online-relationships

In(ternet) Love: Have a Healthy Online Relationship

In many ways, having a relationship with someone you met online is a lot like having a relationship IRL. You probably talk to your online partner about stuff that’s important to you, look forward to their texts or chats, Skype with them for face-to-face convos, and you might even develop strong feelings for them. Meeting someone on the internet – whether through social media, online dating sites, gaming sites or other forums – and developing an online relationship has become very common, and it’s a perfectly valid type of relationship. But just like any other kind of relationship, online relationships can be healthy, unhealthy or abusive.

Safety!

First and foremost, we want to talk about your safety online. The internet can be an awesome place to meet and connect with people, but it’s important to use common sense, just like you would in any other situation. Be cautious about the information you give out online, like your full name, personal email, cell number or address. Once you send something online or digitally to another person, it’s out of your control. To learn more about safety and relationships on the internet, check out this post on Scarleteen.

It’s also a good idea to spend some time getting to know someone. Just because you met online doesn’t mean you can’t take things at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Also, keep in mind that some people choose to create fake personas online, which is known as “catfishing.” Head over to our blog post, Getting Caught By a Catfish, to learn more about how to figure out if your partner is catfishing you.

Healthy Online Relationships

A healthy online relationship needs the same things all healthy relationships need: communication, trust and boundaries.

Communication

We can’t say it enough: honest, open communication is SO necessary! An online relationship can be especially dependent on honest communication, and there are tons of ways – text, chat, FaceTime, Skype – to keep in touch with your partner. But since you probably rely so much on these different ways to communicate, it’s important to set boundaries with your partner that work for both of you. When and how you communicate, how often you text, is Skyping okay, etc. are all things to discuss with your partner to make sure you’re both comfortable with what’s happening. If you’re having trouble agreeing on these boundaries, or your partner isn’t respecting them, it might be time to reconsider whether the relationship is right for you.

Trust

Trust is very key in a healthy relationship. When you aren’t around someone physically, feeling emotionally close and connected to them can be tough. If you find that this lack of feeling close is turning into mistrust, and that mistrust is making your partner (or you) want or try to control where you go, who you see, and what you do with your time, that is not okay. Regardless of whether you are physically close or far away, trust is still a decision that you and your partner can make, and it’s not healthy to continue a relationship where there is not trust.

Boundaries

We talked a bit above about setting boundaries around communication, but boundaries are important for all aspects of a relationship. It’s helpful for both partners to have realistic expectations about the relationship, especially if you are not able to be around each other physically. Every relationship is going to have a different set of boundaries, because everyone is different; what’s important is that both you and your partner feel comfortable and safe.

Unhealthy – or Abusive?

Even if you’ve never met your online partner in person, they can still be abusive toward you. Online or digital abuse is just as serious as any other type of abuse. Some signs of abuse in an online relationship might include your online partner:

  • Threatening or attempting to hurt themselves in order to get you to do what they want
  • Calling you names, minimizing your feelings or verbally abusing you via chat/text
  • Coercing you into sending sexually explicit pictures or sexting with them when you don’t want to
  • Demanding your passwords to your social media accounts
  • Threatening to post, or actually posting, humiliating or private information about you online
  • Withholding communication until you do what they want you to do
  • Checking up on you constantly, and/or demanding that you communicate or Skype with them for long periods of time so they can keep tabs on you
  • Getting angry when you want to spend time with friends or family
  • Blaming you for their abusive or harmful behavior
  • Using distance or the fact that you’re in an online relationship as an excuse to manipulate or control you

You deserve to be treated with respect in you relationship, online or off. If you’re noticing some unhealthy or abusive behaviors in your relationship, or if something just doesn’t feel right to you, call, chat or text with one of our peer advocates. Our services are free and completely confidential!

Related on loveisrespect:

Our friends at Scarleteen have some great posts related to this topic – check ‘em out!

4 replies

Comments

  1. Carmen Elly *******
    Carmen Elly ******* says:

    HI , My name is Carmen and I’m a filmmaker in LA. I just completed a short film about my experience with sexual assault when I was a teenager. The film is called THE REUNION and on May 21 there is a private screening of it at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. I wanted to invite some from your staff to attend. Our mission is the same. Awareness. THE REUNION is a drama about four teenage girls the morning after a party where one them drank too much and gets sexually assaulted. The girls DEBATE what to do next: call the police, tell their parents or keep it a secret. It’s a 20 minute film and my hope is to enlist help in getting it seen. I raised funds for it by doing a Indiegogo Campaign that generated attention from many East Coast Universities such as Wake Forest and UVA. I’d love to work with your LOVE IS RESPECT Org to make a difference. Please contact me to discuss. Thank you. (***) ***-****

    • LIR-Advocate
      LIR-Advocate says:

      Hi Carmen,

      Thank you so much for raising awareness around domestic violence. Your project will definitely shed light on this issue and hopefully encourage more men and women to speak out.

      Unfortunately, we typically don’t promote websites, fan pages, films and other projects unless we have explicit involvement. Sorry we can’t be of more help.

      Thanks again for speaking out against domestic violence and sexual assault.

      Best,

      Hotline Advocate CC

  2. Pod Gora
    Pod Gora says:

    That is the challenge, to learn kids to handle many potential threats. Most of them expirience the internet abuse just over social networking, from their classmates. And it’s not easy to handle, because if they don’t have fb they’re socialy excluded in a real life, and if they do – abusal is possible. And it is difficult to confront the whole group.

    • LIR-Advocate
      LIR-Advocate says:

      Hi Pod Gora,

      We are so glad you are zeroing in on an important issue that is often overlooked! We stress online safety between intimate partners, and the same should be said for friendships as well as with other classmates. Educating youth about cyberbullying and digital abuse is necessary to keep the internet a safe and respectful place in their everyday lives and relationships. If you’d like, check out cyberbullying.org for more resources about this topic. Thank you for reaching out!

      Take care,

      Advocate GP

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