Monday, July 30, 2007

Just going down the (computer) garden, dear

One of the biggest topics in my postbag right now - and for the past three or four years - is from women complaining that they have lost their partners to the Internet. I'm not talking about online cheating here, but the simple fact that many men are retreating to their computer screens more or less 24/7,leaving their women lonely and resentful.

On the surface it's a no-brainer. Anyone, male or female, who withdraws from relationship contact so decisively is surely making a statement about their commitment - and so the pages of outraged protest from abandoned partners has always left me sympathetic and supportive.

But I've suspected for a while that it's not quite as simple as that. Relationships are systems - what one partner does not only affects the other, but is a direct result of the other's actions. The outraged women who write to me are not simply victims; the situation almost always has two sides.

Plus, while - as I've commented on this blog before - women tend to react to stress by talking it through, men react by withdrawing. If a relationship is under strain, a man seeks solace on his keyboard - just at the very time when a woman needs the reassurance of interaction.

So I was pleased to see, in Saturday's Times, a piece making just this point. Such dynamics, writer Naomi Shragai quite rightly suggests, are not the cause of relationship problems, but the result of both partners' solutions-of-choice.

The piece not only posits a fresh - and in my mind entirely accurate - view of the Internet problem, but also offers some helpful hints. If you're suffering at either edge of this particular sword, I'd advise you to read it.