Virtual behaviour causes real damage to relationships

The digital environment is creating new relationship tensions for Australian couples who are struggling to adapt to the changing dynamic, according to a leading family lawyer.

   Personal and intimate information concerning thousands of Australians was made public recently in a seemingly deliberate attack on the Ashley Madison dating website.

   Slater and Gordon Family Lawyer Heather McKinnon said the situation demonstrates the challenges couples were facing in the digital age.

   “Social media is one of the most common places for couples to play out relationship dysfunction,” Ms McKinnon said.

   “The online arena is a disrespectful way to deal with relationship problems and is one of the fastest ways to relationship breakdown.

   “It might seem like a virtual world, but the damage to your relationship is very real.”

   Ms McKinnon said relationship dynamics were changing in response to exponential growth in technology.

   “The online environment is a double-edged sword for relationships,” Ms McKinnon said.

   “It provides anonymity for anyone considering behaviour their partner would not approve of, but it also allows suspicious partners to access numerous sources of information with the click of a button.

   “It’s important for separated couples to understand that they don’t need to build a case against their partner, because Australia’s no fault divorce laws mean evidence is not required for the Family Court to grant a divorce.”

   A recent Slater and Gordon survey of 2,000 Australians in married and de facto relationships found one in three Australians (36 per cent) in committed relationships admitted to snooping on their partners.

  The survey found the top five ways couples snooped on each other were:

1.     Checking on text messages

2.     Opening mail

3.     Checking on Facebook account

4.     Eavesdropping

5.     Checking email

   Ms McKinnon said couples working through their issues needed to do so in a respectful way.

   “Resist the temptation to vent your relationship troubles online and don’t post anything you wouldn’t say to your partner’s face.”

   “The best and most constructive way to work through your problems is to sit down face-to-face with your partner. GPs can even refer couples to appropriately qualified counsellors in crisis situations.”

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