How Relationships have Changed In The Internet Age
When the immortal poet Kahlil Gibran in ‘Broken Wings’ narrates secret meetings with his ex-lover Selma, after her forced marriage to another person, what is actually concealed in the beauty of the words is transcription of an illegitimate affair. But not every such affair inspires poetic beauty. The spark for the gory riot the State recently witnessed at Ambur in Vellore district was a desperate man’s attempt to use the police machinery to get back his wife who was suspected to have eloped with a Muslim man. While infidelity is as old as the institution of marriage, psychologists say the numbers of men and women stealthily seeking emotional and physical solace outside wedlock is worryingly high. “The main reason for the rise in cases of illicit relationships is the increased interaction between the two sexes at workplaces and public spots. Also, now women are more vocal and ready to assert when their physical and emotional wants, needs and expectations are not met,” contends Saras Bhaskar, a counselling psychologist.
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Persons who come to her for counselling on such issues are from varied backgrounds, ranging from the rich to the economically disadvantaged. While psychologists point out to the recent changes in the society, academics have long pondered over fidelity. The most common reasons attributed by the academic theories or models are “variety-seeking urge” of humans and tendency of people to seek in others what they miss in their relationship. For example, a man who feels that his wife is “nagging and ill-tempered” may tend to get close with a woman colleague, whom he perceives as “matured and appreciative”. He may still simultaneously continue a peaceful marriage.
“They spend eight to 10 hours together in the workplace. Initially, they sort of develop an emotional bond. The digital world also helps as they can be chatting even after reaching home. Then they don’t know when it crosses the line and becomes physical intimacy,” says psychologist counsellor Rajani Nandakumar.
According to her, when a person is in constant touch with someone in the opposite gender and is sharing everything happening in their personal lives, it leads to “emotional infidelity”. Smartphones and free messaging apps have also made this an easy possibility in recent years.
Counsellors have encountered some weird causes for affairs. A counsellor narrates a case of a woman who developed affairs with five men. “When she confronted her husband on an extra-marital affair, he put the blame on her saying she was not capable of fulfilling the desires of a man in bed. Just to prove a point to him, she developed affairs with several men. Then they came for the counselling,” says the counsellor. Rebuilding the relationship is also a possibility, if they are willing to continue the relationship. “But it is a long therapeutic process that may take at least three years,” says the counsellor.