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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
CyberRomance

Marlene M. Maheu

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

In my cyber relationship, we used to spend great amounts of time talking about nothing and everything. Now, he comes on less. When he does come on, he says the nicest things, and I believe the sincerity of them... But, I really miss all the time we used to talk. I just don't know if I can ask him to spend less time with his real life friends, and more with me. How do I convey that I miss him, without coming across as a possessive person?

Answer

Online, even more so than in real life, romance is often misleading. Through history, many hopeless romantics have been fooled by listening to words and disregarding actual behavior. Don't be the fool who falls for nice words, and neglects to pay attention to a lack behavior. Look directly at the facts. If there has been a shift in his behavior over time, his investment in communicating with you has shifted. That's a fact. He obviously prefers to spend more time elsewhere. You might need to learn why. Is this because you offended him somehow? It might be worth your time to find out.

Ask him what the shift is about, and ask him for what you want - to resume your previous level of contact. Before giving up on him, be sure you do the last part - ask him for what you want. Then see what you get. That's the general rule: ask for what you want, and see what you get.

And while we're discussing this, don't let him pull the old trick of making it look like you want too much. If he gave you lots of time before, for him to withdraw without telling you why is a communication deficit on his side, not a neediness problem on yours. So after you make your direct request, look to see if he tries to shift blame onto you. Then keep looking for a change in his behavior, not nice words or excuses. If you don't get what you want in any relationship after politely and sensitively asking for it, move on.

The wisest people know when to get out of a situation that doesn't meet enough of their needs. And remember, there are millions of people online. If you choose to leave him in cyberspace, you are bound to find someone who can give you what you want if you learn to wisely explore and then gracefully back out of dead end relationships.

Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.

2/22/98

Dr. Maheu is an author, speaker, and researcher. She is the lead author of E-Health, Telehealth & Telemedicine: A Guide to Program Startup and Success co-written with Pamela Whitten and Ace Allen, published by Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Infidelity on the Internet is Dr. Maheu's second book and she's currently working her third, tentatively titled "The Mental Health Professional Online: New Questions and Answers."

For more information about her speaking schedule, see this page: http://telehealth.net/speak.html

 

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