Envision a couple standing in a corner at church talking about another couple they haven’t seen for months, who they just discovered are getting a divorce. In hushed tones they both think back over what they know and remember about the troubled couple. He comments how they seemed to be unhappy and sometimes didn’t even sit together. She remarks she couldn’t remember the two of them ever holding hands or putting an arm around each other or ever showing any physical closeness. Together they decide how sad the news is and determine “they just drifted apart.”
Life isn’t static, and disconnected things have a tendency to drift. When you’re adrift in your marriage, it is so much easier to connect to someone online. And if that happens, it’s even easier to continue disconnecting from your marriage. Now the online relationship that previously satisfied only your emotional needs becomes a conduit through which to consider addressing your physical needs. The need sparks a fantasy that begets reality. This is why there are stories of a husband or wife leaving their spouse and moving across country to consummate an old relationship that reignited on Facebook. The online relationship becomes the “greener grass” in that old saying. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”
The greener-grass scenario is an interesting one. In it you’re never responsible for the sad state of affairs on your side of the fence. But that’s not true in real life. For those couples whose marriages were in shambles because of emotional adultery, I often wonder what would have happened if all that time, effort, and energy that was sunk into the other relationship had been invested into the marriage instead? Maybe the reason the grass is in such poor condition on this side is because you’ve been neglecting to water, feed, and care for it.
Watering, feeding, and weeding your lawn takes a lot of time and effort. Every year I’m reminded of that fact as I wage a continuing battle against the moss that flourishes during our wet Pacific Northwest winters. Your real-life relationships are not different: they take time and energy and often require you to do nitpicky stuff like weeding out misunderstandings and resentments and working out the delegation of chores and responsibilities. Online relationships can be like Astroturf: from a distance and in poor lighting they look alike, but one is artificial. It may look greener, but it’s not truly alive.
The above is excerpted from chapter 6 in #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking by Dr. Gregory Jantz.