Last summer, I attended a beautiful wedding held in a meadow, with the wildflowers blowing in the wind, birds singing, and majestic mountains as dramatic backdrop. But there is a downside to this lovely event.
The bride and groom are delightful people, obviously in love, and I wish them well. The guests were treated to the best of food and drink, and the entire setting was enchanting. Yet I felt an undeniable sadness about the whole thing.
I had attended the groom's first wedding, ten years before. His first wedding was much more sedate with fewer guests, less elaborate food, and no stunning setting. I rejoiced that he had found his life companion and I enjoyed the simple affair enormously.
What happened? Why is there a repeat performance with a new player?
During the ten years of this first marriage, the wife, apparently disenchanted with things as they were, entered the fantasy world of cyberspace and met someone who lived clear across the country but who seemed more of a love connection from that distance than did her husband who was right there. As the situation continued, the bride's addiction to cyberspace romance accelerated, until the end result
was divorce in two families with a number of children being displaced.
Now the groom's two girls are being shuffled, in a joint custody arrangement, between two homes. On the other end, the cyberspace encounter also resulted in children living across the country without their father as a permanent fixture.
Whenever I tell this story, I am besieged with similar tales from my listeners. Apparently, married couples are breaking up in droves because one of the partners has become addicted to the romance element of reading some alluring stranger's words on the computer. Everyone, it seems, knows someone who found their improved partner through computer chat rooms.
Computer encounters can certainly hold possibilities for meeting the right person. That is, if you are mature, cautious, and, most important, single.
There's the rub. It would seem that more married people are using this outlet than those who are single. No statistics that I have yet found have been run on this new twist. The phenomenon is still too new. But when research does come out, I believe it will show what so many of us know already: families are being torn apart and children are again becoming the victims, this time of the computer craze.
Why is this happening so frequently? Marriage is hard work. Pouring your heart out to a stranger whom you do not even have to look at is not that hard. Getting sympathy on a screen feels good, and one thing leads to another, and before you know it a relationship seems to be in the making.
But the fantasy element prevails. I wonder how these people who do connect, leaving a spouse and children reeling from the new connection, handle things when the going gets real in their day-to-day marriage. Flowing words in cyberspace can't help them then. I am waiting for some enterprising researcher to give me the stats on the success rate of these marriages.
What to do? We mortals tend to be attracted to the easy way out of things. And computers are our latest addiction, whether it is just surfing the web, meeting new people, or pornography. It is so easy to just click on. But what about the ramifications of our actions? Spending hours relating to a screen takes precious time away from relating to those around us, which is often more troublesome. We have to become mature enough to realize that a screen is not a replacement for the flesh and blood relationships we have available. If there is trouble there, we need to develop the courage to face that trouble directly and not circumvent the problems by floating into fantasyland.
No easy solution here. We are an addictive society. So of course we like the easy way out. But it isn't easy in the end. The two little girls at the wedding, dressed in their finery with pretty blue ribbons in their hair, had a sadness about them. They like their new stepmother, who, fortunately, is loving. They are neutral about their new stepfather, the cyberspace guy. His children sometimes come to visit and they all have fun playing. But I think they would have liked it best of all if their mom and dad could have worked out their differences and kept the home intact.
Life goes on. I am not saying that divorce is bad. I am saying that avoiding problems in a marriage by reconnecting to someone new on the web or elsewhere is not the solution.
About the Author:
Deanna Kasten, M.A.,LPC, LMFT, LCDC has been in private practice as a counselor in Dallas for over twenty years and has taught seminars at Dallas Fort Worth area junior colleges in self esteem building, assertiveness training, and coping with difficult people in the workplace. She has written articles for counseling journals as well as local newspapers relating to counseling. To learn more about Ms. Kasten and her practice please visit her profile here.