Author: Jo Winfrey. AdvDipCouns.Mbacp.
Published: Nov 6 2010
Virtual relationships can have a big impact on our lives. If you have experienced difficulties with online relationships (Second Life or any other) and need help to come to terms with the emotional side, then counselling may be of help - as with any 'real' life relationships.
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy states that:
"Online virtual reality websites such as Second Life, allow individuals the opportunity to explore aspects of themselves which they may not be able to explore in real life, and can alter the way in which we form and maintain relationships, and address or highlight previously unexplored emotional problems.
Many people are spending an increasing proportion of their time online, studying, gaming and social networking. There is great diversity of relationships and connections that can correspondingly be made via the Internet - from the most superficial to the most intimate. These experiences and relationships are very different to those of 10 years ago when they were exposed to far less.
Second Life is a free downloadable Internet site, allowing individuals to interact with and through 'avatars' (a virtual representation of yourself). In March this year the site had 13 million registered users. Players can explore religion, politics, art, culture and business through the site, and some people find this a useful way of exploring their personality and then integrating their experiences into real life. Due to its popularity many universities have now introduced virtual campuses to make themselves more accessible to the current generation'. (BACPM media centre, online)
The following quotes are from www.selfhelpmagazine.com from people who have experienced the impact of Second life on their 'real life' relationships:
"I can't even tell you how hurt I was when I saw with my own eyes what my husband was up to on Second Life. ... Call it what you want.. but it damaged our marriage, and I don't know if I will ever trust him again."
"My husband was involved in many affairs before I discovered what he was doing and it destroyed our marriage."
"Most people I know in Second Life talk on the phone in real life and most even meet if they are live close enough to their virtual lover in real life. When they do meet, married or not, they have an affair."
It isn't always about people having affairs though - one man I spoke to on Second Life told me about the relationship he had on there with a woman for nearly a year. They met regularly and became very close. They considered themselves partners and even set up 'home' together, spending all their time on their own private island enjoying each other's company.
One day, she just stopped coming. He discovered from a friend of hers that she had cancer and wasn't coming on line anymore. To this day he still doesn't know if she survived the cancer or not. If she did, was she back on Second Life using a new avatar? Was she with someone else? Was the cancer story even true?
The emotional pain of losing her was just as if it was in real life, and the not knowing was the worst of all.
This person continues to use Second Life but has learned to not have any expectations of an ongoing relationship with anyone he may meet.
'Time Out' Counselling can offer counselling support for virtual relationships and can be accessed 'in-world' from the comfort of your own armchair. It can also be helpful to someone that has a disability which may prevent them from accessing the practice in Scunthorpe.
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