Relationships online

2011-05-14 00:00

SINCE 2007, most people who have married in the United States, have met through online dating sites. Online dating caters for the growing generation of isolated singles who simply don’t have time to socialise.

Studies have been done by psychologists on how to maximise your success online. United Kingdom researcher Dr Monica Whitty, a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, said cute pseudonyms attract more hits than serious ones. So if you are looking for love try snugglebunny or crazygal rather than honestguy or lovedogs, physical descriptions also attract interest so blueeyes and blondebombe would also get you some attention.

People then usually write glowing profiles of their positive traits and ideal partners. Dating sites allow them to meet a whole section of the public they would be unlikely to meet.

But since cyber dating first took off in the mid-nineties, the first wave of cyber divorces have also started in the United States. So maybe Internet matches are not the happy ever after they promised to be.

According to South African relationship consultant Ali Murray, if you have an amazing romance based on an online fantasy, at some point reality has to intervene.

“The super fantastic persona slides and the truth is exposed. He has ingrown toenails and he doesn’t brush his teeth or she is always in a bad mood in the morning and is stingy with her money. Usually at six months the proverbial rose-tinted glasses begin to crack,” she says.

Murray says: “When people are corresponding on line, they are in the romance phase of a relationship and they are doing their best to maintain a façade. The person on the other side has no idea he or she is talking to someone sitting behind a screen in his or her smelly slippers with greasy hair.

“I suggest that people use the Internet to make connections and that they move into the meeting and getting-real phase as soon as possible. Prolonging the fantasy is not likely to help, except to make the heartbreak worse.

“There are those people who clearly do not want a relationship and just want sex. They are not interested in a committed relationship. There are dating sites specifically for one-night stands. I have heard there are niche markets that cater only for cyber sex. At least this is safe — it involves no body fluids and seems to satisfy some people.”

Panicking because of bad publicity given to the online flops, dating sites in the U.S. are focusing on strengthening relationships that form online by urging daters to have personality-compatibility tests. If they tie the knot, the sites offer free marriage counselling if the going gets rough.

eHarmony.com tracks their happy couples for a number of years and offer tips for a happy marriage. It has a 12-session marriage programme created by a team of in-house psychologists.

Another site, Match.com offers a counselling programme by TV celeb shrink Dr Phil Mc Graw. Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine, says more sites are trying to capitalise on people who are already in relationships.

Although there are no official divorce statistics for those who met online, like life they don’t always have fairy-tale endings.

A Durban divorce attorney said he has handled a few cases where couples have split up because of Internet infidelity. In the U.S., lawyers have used false Internet dating profiles in custody suits.

But it’s not all bad news. If you are unhappy with your Internet match a few years down the line, you can always apply for a quick online e-divorce. They cost less than R2 000 in South Africa and if you are still feeling heart sore you can get free on-line divorce counselling from just.ask.com.

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