Does the Internet lead you astray??
April 16, 2002 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Does the Internet lead you astray?? Is Internet addiction leading to the breakup of marriages or is it just the time and the age of the folks breaking up?? Or is this a plague of starter marriages which has nothing to do with the Net???
posted by gloege (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The article on starter marriages only supports the thesis that there is a growing trend among people in their early 20's to marry. I did not see any support that the length or stability of these marriages is unusual in any way.

Has anyone else noticed, informally, among your friends and acquaintances, that ALL relationships, including marriage, reach a crisis point usually around the 3 or 4 year mark? That is when the relationship is re-negotiated or else falls apart.

One study I read (cant find link) gave an evolutionary explanation - that couples remain together until children reach the age of 3 or 4 because that is when they, the children, are sufficiently self-sustaining (at least most of the early death risks have been avoided)

When a relationship is falling apart, people will find any outlet - the Internet, TV, work, computer games, bars, drugs, other people - to distract themselves from the real-world problems at hand.
posted by vacapinta at 12:28 PM on April 16, 2002

I know we don't know each other very well, or for very long.
And I know we've had our ups and downs. But...
What I mean to ask is..
Will you marry me?
posted by Settle at 12:36 PM on April 16, 2002

vacapinta - i read the same conclusions as you all over..

I find it hilarious that it was labelled the seven year itch back when marriages both good and bad lasted well past the weddings "I do" to the marriages "you better".

maybe people had more stamina back then. ;-)
posted by dabitch at 12:53 PM on April 16, 2002

Relationships reaching a crisis point at the 2-3 year mark when there are no children is called the "Mate Rejection Model" in evolutionary psychology. From an evolutionary standpoint, if you are having intercourse with a partner for that long and there are no offspring, you need to find someone else, because it's almost certain that your mate is infertile. (Of course it could be that you're infertile, but that's why your mate will be feeling the same urge to flee.) Evolution doesn't care if your partner is a swell guy or a good kisser -- if you ain't having kids, you need to get the hell out of that relationship and move on. This is the principle that is now hardwired into us, and, with the advent of birth control, now causes that "Year Three Crisis".

Learned all this in the fantastic book The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. As a disclaimer, let me point out that I am stating the Mate Rejection Model as a hypothesis and not a fact.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 12:55 PM on April 16, 2002

Sure, Settle, I've always thought I didn't have enough idiots in my life. *rolls eyes, again*
posted by rodii at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2002

I've reconsidered Rodii.

You're a tramp Rodii. You wear overalls, and big ol' brogan shoes, and you need a haircut, tramp.
posted by Settle at 1:33 PM on April 16, 2002

Hmm... I'm 25, and in two weeks we'll be celebrating our third wedding anniversary. It seems to me that our culture no longer views marriages as a "for-life" proposition. Lots of people say they plan to stay together forever at the time of marriage, but then don't. Is it because society now constantly bombards us with messages of infidelity? Is it the starter marriage phenomenon mentioned above?

Addressing the original question, I think the Internet is no more or less "responsible" than any other conduit for our society. The net, like other manifestiations of society, lets you do exactly what you want to do. If you just wanna read webcomics and keep up with the baseball scores, then that's great. If you wanna go hang out in chatrooms and have cybersex, then it'll let you do that too. But it won't force you to do either: you have to consciously choose your destination, like everything else in life.
posted by elvolio at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2002


i've heard the same theory in a class on gender in college. i don't know about the trend for younger people to marry.

i think the notion of the starter message is kind of sad. maybe that's the romantic in me. i can't understand the sanguine veteran of the starter marriage, now confident of the notion that tomorrow and the day after shall be the brighter. perhaps that reflects my own immaturity and lack of wisdom.

it seems as if a lot of people view marriage as "the next step" in a relationship. i think i view marriage as a straighter line; either you are close to each other or you aren't. relationships don't seem like programs with steps you follow. marriage is someplace you'd like to be, you'd want to be; no place you'd need to be.

i hope that makes sense... (i definitely i hope i didn't offend anyone with other thoughts on the issue)
posted by moz at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2002

shadow: does wright take into account the psychology of couples who know they don't want children? my husband and i have been married for almost four years now; we got married when we were 23. we've had our share of tough moments, but honestly, this past year has probably been our best. we've both always known that we didn't want children -- there was no convincing done by either party.
posted by damn yankee at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2002

Wright is speaking only of unconscious urges, not conscience decisions. In an evolution sense everything about you is designed to (a) keep you alive long enough to have a lot of kids, (b) have a lot of kids or (c) ensure that those kids will survive (and, in turn, have a lot of kids). But none of that stops you from using a condom, because the availabilty of effective birth control is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too recent and innovation to have influenced our evolutionary makeup. The way evolution has ensured that you have offspring is by giving you an urge to engage in the act (sex) that leads to offspring, not solely by instilling in you the sense that kids are a terrific idea (although there's some of that too).

So there's no contradiction in your decision not to have children (and your use of birth control) even while your body continues to try and propagate your genes by making you salivate every time you see Gillian Anderson (or perhaps that's just me). Now, if you could "decide" to completely suppress your sexual urges -- that would be a contradiction. But I dare say that the catholic church has done a pretty convincing job at demostrating just how difficult that can be.

Disclaimers! (1) I'm fully aware I'm explaining this very poorly. Read the book -- Robert Wright does a helluva lot better job that I just did; (2) Yes, I know I'm making a lot of oversimplified and sweeping generalizations; (3) Yes, I know I'm speaking as if evolution is a directed force, which it is not; (4) I know a lot less about evolutionary psychology than I pretend.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 3:42 PM on April 16, 2002

I know of a couple who both spend a great deal of time online. They work at different times and hired a nanny so the mother wouldn't have to take care of their four kids. They both have relationships online but as far as I know, neither is unhappy with the marriage. Could it be as innocent as a hobby, like gardening or working on the car? My guess is no, but hey, I'm single and not currently dating anyone, so what do I know about marriage?
posted by jaden at 12:34 AM on April 17, 2002

they're both cheating on each other? i'm sure glad they have four kids.
posted by moz at 8:13 AM on April 17, 2002

(of course, maybe i've misunderstood what "relationships online" means.)
posted by moz at 8:14 AM on April 17, 2002

I'm not sure I know either, but the wife spends a few hours a day talking with other guys on the phone and they found their nanny by inviting an online friend of his to move in and take care of their kids. The nanny had never met the family in person before her first day on the job.
posted by jaden at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2002

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