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Are relationships more fragile these days?

(31 Posts)
thalassa Fri 18-Jul-14 13:11:07

Compared to, say, the 1980s when I grew up? It seems that today, people have so many distractions and excuses that allow them to zone out in a way that simply was not possible when we had four TV channels and that was it. My parents always sat together in the evening, watched telly, then went to bed at the same time. I feel that now, with Internet in general and facebook, phones and private devices (ipads, tablets), it is so easy to be in the same house but on completely different planets. Not even starting on the way these devices can facilitate certain types of behavior, which so quickly seems to engender suspicion and jealousy. All these little private conversations and experiences going on, I wonder whether they have a corrosive effect on one-to-one relationships that we haven't fully appreciated.

The most extreme example I can think of straight away is the easy availability of porn, which must have an effect, simply because we are the first generation of people who have had to negotiate our relationships in the context of the hyper-availability of pornographic images. The ease with which a person can see porn on a phone, while sharing a house or even a bed with their partner is something relatively new, and I can't see how this can be positive in a relationship. Or how couples learn to negotiate the complexities that come with this sort of behaviour.

But even without porn, it seems that couples can spend a huge amount of their "together" time in separate bubbles, seeing different things, being exposed to completely separate stimuli. I think that this must prevent some of the growth as a couple that shared experiences and interests used to bring. When we have the same cultural references we tend to develop similar values and ideals. But now, a couple can spend their time seeing different things and never discussing them or accessing the others world.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this now - just musing on the differences between my parent's relationship and mine I suppose. This was something that jumped out at me.

thisisnow Fri 18-Jul-14 13:18:38

I think they are more fragile. I see my dp every day but actually talking together is different matter. I love it when we are away somewhere from all of the technology. I find I can't even watch tv sometimes without looking someone from the programme up to see what they were in. Everything is too instant and there's no air of mystery anymore sad

Also I find it has affected my friendships too, no-one seems to pick up the phone anymore just for a chat, instead they just send a text or read your text and don't respond. People have forgotten how to communicate! (I sound like an old woman don't I!)

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 18-Jul-14 13:18:46

Nah.... I think people have always spent as much or as little time together as they want. You've always had people disappearing off into the apocryphal potting shed or the pub to avoid spending time with the family. Way back in the seventies, I remember visiting family who had a very small house. He sat in the front room with the TV on and she sat in the back room with another TV on. Never spoke as far as I know.. confused

Porn stashes are nothing new either. In the olden days it was paper form and it was something of a rite of passage to scour a mate's house and find where his Dad kept his collection. The internet has made everything more instant and easier, admittedly, and mobile/smart phones facilitate secret communications but I think the motivation has to be there in the first place.

Hickorydickory12 Fri 18-Jul-14 13:22:13

I think relationships are more fragile. Lots of families where both parents are working puts a lot of pressure on family life. Minimal down time as days off are taken up with things that would previously have been done on a week day by the non working parent (mums).
Extra things are very expensive, h

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 18-Jul-14 13:30:45

You can't blame women for wanting to earn a living!!!!! I turn 50 later this year and, where I grew up (the less fashionable end of Lancashire) every family had both parents working. Don't remember that many divorces

CommonBurdock Fri 18-Jul-14 13:33:15

Yes I think they are. All these devices and non-stop internet access has a negative effect on you relationship with yourself, in my experience, so that's bound to have a knock-on effect on other relationships. I got rid of the tv 6 weeks ago and have re-learned two new skills in that time. Won't be giving up the iPad tho

Lottapianos Fri 18-Jul-14 13:36:24

'He sat in the front room with the TV on and she sat in the back room with another TV on. '

This is my parents in law. I think they eat together at the mealtimes which must not be deviated from - lunch at 1pm, dinner at 5pm. In silence hmm

I do agree about technology getting in the way of communication though. DP is way too addicted to his phone - its gotten so bad that he can't seem to sit through a whole film without having either phone or laptop on the go at the same time. Drives me potty.

mrscumberbatch Fri 18-Jul-14 13:41:35

Well, divorce is easier these days and there's no stigma around it

Lottapianos Fri 18-Jul-14 13:43:59

Well if you ever decide to divorce Mr Cumberbatch mrscumberbatch, I will most certainly have him!

Lottapianos Fri 18-Jul-14 13:46:52

Oh and by the way, I don't think there should be a stigma around divorce. BIG fan of divorce actually. I see no reason at all why people should martyr themselves in relationships that are unhappy or abusive or just plain unworkable. I'm the product of a miserable couple of people who 'stayed for children' and it's a heavy burden to bear I can tell you. Obviously if children are involved its a lot more complicated to split but people don't need to be in a relationship with each other in order to parent jointly and effectively.

getthefeckouttahere Fri 18-Jul-14 13:52:39

Yes but not for the reasons you state.

I think that we live in a world where everything is available to us and we have, in general, a much greater financial ability to obtain these things. This has led to us becoming very fickle people indeed, don't like that car, fridge, house..... change it. I think this has inevitably leaked to some degree into our view of relationships.

Plus of course the absolute boom in OLD/hook up sites most people are well aware of the virtually endless choice and supply of potential new partners. Lets face it the allure of an as yet unmet partner often tops the reality of ones current partner, smelly socks and all.

I think this will pan out one of two ways (probably dependant upon ones own personality)
A) we become flighty consumers of relationships, always looking for the next bright new thing which will of course be just perfect.....
B) we realise that things will never be perfect but will work bloody hard to have a good relationship recognising that our partner always has other choices if we take em for granted.

I don't yet have a firm view as to whether this new reality is a good or a bad thing. Things are developing quickly and interestingly.

thalassa Fri 18-Jul-14 14:03:45

Getthefeck - that's very true. It is certainly evident in online dating. My best friend was single for years in her late 20s early 30s and was on various dating sites, she had so many strange experiences, usually of men who built up a future and charmed her into believing in it, and then simply disappeared. Of if they didn't, they manipulated her into thinking that her desire to have a real relationship was needy and unreasonable. It was heartbreaking to watch her scroll through lists of men online, knowing that she believed that each picture represented a potential "one" , when really to them she was a notch at best, or a ego boost on a boring evening.

But I do think that the short attention spans that the internet has fostered (not being able to watch a film for example, without the phone at hand) will spill into relationships.

The lack of stigma about divorce is a good thing, I'm divorced myself and am so pleased I didn't stay. I'm talking about the small things that erode the togetherness of a couple, of which there seem to be many these days.

We couldn't have afforded a second TV when i was a child, no one I knew had more than one. We had a second telephone upstairs but I wasn't allowed to use it and if I tried the downstairs one clicked and my dad went mental!

MiniTheMinx Fri 18-Jul-14 14:07:07

Yes, I think relationships are more fragile and quite rightly so. I agree with lotta that I am a fan of divorce when this lack of stigma means that women are not locked into unhappy, unfulfilled or abusive relationships. Women have more financial independence which is a good thing for women and children.

Interestingly though, more and more couples are having to stay together because they cannot afford to spilt. So rather than tradition and stigma forcing women to stick at it, men are also being forced to stick at it. A flood of women pursuing paying work, (after the end of 60s and driven by capitalism and its need for cheap labour and new segmented labour and consumer markets) has actually created surplus labour and downward pressure upon wages, this creates no net benefit in terms of actual household income. Some women escape unhappy relationships and the financial burden is partially met by society as a whole in terms of benefits. The actual answer is higher wages but that's another thread. I think the amount of jobs that require 24hr 7day commitment, zero hours, lower wages, working away and shift patterns over seven days and/or night all factor in.

However people find their distractions, just as they always have and as cog points out. The distractions are just different.People have always had affairs, those affairs were often overlooked because of tradition/stigma/cultural norms but the internet/phones etc makes this an easy trap to fall into, as does porn.

Actually, I think its all positive. Monogamy (which is patriarchal) is coming under attack, gender relations are more equal, we are at least being equally exploited for our labour, more men are taking a bigger role in childcare, more women are supported by society as a whole (as it should be) its called progress!

Lottapianos Fri 18-Jul-14 14:12:57

'The actual answer is higher wages but that's another thread. '

This is the actual answer to so many things Mini!

MiniTheMinx Fri 18-Jul-14 14:13:03

Yes, I think relationships are more fragile and quite rightly so. Felt I should justify what I mean by this. Relationships need to be based upon renewal, in the sense that each and everyday both parties are active in wanting to stay in it, working at it and committed to it. They are fragile by necessity and should be.

Hickorydickory12 Fri 18-Jul-14 17:03:39

I'm certainly not blaming women for wanting to earn money, just that some women have no choice but to work because of the high cost of living, high property prices etc and when they have young children would rather not have that responsibility.
Both parents working through financial necessity can and does put a lot of pressure on families. Yes in the past there were working parents, but this has increased significantly this generation and not always through choice either.

BeforeAndAfter Fri 18-Jul-14 17:58:07

I was going to say yes but having pondered on it I think it's 'age and stage' related.

My DSD is a mere 23 years old and is loved up and enjoying her relationship as much as I did at her age; no hang ups, no trust issues... she and her partner have a mutual understanding of social media etc.

Then you get to those of us in their 40s+ where an OW appeared with the inevitable Facebook, Skype, texting elements to their clandestine relationship. I find that I now cannot tolerate unreasonable/excessive use of any social media when in a relationship... How does one define unreasonable/excessive though? For me it's usage more than I'd do and as I'm a very low user of such media any potential partnership is screwed... my relationships are now more fragile. I don't think the youth of today have relationships any more fragile than I did at their age.

Meerka Fri 18-Jul-14 18:30:14


But I think a lot of relationships are stronger because women -can- walk away and becaues there's more awareness generally of what a good relationship should be. The good signs and the warning signs.

so overall, I dunno, it might actually be better than previous years. Maybe

doziedoozie Fri 18-Jul-14 19:11:39

On the other hand.............
there is sooo much information on relationships, marriage, what you should and shouldn't expect to put up with in a marriage, step parenting, divorce and exactly who will get what, how to bring up DCs, how to get a career etc etc etc

Some things are worse today, but if you don't know how to get the best out of your relationships you should!

melissa83 Fri 18-Jul-14 20:20:52

I use my phone a lot but that doesnt stop us talking. We talk constantly probably hours a day and whats app and screen shotting and sending links to each other. Surely people are more in communication today.I could tell you dhs opinion on every world issue, and subject ever known!

lurkernowposter Fri 18-Jul-14 22:29:03

I don't think you can blame the technology, when i first got a mobile phone i only knew a couple of other people who had one. It's funny now to think my mates thought i was a bit flash for having one! There was no texting then but if i was sat in the pub with my mates and it rang i used to get up and go outside to answer it.

It's not unusual now to see four people sat round a table in the pub, all of them on their phones are they texting each other? Or people answering them while their eating in a restaurant! Manners and common sense have just disappeared when it comes to mobiles.

littleSpud Fri 18-Jul-14 22:33:47


Sometimes I wish I'd never got an iPhone

And sometimes I could happily launch dhs iPhone at the wall hmm

babbinocaro Sat 19-Jul-14 05:35:28

In my experience you are right -all of these little private experiences, texts, automatic updates. My OH 's behaviour changed after he got his 1st smartphone - elsewhere, not there as much. I remember him smiling at updates/messages received and when I asked to share
him not wanting to. In retrospect it's understandable that he wouldn't want to as the messages were updates from married affairs websites, his girlfriend and his special skanky African facebook fuckbuddy and these were the things I found out when I got short term access to his phone and private email - horrible confirmation of how far down the slippery slope he had gone in disrespecting our relationship. Some of this would have happened pre internet I know but I think it facilitated it all for him.

I'm here too though aren't I?but because I have found good support on these boards while I work out what to do with our broken marriage, my future.

Nulliferous Sat 19-Jul-14 05:41:12

Yes in the past there were working parents, but this has increased significantly this generation

I'm not sure this is true.

In a certain tiny section of society, for a relatively short period of history, some adults (mainly women) didn't work.

But in most classes, in all ages, ALL adults (and most children) have had to work outside the home. My mother, and all her female forebears, certainly had to - mostly slaving in other people's homes as farm servants etc.

'Staying at home' is a remarkable, unthinkable luxury - not the norm.

babbinocaro Sat 19-Jul-14 06:13:18

Minitheminx. Like you I agree that women's financial independence is a good thing for women and children - presumably you mean in case of divorce? not tied down for financial reasons? But I have looked at my financial situation post divorce with children and even with a high salary of my own not that good. I don't think society is improved by divorce or the fiscal situation by everyone else picking up the financial burden for what is perceived as enabling women to escape shitty relationships with irresponsible men. As for fragile relationships being good, how does that work with children, family illness, redundancy, ageing parents? How does active renewal work when you are struggling with life events and need to give and receive support just to keep going? Active renewal sounds like relationship guidance psychobabble to me!

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