Are casual affairs wrecking relationships?

Casual affairs, depending on who you ask, seem to be easier than ever these days. The internet seems to have enabled a generation of people who see no harm in seeking out people online for a series of no-strings encounters. For some, the very existence of online adultery sites, or of casual dating sites like who openly promote adultery, is a sign that people are becoming less likely to work out the difficulties in the relationships that they already have.

The high profile of certain sites through deliberately controversial adverts would seem to suggest that an increasing number of people are choosing to view life and potential partners as something akin to Forest Gump’s box of chocolates. For them, it is argued, life has become all about the next flavour, the next opportunity, leading to a breakdown in traditional relationships.

Who would have believed even ten years ago how easy it could be to fall for someone you’d never met or even seen across the internet? Those who indulge in casual affairs online claim that it is harmless fun – chat and banter between people. The problem is that, like alcoholics or substance abusers, these people tend to end up wanting more. Step by step they get deeper and deeper into emotional affairs, and before they know it, they are meeting up. Where then do we draw the line between harmless flirtation and chatter and the betrayal of existing relationships?

While we may be hard pressed to say exactly where that line is drawn as it seems to vary from person to person, there can be no doubt that we all know instinctively when we’ve crossed it. We know when what we are saying or doing would cause distress to existing partners, whether it’s a marriage, civil union or ‘merely’ as boyfriend or girlfriend.

Casual affairs are quite a different beast from casual dating, where everyone knows the score and no one is getting hurt (well apart from pride if advances are rebuffed). Casual affairs, whether they start in the workplace, at a bar or in a web browser are a symptom of something going very wrong in an existing relationship. No one is ever forced into an affair, casual or otherwise, and the international divorce rates seem at the moment to continue to be in decline so we cannot really claim that affairs are any more prevalent than at any other time in history.

They are certainly easier with technology, but that’s a whole different argument.

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