Speaking Point: I would never speak in absolutes because online relationships sometimes work and lead to thriving real life in-person relationships; however, I have some real concerns about internet relationships. My speaking points below mainly come from my experience as a marriage and sex therapist and my clear conviction that long-term relationships are difficult enough in person. The biggest challenge is that relationships take guts! They are not for the feint of heart! People need to learn how to be more vulnerable and accessible, take chances along the way and expose their real selves to make relationships work. Online relationships keep people too insulated and safe so that the required growth in face to face relationships is not as important when the contact is just over the internet. This
Speaking Point: Online relationships make it too easy to “look good.” There isn’t the quick spontaneous communications of face to face dialogues and it is easier to hide flaws.
Speaking Point: Online relationships do not give needed non-verbal information to the partners involved. So, one’s intuition cannot be as fully utilized. For example, even at a business networking meeting, people could quickly pick up visual cues to help them decide if they want to do business with a certain person. This information is even more vital in intimate relationships.
Speaking Point: It is easy to deceive over the internet. I had a female client who met someone online. He came to visit her in the states but had to go back to Europe and tie up loose ends before they were to be married. Since they had little face to face conflict, she kept projecting her fantasy of this great man onto him. It turned out he was a narcissist who constantly needed to be admired and played with other women’s emotions similarly without telling my client. Her heart was broken. If they had a face to face relationship, it would have been far easier to see him for who he truly was.
Speaking Point: Again, without speaking in absolutes, people who tend to do the “online thing” are more likely to be “commitment-phobic” or have below average social skills. This is different; I hasten to add, from a person who goes on an online dating site to meet a local person and quickly moves to a face to face relationship.
Speaking Point: A big part of a relationship is physical- hugging, kissing, holding hands and eventually more sexual behavior. Not only do people get a sense of each other at another level, it is fun and adds meaning and depth to the relationship. This intensity that comes from the physical realm is missing in online relationships.
Speaking Point: One positive thing to be said about online relationships is that it gives couples a chance to get to know each other in other ways than quickly getting into bed together. That can lead to a slower startup which can be very good especially if it eventually leads to a healthy face to face relationship. I just think that this one positive does not make up for the negatives that I previously discussed.
Speaking Point: In summary, both in my therapy practice and in my book, I emphasize the potential we have in long term relationships to grow as people, become more living, develop emotional muscle, become better listeners in the moment and take more chances. Online relationships limit this potential.