Surviving Virtual Relationship
By Michael de Glanville & Viola Edward…
The way we communicate
Standing back a few steps, to get a good look at the community that we live in today, draws our attention to the amazing changes that have taken place in the ways that we use to connect with each other and the proliferation of technical devices that facilitate our personal communication. So what are the effects of these changes on all of us and, in particular, on today’s generation of young adults, as they meet potential partners and develop their first loving relationships?
The history of connectivity
Here are a few facts about communication to set the background. The first telephone appeared in 1876 and radio voice signals in 1900. The mobile cellphone concept went commercial in 1974 and is now forty years old. The world wide internet became accessible to private computers through dial-up in the 80’s and 90’s and in the first decade of the 21st century, the faster broadband technologies came into use, enabling and accelerating new forms of interaction through instant messaging, internet forums and social networking.
A powerful gift
In terms of our human history, the speed of the development of this instant and sophisticated communication has been very quick, a mere 150 years compared to the thousands of years of beacons, smoke signals, drumbeats, semaphores and pony express. Viewed in this light, it should not surprise us that we are still much involved in the process of figuring out how best to use such a powerful gift, how to adapt our loving relationships to accommodate its irresistible presence.
Our latest mobile devices now make it possible for us to talk together, while seeing each other on live video, when we are apart in different homes, on the move, or on the other side of the world. If we don’t have the time to connect in person, we can send each other instant messages and e-mails as well as photos and videos of the moment, to illustrate what we are up to. Compare this to twenty five years ago when although the bubble in computers and communication techniques was growing well, it had not yet taken up the significant place that it has in our lives today. At that time, looking at a live image of a person’s face while talking to them on a mobile phone was still science fiction.
Instantly virtually present
For some couples in their thirties and over, who grew up and were educated to relate and communicate without such facilities, these technological advances have made it so much easier to stay close and in a relational flow, exchanging loving words and images and maintaining tender links while apart. Using today’s Internet capabilities, staying in touch is relatively effortless, the couple can give opinions, dealing with crisis more effectively, solving urgent situations, sharing knowledge and providing immediate answers to each other. The improvements are helping busy conscious couples to stay in love. The new capacity to be instantly ‘virtually’ present has boosted their abilities to communicate and relate with each other, adding to those fundamental social skills that they already possessed and had developed in preceding years. Those who were always good at relating got even better and for those who were still resisting change, the dumping of a ten year old Nokia for a smart phone suddenly made many relational actions a lot easier.
Using the power wisely
However, for the generation now entering their twenties and beginning to develop loving relationships with each other, these amazing connection facilities have always been there and are simply taken for granted by them. Their generation is one of groundbreakers, the Internet facilities that they take for granted were not available to the role models they are learning from. They are having to discover for themselves how to use the new facilities wisely and there will usually be a delay between the appearance of a new technology and the development of the wise usage of it. To add to this drawback and perhaps because of the ever ready online distractions of the Internet, some of these young adults have not managed to develop their personal social skills as well as they might have done. A good number seem to have difficulties with developing nourishing loving relationships with their peers in this environment where virtual presence and virtual relationships are becoming a norm.
So what do we mean virtual presence you may ask? Good communication is known to be one of the most important elements of successful loving relationships, whereas, absence, or the lack of personal presence, has negative effects. Conversations are usually better understood when the participants are in each other’s physical presence. When discussions are taking place by phone or computer, the person you are talking to is not physically there with you. They are virtually present, the two minds are interacting. They are almost there, but not quite. So during the discussion, the subtle signals transmitted by their vital energy and their body language, are more difficult to perceive.
Another aspect of virtual presence is momentaneous absence. This occurs when a call comes in and interrupts an existing situation. This can happen in any place and at any moment, like during a conversation you are having with a group of friends. The beeping device is pulled out of the bag or pocket, tapped once, answered directly and pfouff!….. the receiver of the call is no longer really present in the group. They are there in body, but no longer in essence. These days, in many young groups of friends out socializing, it is quite usual to see two or three heads, amongst the group, gazing intently down at their laps, tapping out messages on their screens, or with phone to ear, talking to another person who is out there somewhere. They are momentaneously absent. Their presence for the group has become virtual. There, but not all there.
A Turn off
Effective ways of escaping an uncomfortable social situation have always been available to us. As teenagers, when we were bullied into going out visiting relations and friends with mum, (boring), a book could be pulled out of a pocket and opened or the Walkman headphones plugged in and we would rebelliously turn off into another world of comforting distraction, rather than take the time to join in and develop our social skills.
Access to addiction
We can all be masters of escape, avoiding being present when we don’t want to be, but the dangers of escapism, the drift into virtual presence, can become very real and toxic when addiction makes its appearance in the mix. When we need an easy way out of an intolerable situation, when we are in need of distraction from depression or a quick boost in morale, some quick money or sexual satisfaction, the internet, with its infinite content, is always there with its attractive suggestions and promises and has made the access to addictive activities simple. The disadvantage of the Internet is that it is, by its nature, difficult to regulate and it can also be powerfully destructive.
Listing some of the toxic sites, we can include Games (some of them look so innocent), Gambling (pay off those debts), Porno (no partner can compete with the porno stars assets), Shopping (there is always a bargain that you don’t need). The list is long
Perhaps real, perhaps not?
A virtual relationship chooses the concept of virtual reality as a partial, though not total, substitution for what is perceived as the misery of reality. The participants are probably lonely and perhaps insecure and they have not yet been physically in each other’s presence. They have only encountered the ‘projection of a personality’ on the web. They have exchanged information about themselves by messages, their ages, education, occupation, likes and dislikes. They have seen photos of each other, talked over a video connection, perhaps even stripped off to show their bodies and physical attributes to the camera, but they haven’t actually met. Their self vaunted components and qualities are perhaps real, perhaps not.
The need to meet?
These virtual relationships can draw out endlessly. For some, the lack of self-confidence, or the fear of a real commitment to anyone, can hold them in that virtual zone for ages before they can summon up the courage to meet. For others, the excitement of just thinking about what might be possible with such a charming partner is erotic enough without even needing to meet and there is no limit to the number of contacts, you can make as many as you have time for. In these cases, if the relationship ever makes the transition from virtual to real, the potential for disappointment is fairly obvious.
But the story of sex and relationship on the Internet is not all negative, let’s take a look at another side of this picture, that of the chat rooms, the meeting sites and the online dating webpages. Here again we see the ‘two-edged sword’ quality so characteristic of powerful concepts like the Internet. The volume of traffic on the online dating sites is huge. More and more singles are finding success with this effective method of meeting up with potential partners. The good sites are responsible and self-regulating. The concept of an organized searcher’s database is logical and uses the power of the Internet for a good cause. When your ‘day to day’ is so full and your time for chance meetings limited, the use of such sites need not be addictive when the motivation really is one of finding a soul mate. Conscious loving relationships grow strongly when they are desired and nourished and real quality presence is a powerful nourishing factor. But are we not spending too much time staring at screens and touching keys when we would be so much better off looking into each other’s eyes and touching each other with love and respect?
Online video coaching
The concept of relationship coaching by internet is still in its relative infancy compared to the online dating sites, but it is growing well. It takes on the task of helping all these online encounters to transform into strong and lasting relationships. Since love and desire are so much a part of what we long for, relationships will always be making and breaking. ‘Working’ online with a relationship coach is no longer fiction. One by one or as a couple, Internet video coaching sessions can now help relationships to grow strong and healthy wherever they are.
Catalyst of personal growth
Our longing to be loved draws us into relationship and relationships are very effective at drawing out the aspects of our personalities that lead us into conflict. If we manage to ride this spiral, recognizing the lessons underlying the conflicts and working on how to change ourselves, we can transform our relationships into a free and joyful dynamic of personal development. Is it not this work that makes a relationship stable and long lasting? Isn’t it better to have to learn to read your partner, judge their moods and emotions from subtle signs and intelligent questions, than to rely on clicking on a smiley face? The virtual relationship misses out on this wonderful gift. While it is true that virtual relationships are easier to manage, as the whole personality is not involved, they have the fundamental weakness of neatly avoiding the very conflict solving processes that are the catalysts of our personal growth. It is the fear of making the commitments required by a healthy loving relationship that drives the escape into the domain of virtuality. In the conscious loving relationship, the real and tangible energies of desire and heartfelt love draw us back, time and time again, to be worked upon in that warm and generous melting pot.
If you are interested in deepening your knowledge about “Conscious relationship” you can participate in sessions with Viola and Michael, in person and online.
We would love to hear from you with your comments, experiences and questions. Contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. Mob. 0533 867 3685. FaceBook: ViolaEdward Coaching
You can download a free copy of Viola’s book “Breathing the Rhythm of Success” and find a collection of previous articles in this series from www.violaedward.com
About Viola & Michael.
Viola came to Cyprus from Venezuela in 2002 to join Michael who was born on the Island and returned from France in 1999. Viola and Michael are both trained therapists in Breathwork and they founded Kayana Ltd in 2003. Viola specialises in Relationship Coaching, Business Consulting and Colour and Image. Michael has an Engineering background and specialises in Massage and Watsu.