance, and passion that may be missing in a current relationship. Instead
of dealing with how to confront the issues hurting a marriage, people can use a cyberaffair as an easy escape from the real
issues. The cyberaffair becomes a means of coping with unexpressed anger towards a partner as an outside person electronically
offers understanding and comfort for hurt feelings. Therefore, it is vital that therapists thoroughly assess and directly
deal with possible underlying issues that contributed to the cyberaffair.
Rebuild Marital Trust:
As with any couple struggling in the
aftermath of an affair, a major goal of marital therapy is helping the couple to rebuild trust in the relationship. However,
special care must be taken to examine how to focus on relationship building after a cyberaffair because of several factors.
- Computer Use - Cyberaffairs often happen inside the couple’s
home and the "cheating" partner’s behavior is centralized around the computer, a tool that may also be used for non-romantic
purposes such as for business or home finances. However, each time the offending partner approaches the computer for a legitimate
reason, it may trigger feelings of suspicion and jealousy for the spouse. The therapist must help couple evaluate how the
computer will be used at home so that they can establish reasonable ground rules such as supervised computer use or moving
the computer into a public area of the family home.
- Psychoeducation - The practitioner should also provide psychoeducational
consultation for the couple to help remove the typical rationalizations exhibited by the offending partner and to help the
spouse understand the motives leading up to the cyberaffair. The cheating partner may not have purposely gone on the Internet
to look for someone else, but the online experience afforded an opportunity to form intimate bonds with fellow on-line users,
which quickly escalated to erotic chat and passionate conversations. The cheating partner often rationalizes the behavior
as just a fantasy, typed words on a screen, or that cybersex isn’t cheating because of the lack of physical contact.
Therapists should be careful not reinforce these rationalizations and focus on ways for the cheating partner to take responsibility
for their actions. This is an important element in therapy if the couple is to rebuild honesty and trust in their relationship.
- Renew Commitment
the therapist should help the couple evaluate how the cyberaffair has hurt the relationship and help formulate relationship-enhancing
goals that will renew commitment and improve intimacy between the couple. To help the couple renew commitment, the therapist
must stress forgiveness. Care should also be taken to evaluate the types of activities the couple used to enjoy before the
Internet and encourage them to engage in those events once again. Finally, inventions, which focus on a couple’s weekly
progress and how couples can use the Internet together for sexual enhancement, should be explored.
paper examines the powerful potential of romantic and sexual relationships on-line to negatively impact once stable marriages.
The warning signs of a cyberaffair are outlined, with specific behavioral changes in relation to computer usage being most
consistent indicators of online infidelity. Couples with pre-existing problems may be most at risk, especially as the ease
of idolizing of these on-line relationships will negatively distort perceptions of marital intimacy and exacerbate pre-existing
difficulties. To help repair marital commitment and trust, practitioners need to focus more carefully on the role of the computer
and its implications for treatment with such couples on the verge of Cyber-divorce.
- American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
(4th ed.) Washington, DC: Author
- Brenner, V. (1997). The results of an on-line survey for the first thirty days. Paper presented
at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 18, 1997. Chicago, IL.
- Griffiths, M. (1996). Technological addictions. Clinical Psychology Forum. 76, 14-19.
- Griffiths, M. (1997). Does Internet and computer addiction exist? Some case study evidence.
Paper presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 15, 1997. Chicago, IL.
- Morahan-Martin, J. (1997). Incidence and correlates of pathological Internet use. Paper
presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 18, 1997. Chicago, IL.
- Quittner, John. "Divorce Internet Style," Time, April 14, 1997, p. 72.
- Scherer, K. (1997). College life online: Healthy and unhealthy Internet use. Journal of College
Development, 38, 655-665.
- Shotton, M. (1991). The costs and benefits of "computer addiction." Behavior and Information
Technology. 10(3), 219-230.
- Young, K. S. (1997a). What makes on-line usage stimulating? Potential explanations for pathological
Internet use. Paper presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, August 15, 1997. Chicago,
- Young, K. S. (1997b). The relationship between depression and Internet addiction. Cyberpsychology
and Behavior, 1(1), 24-28.
- Young, K. S. (1998a) Internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. CyberPsychology
and Behavior, 1(3), 237-244.
- Young, K. S. (1998b). Caught in the Net: How to recognize the signs of Internet addiction and
a winning strategy for recovery. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Young, K. S. (1999a) The Evaluation and treatment of Internet addiction. In L. VandeCreek &
T. Jackson (Eds.). Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 17; pp. 1-13). Sarasota, FL: Professional
- Young, K.S. (1999b). Cybersexual Addiction. http://www.netaddiction.com/cybersexual_addiction.htm
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Internet Relationships and Their Impact on Primary Relationships
| Behaviour Change|
|Print ISSN: 0813-4839 |
|Volume: 21 | Issue: 2 |
|Cover date: 2004|
The number of personal relationships occurring via
the Internet is increasing as more people gain access to it. Many of these relationships are romantic in nature, and evidence
is accumulating that they have the potential to have an adverse effect on existing face-to-face relationships. This study
explored the formation of romantic relationships on their Internet, their nature, and their possible impact on existing marital
or de facto relationships in a sample of 75 adults (mean age 42 years, SD = 11.1 years) who responded to an online
survey of individuals involved in extradyadic relationships on the Internet. Respondents reported a variety of means of contacting
their online partner. More females than males communicated with them daily. Most respondents knew what their partner looked
like, most had contacted them by telephone, and a third had met them. Most reported more satisfaction with their online relationship
than with their face-to-face one, though few said that it was more important to them than their primary relationship. Although
only a quarter of the sample admitted that their online relationship had affected their primary one, those participants reported
concealing the truth about the time or nature of their activities, that everyday tasks did not get done, and that levels of
sexual intimacy with their primary partner had dropped. The nature of these and other problems suggests that therapists should
be aware of the potential for Internet relationships to seriously affect face-to-face relationships.
Author(s): Heather Underwood1
| Bruce Findlay2
1. Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.
2. Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.
Address for correspondence: Dr Bruce Findlay, School
of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, PO Box 218, Hawthorn, Vic. 3122, Australia. E-mail:
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|Even twenty years ago it was hard to imagine that people from the basements
of their houses would be able to connect with hundreds, thousands even millions of people all over the world through their
magical internet connections. There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionized how we communicate with the rest of the
world. It has taken the role that newspapers, radios and televisions used to play and pushed it a step further. Internet encounters
are living proof that we have become a part of a global village as the internet transcends provincial, national and international
borders and boundaries. |
Being a practicing psychotherapist I have met many men and women who have been suffering because
of the consequences of hurtful internet affairs and sexual abuse and I have been trying to help them deal with and heal from
the emotional pain caused by such interactions. When I review all the personal and professional encounters with internet relationships
and try to understand the psychology of such relationships, I strongly feel that such relationships can be divided in five
distinct groups. There can be others that are a combination of those five groups. We can see them on a spectrum from healthy
and enjoyable to unhealthy and painful.
Internet friendships are the healthiest. In such
relationships those men and women connect who cannot meet each other physically because of geographical distances. Such men
and women share common interests, hobbies and passions. As time passes their relationships evolve and they become part of
a creative network that not only support and inspire but also challenge each other in a constructive way.
Internet dating is a mixed blessing. It provides an opportunity to those shy or socially isolated men and women
who cannot meet their partners in real life. Different internet dating services arrange blind dates. While some people find
a suitable mate there are many who feel quite frustrated with the process. Some also lose thousands of dollars as some agencies
charge large fees to provide such services.
Internet relationships enter
a slippery slope when one or both parties are emotionally needy and desperate. In the beginning the relationship provides
a lot of support and fills the emotional vacuum but over a period of time one party becomes more and more demanding and the
other party with all the good intentions cannot keep up with the need. It is not uncommon for the needy person to project
their unfulfilled desires and dreams and get involved in an emotional affair. This is quite tricky if one or both parties
are involved in monogamous and committed relationships as their partners can perceive such relationships as affairs and feel
jealous. I have met many such couples in my practice in which one spouse insisted it was just friendship while the other spouse
insisted it was an affair and it was difficult to change their individual perspectives.
Internet extra-marital affairs
In these internet relationships unhappy and distressed spouses choose to have extra-marital affairs or those men and
women who do not believe in monogamous relationships choose to meet other available men and women. In such cases it is not
uncommon for them to arrange to meet each other for romantic and sexual affairs. I met a few cases in which the affairs became
more significant than the marriages and spouses divorced each other marrying the person they met on the internet. It is not
uncommon for the faithful spouse to feel angry, hurt and betrayed. I was involved in many discussions where one spouse defined
an affair in sexual terms while the other defined it in emotional terms and felt that secret relationships were affairs.
These relationships are most unhealthy and painful. It is not uncommon for some men and women to conceal their
identity and present themselves of different gender, age or marital status and have an affair based on a series of lies. The
other party continues the internet relationships in innocence and then sooner or later finds out the reality. In many case
the person is traumatized and in some cases has a breakdown. I know a young woman who was so obsessed with an older writer
that she took three female and two male identities pretending to write from different countries of the world to interact with
him. I met a number of young girls who thought they were interacting with other teenagers and later on found out that they
were interacting with adults. Many parents are genuinely concerned, as they do not want their innocent children to be the
victims of sexual abuse. In some communities police is getting involved to protect children from such internet abuse.
a student of human psychology I feel that the mystery of internet relationships stimulates people’s imagination and
they start the relationships where reality merges with fantasy. If both parties are pursuing the dialogue with good conscience
then it enriches the relationship but if one or both parties are emotionally desperate or delinquent and interact with bad
conscience then the chances of emotional hurt and pain is more.
Internet relationships can also be affected by the
rapidity of the exchange. In many internet dialogues and interactions it is not uncommon for strangers to have multiple heated
and emotionally charged exchanges in a short time. It is amazing to see how such exchanges can bring out the best and the
worst in people and when the dark side starts to surface then people are vulnerable to be emotionally bruised and friendships
are vulnerable to suffer temporarily or permanently. Some socially conscious websites make sure that their members are not
abused by other members and have high ethical standards and independent and powerful mediators..
There are a number
of psychotherapists who are seriously exploring the possibility of internet psychotherapy. But the practice is in its infancy
and genuine therapists are concerned, as they do not want to make the lives of their clients worse if not better. Internet
psychotherapy also compromises the confidentiality of patients, as therapists do not know who is reading their letters. They
are aware that the discipline of psychotherapy is so delicate that internet exchange can be misunderstood and misinterpreted
by patients. On the other hand internet can provide an opportunity for those patients to get therapy who could not get help
by walking into a therapist’s house because of their shy personality or geographical distance. It seems as if internet
relationships are a blessing as well as a curse. Internet like any other medium is as useful or hurtful as the people who
use it. It is a privilege but it also comes with certain responsibilities.
Whether as friends, lovers or therapists
those people who respect the power of words and feelings of other human beings benefit a lot from it. On the other hand it
can be a dangerous tool in the hands of frustrated, angry and bitter people. Since internet is new to us we are not fully
aware of its impact on human psychology. I am optimistic that as we become more experienced as internet users we would be
able to increase its usefulness and decrease its abuse. Internet relationships are a new chapter in human evolution and are
gradually developing its own dynamics and identity. As such relationships grow we hope we become wiser and enrich our personal,
romantic and professional lives and points of view.
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Distance intensifies, and idealizes “love” sometimes to the point
that it is easier to love an absent lover than it is to love someone real and present. Few people are as wonderful as our
imagination, coupled with distance, can create them to be. (Which is one of many reasons pornography is so damaging and the
reason why an Internet relationship is not a relationship in the “real” world.)
1. Don’t call each other or email every day. Rather agree to something
more random like three times a week or when it is possible. This sets each person free from feeling tied to the phone waiting
for it to ring or the Email to arrive. Such “free” scheduling also allows for persons to avoid some of the letdown
of waiting in vain.
2. Don’t put your life “here” on hold because he or she
is “there.” Long-distance relationships can rob you of the present, while you long for someone a long distance
away. This is not fair to dear and near family and friends.
3. Don’t marry a person with whom you have had ONLY a long distance
relationship no matter how “close” or “bonded” the “contact” makes you feel.
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