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He was by far the best of the bunch, a kind and generous man, but someone who could also be selfish and unfeeling.

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This Springer service is currently down for maintenance. We are working hard to make it the best resource for scientific publications on the web. I was a latecomer to counselling, having previously considered therapy a largely American pursuit. By the time I reached that landmark age, without children and in a marriage that was beginning to lose its fairytale glow, my daily life was beginning to feel not unlike a soap opera. And I did, pretty much, and I was perfectly fine - until suddenly I wasn't.There were redundancy problems at work; my marriage was showing strains; and there was something large and unnameable missing from my life.

I ignored it until I could do so no longer, until eventually, for what felt like the sake of my sanity, I resolved to do something about it.

A late arrival into the world of social media, I nevertheless embraced it as a kind of escape.

While my husband spent most evenings catching up on the horse racing he'd recorded over the weekend, I began perusing chatrooms – not in pursuit of cybersex necessarily, but initially more for harmless flirtation, a little virtual attention.

Soon, I was spending hours in the parallel universe of cyberspace, often through wonderfully wide-awake nights, uninhibited in a way I never could be in reality.

I told no one, immersed and isolated in my secret life. In moments of fleeting clarity, I wanted to understand what was happening to me. Was it just my marriage problems, or was there something deeper causing me to behave that way?

I met all sorts of people, from all over the world, older and younger, and each seemingly as desperate for a true connection as I. Should I be blaming my mother, or my – mostly absent – father for feeling that something was eternally missing? I was born to a woman that didn't much want children, and who fell foul to postnatal depression a good couple of decades before the term was even coined.