Hi Dr Nikki,
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on addiction to dating sites? My partner of a few years just can’t seem to stay off them! He’s never met anyone or physically had an affair whilst we have been together, but seems unable to stay off them. He can’t even explain why he does it as we have a generally happy relationship and a great sex life.
He was on and off these sites and actively dating on them for 5 years before we met, but never managed more than 3 months with any one person. We met online and I’m the longest relationship he has had (2 years). I feel like maybe he’s either waiting for it to end because that seems to be his experience with online dating or he’s just addicted to the thrill of the new. On the plus side, he is now seeking help from a counselor but I’m interesting to have your perspective.
First, I’m flattered you still want my opinion. I feel that the situation your boyfriend is in is quite common, however it doesn’t mean that it’s ok. Online dating can be addictive because there is a game element to it and a real boost to someone’s ego. You can flip through and even just a match is enough to make someone feel wanted and attractive. It’s this positive reinforcement that can keep someone swiping and not see them seriously interesting in swiping for dates. When I was using dating apps, my married friends would often take my phone, swiping away getting a thrill from it. It can be addictive.
Even though you are saying he has not had an affair whilst you have been together, isn’t this behaviour still deceitful and disrespectful? Do you know what these conversations are like online? How far does it go? Is he talking to these other women, flirting with them, trying to set up dates? Are these women being lead on thinking that your boyfriend might be theirs, blissfully unaware that he is already taken? Even though this is not infidelity in the traditional sense, this could be micro cheating, even if you do have a great relationship and an amazing sex life.
I would be curious to know how you have confronted him with this and what he says? Do you appear upset? Hurt? Does he defend his actions? Tell you he will stop?
Without knowing him personally, I would say it sounds like the thrill of the ego boost. That it’s the excitement he gets from the attention and validation of matches and maybe even a bit of online flirting. Whilst it might seem ok because it’s only online, it’s the motivation behind the behaviour that could be more worrying – his need for his ego to be stroked. Where does it stop? And does he flirt with women in person from the same motivation? I am not wanting to alarm you at all, but I also don’t want you to take too much of a casual approach to this online behaviour.
However, it’s great that he is getting help, but you need to make sure there is room for you to communicate with him too. You need to talk about why these behaviours are occurring and how it makes you feel. You might also need to set some rules and guidelines to online dating apps. How would he feel if you were doing the same? If this relationship is to work long time, it’s important you are both focused on each other and not with one of you focused on getting attention from others online.
I hope this helps and I wish you and your partner all the best.