Story #10 - "Happily Married"

"Happily Married" is a 27 yr old female who writes: "I have been e-mailing a man for about 2 months now, and we really seem to be getting along. There have been quite a few times when I need to just vent and he has always been there for me. The problem is that we are both "happily married." I think I am really starting to like him as more than a friend. What should I do?"


One of the unique things about cyber friendships is the ability to get to know each other very quickly and to confide and share things we sometimes have told nobody else, not even those close to us in the Real World. This often creates a very special bond and real feelings for the person who has been your best friend and confidant. Even when you are "happily married" you may be unable to talk to your spouse about some things. The safety net of time and space separating you and your friend gives you a comfort zone and the ability to talk more freely about any number of things in your life.

If you feel yourself becoming more attracted to your friend than you think you should be, then you must stop and evaluate what you want to happen. There is a good chance he is developing the same feelings. Once one or both of you verbalize those feelings, it will change the online relationship. It may also change the way you feel about your respective spouses. I am not saying it HAS to be that way, but experience and feedback from others tells me these are good possibilities. I cannot tell you what to do. But I will suggest you ask yourself a series of questions to help put it in perspective.

Do you want your relationship to be "strictly friends?" Have you thought about what your response would be if he were to tell you he also was developing feelings? Have you weighed the impact of an online romance against your Real World marriages and personal situations? Do you find the idea of an online romance exciting? How much are you willing to risk? How hard would it be for you to stop your correspondance if you feel you cannot keep your feelings from growing stronger? Your feelings are real, even in these early stages. Before you get in too deep, you need to think about the possibilities.

Please be aware that marriages, even happy marriages, have broken up over cyber relationships. There is nothing wrong with having good friends in cyberspace. At this point it does not sound as though you and your friend have crossed over from cyber friends to cyber lovers, but the possibility exists. You may be approaching a crossroads in the friendship where you must decide whether to stop writing altogether, continue writing and never allow it to go beyond friendship, or continue writing and allow it to develop and the chips to fall as they may. You will need strength and insight to help you come to the decision that is right for you.

Story # 9 - "Jane, Worried Friend"

"Jane" writes for advice about her best friend, a married woman who has developed two online romances simultaneously. Jane is worried for her friend and fears she may only be looking for a way out of her unhappy marriage. The husband is unaware of the cyber romances and his wife's plans to fly off to meet both men in Real World. Jane is asking for advice in talking to her friend about the hazards she is facing. She feels she is playing with fire and could get hurt or worse.


Thank you for writing and for sharing your concern about your friend. I can understand that concern. Cyberspace has a powerful effect on people and it is difficult to understand. People of all ages, occupations, and backgrounds become involved in these long distance romances of the mind. Some are in unhappy situations such as your friend, and others are not. But nobody seems to be immune from the effects once hooked.

There are some words of caution I would give your friend, but quite frankly, it is doubtful she will listen. Most of us learn the hard experience. Cyber romance can be exhilarating and it can also be very hurtful; there is a whole spectrum of highs and lows. Perhaps that is the very draw.

What I would ask your friend is this: How long have you known these two men? Do you really think they have been honest with you about who they are and the lives they lead? Have you been honest with them? Do they know you are married? Are they married? Do they know about each other? Do you really think you "know" them? It is easy to be fooled and to believe what we want to believe here, and it is not always the truth. If you put your hopes in a cyber romance as the answer to your Real World problems, you may be setting yourself up for a big disappointment. What of your RW marriage? You should examine it and be very sure it is something you are willing to give up. This world is not just "text on a screen". For every block of text appearing here, there is a real person on the other side. Some are honest, some are playing games, some are wonderful, and some are downright scary. Before you turn your life upside down, you need to think about that.

It is never easy to know whether people are just playing with your heart and mind or whether you have truly found your "soul mate." When you meet somebody in person, you often find the reality is very different from the online persona you grew to know and love. Once you meet, it changes the relationship from an idealized fantasy to the everyday imperfect world we live in. I am not saying it can't work out, but I am saying to be sure you are not looking at things through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes our common sense goes out the door when we enter cyberspace.

Having said all of these things, I feel certain your friend will move forward with her plans. I hope she is not disappointed and finds one of her special friends to be all that she hopes for. But....should she not....then the best thing you can do as a friend, is to simply be there for her. If things do not go well for her, she will be extrememly disappointed and hurt. She will need a real friend to just listen and not pass judgement. Nobody needs to hear an "I told you so" when the bottom falls out.

I wish you the best. I wish I had some tried and true answers to help. Unfortunately, life in cyberspace is in shades of gray, just as in Real World. There are no black and white answers.

Story #8 - "JB" - Finding a Balance

JB is a 36-year old male, married with two boys, who has been on the Net for three years. He offers some comments and observations about relationships in cyberspace. He wrote a long, thoughtful letter, which I have necessarily edited in the interest of space. "JB" writes:

"I enjoy the following aspects of the cyberworld: 1) feeling I have put a smile on someone's face by something I have sent or typed to them, 2) getting to know a person without the barriers of prejudiced appearances, 3) ability to fantasy play with another that enjoys the same things I do, 4) ability to receive or give helpful advice on anything you may have on your mind, 5) the selectiveness over private and community conversation, and 6) the ability to create many characters of myself to fit my mood.

I have found you must have the mental confidence in yourself to communicate with those you cannot see, because without physical expression, words and pictures are so very delicate in the manner you present them. In reality, I am in introvert that rarely socializes in everyday life. I have found myself growing out of this by learning to "communicate" with others over the Net, and find it easier to express myself in public. I have found in cyberworld those I consider dear friends, enjoyed wonderful sexual encounters, gathered vast knowledge from those who have shared, and found humor at its finest! Am I addicted? Yes! But, I am addicted to everyday life also. My addiction lies in the exploration of "communicating". I must maintain connection with everyday life and consider cyberworld an "adventure" in my free time. Having an understanding wife and two wonderful boys, I must maintain the cyberworld as a social activity that must fit within my life with my family. In comparison, its like some people may enjoy sports or other hobbies. I must allow for other things in my life."

Story #7 - "cyber cuckold"

A 34 yr old married male writes to us about a different perspective....that of a spouse of someone who is involved with a cyber romance. He calls himslef a "cyber cuckold" and here is part of his story he would like publicized. "CC" writes:

"I'm a cyber cuckold. My wife and her friend progressed to frequent phone calls when I was at work, away on business, or coaching our son's little league team. She has tried to break it off several times. It is ruining our marriage. They tell each other they love one another. We are going to counseling, and she is trying hard to get over it, but there is no incentive for the guy to stop. He has no remorse. I've confronted him on the phone and he is arrogant and has never apologized once. I see a lot of stuff on the web about cyber-romance, but almost nothing about the left-behind real world spouse. What do we do? I like the web, but this chatting stuff is so damned dangerous."


This is a very difficult situation to offer advice on. I think he raises some valid points and drives home the reality that what can start as an online fantasy, may in fact, progress to much more to the point of changing or destroying Real World relationships. I believe "CC" and his wife are doing what they can by going to counseling and trying to work on whatever Real World problems they may also have. It will ultimately be up to his wife, I believe, as to how things work out. She is the only one, in my opinion, who can tell her cyberlove to stop calling, or ignore his calls if he does not honor the request. If anyone knows of some Web sites that talk about this aspect of cyber romance, please let me know and we will link to it.

Story #6 - Anonymous

Another letter is from a 33 yr old married female who says she had an 8-year phone affair with a wonderful man, but due to some circumstances beyond her control lost touch with him. She had never met him, but wonders if you can experience grief for someone you have "never met." Meanwhile, in her Real World marriage, she and her husband are unable to have marital relations due to a medical problem of his which developed after they were married. She says she loves her husband but is sexually frustrated. Recently she had a cybersex experience in a chat room for the first time and is feeling very scared and guilty. She is terrified the person can somehow track her down and her family will find out. Her family shares her email and she asks how she can keep her mail confidential.


There are several issues in this letter. The first question, as to whether you can grieve for someone you have not actually met, I would answer with a resounding "YES". Eight years is a very long time to have talked to somebody over the phone and gotten to know them. It sounds like his presence in your life was important to you, and now his absence is leaving a very big hole. I do find it unusual that after eight years, you had no other number or means to reach each other in case of an emergency. But, if this is the case, you have little choice but to try to put it behind you and move on.

The question about protecting your identity in cyberspace is more complicated, because you do not mention how much you shared with your partner on line. Did you give a real name? Did you give him your email or phone number? The best way to protect your identity online anywhere is simply not to give out Real World information unless you are very sure you would not mind that person contacting you. Since you share your email with family, I would suggest looking into a second email account through your InterNet provider for a small additional monthly charge. This would have a separate password and would be secure from others.

Story #5 - "Torn Between Two Lovers"

"John" is a 44 yr old divorced male, who writes a very long letter about multiple online relationships he is currently involved in. He feels he truly loves two of his lady friends and has met them both in Real World, and has spent periods of time with each of them. The two women both know about each other and both are hoping he will choose them for a Real World relationship. He writes: "Is it really possible to be in love with two people at the same time? The answer....YES! I believe fact, I know so....because each of these women ARE very, very special ladies in my life, and I cherish both of them equally for very different reasons. What do I want? I want them BOTH, but I realize that is impossible. Each of them are wanting and waiting to see what happens."


John did not ask for advice. He certainly realizes his dilemma and knows it is impossible to really have both ladies long term. I suspect the situation will resolve itself over time, whether John makes the choice or not, simply becauses the two ladies are not likely to wait forever for him to decide. One or the other is likely to move on if she feels she cannot live with this uncertainty. Most people cannot share the one they love with another. This will not be a pain-free situation. Somebody is bound to be hurt here, and it could well be John if both ladies decide to move on.

Story #4 - "Celibate Marriage"

"Sharon" is a 42 year old married woman who loves her husband very much. Due to a medical problem their marriage has been celibate for many years. Sharon has an on-line love, a divorced man in his forties, and they hope to meet some day. No matter what the outcome of their meeting, Sharon has made it clear in this relationship that she will return to her husband. She feels strongly that anyone contemplating a cyber relationship, whether married or single, should set ground rules and make their limits clear and up front to minimize hurt and misunderstanding. Sharon offers her "rules of engagement" for others to consider: 1) Be a friend first, 2) Set ground rules, and 3) Think realistically.


Sharon offers a slightly different perspective from some of the cyberlove stories most of us hear about. She has needs that cannot be met by her Real World marriage, and finds she can live with two loves in her life without feeling guilt. She says she has never equated sex and love as one necessarily, and she believes strongly that you can love more than one person without diminishing the love for either. I would agree with Sharon's philosophy of setting limits and rules, if you can, for although it may not insulate you from hurt, it can help to minimize it.

Story #3 - Erick

Erick is a 21 year old college student majoring in genetics. He says above all else he would like to urge anyone involved in a cyber relationship to TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! He says he has fallen in love three times on-line, and only once in the Real World. He is still involved with his last cyber love. All three relationships were with older, married women with children. The first two ended after rocky, emotional ups and downs caused by guilt and frustration. The first woman wound up seeking professional help after the break up. The second woman he hurt badly at one time, but is now on good terms with her again. His current love is one he has known on-line a long time and the feelings only recently turned to love. His two other experiences make him worry about history repeating itself, but they find it hard to stop. He posed several questions in his submission....

ERICK asks: Is there a better way to fall in love?

VIXEN responds: Because cyberspace allows you to get to know the inner person first, without superficial encumberances, I think in some respects it may be preferable. Eventually age, lifestyle and other things may become factors on how the relationship develops, but often you are able to find a "soul mate" in this interface much more quickly than in the Real World. I believe both ways are equally valid.

ERICK asks: Am I settling? Should I find someone in Real World so I won't be tempted or tempt my current love?

VIXEN RESPONDS: I don't think a cyber relationship is "settling", but it is different. While it is indeed real and not to be taken lightly, it brings with it its own special problems and frustrations. Not everybody meets in the Real World for a variety of reasons, such as distances, marital status, and financial constraints. Not being able to physically meet and touch the one you love can be very difficult to accept. It may eventually drive some people apart despite the deep love they feel for one another.

The kinds of problems cyber couples encounter vary depending on whether they are both married, one married and one single, or both single. The one single/one married may be the most difficult, because one has more at risk than the other and the pressure is not equal.

Story #2 - "Born2BWild"

Born2BWild writes us that he is a 36-yr old male, married with children, who enjoys online relationships and has no guilt or compunction about his activities. He enjoys multiple relationships and feels they are all rewarding and special. He writes the following:

"An online relationship can fulfill our desires and dreams. It can enhance an already well-balanced marriage. We can explore and enjoy online what we might be less aggressive to do in the Real World. Online love and pleasure helps us come one step closer to experiencing the true experience. Its the safest 'safe sex' we can share. The pleasure of exploring our deepest desires online with another who has the same desires makes it all the more erotic and pleasureable. Online we can be as we desire, free from allthat holds us back in the Real World. In short...BE FREE and WILD!"

VIXEN COMMENTS: Born2BWild has not asked for advice, but simply wants to share his point of view. He appears to view online love with an open mind and sees it as a harmless and enjoyable activity. It does not appear that he has had any negative fallout in his relationships nor in his marriage thus far. He seems to be saying to us ... "carpe diem" ...seize the day.

Story #1 "Gary Asks"

"I have been online for two weeks, and have met someone, but do not know whether the romance thing will work, or if she is just playing with my heart and head. How can I figure it out, so I will not be hurt or lead to believe something will develop from it?"

VIXEN responds: There are no guarantees in Real World or in Cyberspace that a relationship will work out. The potential for game playing and deception is probably greater online than in the Real World, therefore I would say to take it slowly, find out more about each other, and communicate your feelings to each other as they develop. If you both are feeling the same way, then usually a pattern develops of spending more and more time together, exchanging pictures, talking on the telephone, and eventually planning to meet. This may take place over a short few months, or over a period of years. Not all attractions will work out, and people do sometimes get hurt. But, in the Real World, you do not marry every person you date. You go through a process of getting to know each other, and deciding which one you want to eventually spend your life with. As you get to know each other online, it is important to share your feelings, your hopes and your fears about the relationship and to decide together where you want it to go and how you can achieve it.