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.
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.
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 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.
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!