How to recover from an Internet relationship gone wrong
If you haven't seen the documentary or television show called "Catfish," it's a good tool for learning how to protect yourself when in an online relationship. The term
"catfish" in relation to online dating stems from the way real catfish behave when they're in a container with another fish. The catfish will nip at the other fish's fins constantly, keeping the other fish active and making life interesting. In the realm of Internet dating, a catfish is a person who keeps you on your toes in a similar way. They do this by refusing to meet in person, coming up with excuses to get out of Skype or phone chats, and often telling tall tales -- all of which means you're left guessing and feeling emotional highs and lows.
Were you the victim of an Internet catfish?
A catfish is also understood to be someone who is being less than honest about his true identity and intentions. If you fell in love with someone online and came to find out you were deceived by a catfish, it can be hard to trust again. Here are some tips for moving past the negative experience and giving dating another chance, whether you go back to online dating or not.
- Spend time with family and friends. Keeping busy in the immediate aftermath of a catfish experience can help restore your faith in mankind, and it gives you some metaphorical space from your negative experience. If you stay home and wallow after you experience an Internet relationship full of lies, it’s easy to beat yourself up because you didn’t see it coming and feel very alone. This time will also give you time to decide if you want to communicate with the catfish ever again, and get some advice from loved ones about what to do.
- Do activities that you love. When you get tricked by someone online, it’s easy to feel stupid. Spending time doing things you are good at or that make you smile is important because it reminds you of the value that you bring to the world. Spend time volunteering or helping others in some way. Altruism is a great way to feel better about yourself in addition to contributing to the life of another!
- Take active steps to avoid falling victim to another catfish. This will help you feel empowered, as well as protecting you from future hurt. Weed through your social media pages, removing anyone you don’t know in person. In the future, don’t add people who you’ve never seen in person. If you want to try online dating again, sign up for a reputable site that screens for criminals and where you can meet people in your own city who you can meet up with in person.
- Decide if you will speak to the catfish again. You might just ask him to explain why he lied so you can get some closure, and then never interact again. On the other hand, you might want to move forward in a friendship now that you know who he really is. Whether or not you continue in your relationship will depend on your specific situation. Did the catfish lie about his physical appearance due to insecurity but give you his true personality? Or did he lie about his age, marital status, and the fact that he has children? As you can see, in some cases the catfish’s deception might be greater than in other situations, so you will have to decide if you can see a friendship or relationship in your future, or if it’s best to cut your losses and run. If you continue communication, set clear boundaries for your expectations.
Need help recovering from an Internet relationship? Schedule an appointment now for help with online dating advice.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653