VP Maria Sullivan on Online Relationships

Jealous woman and cheating man with a phone. Infidelity, jealousy and betrayal. Cheater husband texting with mistress and secret lover. Suspicious wife peeking and spying. Unfaithful sneaky boyfriend.


Is it still considered infidelity if your bodies never physically touch?

With the internet constantly taking a front seat in society, it's no surprise that romantic digital relationships are becoming more and more common. While cheating used to look like spur-of-the-moment "business trips" and stories that just didn't add up, now it looks a whole lot like secrecy around phone use.

When it comes to you and your partner, where do you draw the line with online relationships? Cupid's Light spoke with dating expert Maria Sullivan about online relationships and what that means for spouses.

Maria Sullivan is Vice President of, part of Dating Group — the company behind some of the largest dating sites in the world. Sullivan has been instrumental in expanding's global presence. From Russia to Harvard, she's a global traveler, and after traveling so much, she recognized the need for niche dating sites targeted toward specific demographics — which has become the foundation of's success.  

Learn more about Maria Sullivan on her LinkedIn profile.

Woman texts on phone while man is sleeping

Compared to 10 or 20 Years Ago, Do More Spouses Today Approve of Their Partner’s Online Relationships?

With the rise of online dating and the introduction of various types of dating sites, there has been a shift in both understanding and approval of a partner’s online relationships.

Compared to 10-20 years ago, couples today have a much better understanding of how an online relationship works, what exactly it means, and why their partner might be choosing to partake in one. We’ve also seen a shift in the way we define relationships. More and more couples have become open to the idea of fluidity within their relationships, so it’s no surprise that more partners have become accepting of an online fling.

The situation is more commonly deemed acceptable, as long as both sides are honest and upfront about their feelings around it.

What Do People Generally Seek or What Is a Common Motivator for Online Relationships That They Perhaps Do Not Get From Their Real-Life Relationships?

In many cases, people seek what is lacking in their real-life relationship in an online partner. This can include boosts of confidence, affectionate compliments, uninterrupted attention, and more. For many, an online relationship begins as a way to make up for what is lacking in their lives in a controlled way.

For some, the biggest motivation to engage in an online relationship may be to help better their in-person relationship by compensating for what is lacking — without engaging in a physical relationship with another partner.

Man texts on phone while woman stands with arm's crossed in background

When Is an Online Relationship Considered Cheating?

A key indicator to know when an online relationship is beginning to cross the line is when one or both partners become overly emotionally invested.

Those engaging in an online relationship should pay close attention to their emotions throughout and recognize if deeper feelings are beginning to develop. If this is the case, it might be time to take a step back, reevaluate both of your current relationships, and have a plan of action moving forward.

Woman peers over husband's shoulder while he's texting

What Should One Do If They Discover That Their Partner Is Having A Romantic Online Relationship With Someone?

If you discover that your partner has an online relationship, my recommendation is always to begin by engaging in open communication.

Going into the conversation calmly and with an open mind is always helpful and will help both partners voice their opinions on how to move forward. This is where honesty is key. In many cases, partners engaging in an online relationship may choose to keep it a secret to avoid hurting their partner's feelings, but understanding the reasoning behind the relationship can be beneficial for both partners.


Responses provided by Maria Sullivan, Vice President and dating expert at

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