| Opinion | 10 Sept 2016 | Asia Samachar |
With the rapid advancement of science and technology, specifically the internet, has made the world much smaller than ever. The increase access of information has equally given an easy access to know more people. While this has greatly changed how people date in the digital age, the internet has also made itself a ‘breeding ground’ for adulterous relationships (Ferron, 2013). There was a time when an affair use to start off at work and end up at a motel room. Now, with a much easier access and boundless reach of the internet has brought infidelity into many couple’s lives and into their homes. Just a few clicks away, gives instant access of a variety of eager partners to potential cheaters. Internet infidelity is, therefore, a threat to today’s marriage institution.
In addition, it is fundamental to understand the term ‘infidelity’ and how to identify one when it comes to the internet. While there is no one accepted definition, Houstan (2009) defines an internet affair as an intimate manner of communication between a married person and someone other than the spouse, without the spouse’s knowledge, that takes place on the internet. There have been arguments that internet affairs are not really considered as cheating since at times no physical contact is involved. Most men do not consider online affairs to be ‘real infidelity’. A study revealed that only 42 percent of men viewed romantic internet relationships as an infidelity compared to 72 percent of women (Houstan, 2009). Even though internet affairs usually begin with no physical contact, one cannot rule out an internet affair as not a real affair. Even when there is no face-to face contact, online affairs can be just as damaging as a physical affair. It often starts out as an online friendship that progresses to an online affair and most times accelerates to a physical affair.
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An internet affair is a greater threat to the marriage institution as compared to a physical encounter because emotions play a bigger role in internet relationships. Online affairs trigger feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy. Women usually feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s internet affair while men are more concerned about physical encounters. Relationship experts point out that an internet affair even without a physical experience can be equally destructive as one that occurs in real. Online romances lead to less interest in the committed relationship and neglect of work and time with children (Smith, 2011). It can also feed as an addiction.
Internet infidelity is also a threat to the marriage institution because it is not only easy to access but incredibly easy to conceal. Internet infidelity exists because of the “AAA” concept-accessibility, affordability and anonymity (Smith, 2011). The internet is extremely accessible regardless where one is. The cost for internet access has dropped over the years making internet infidelity more affordable. Thus, this gives more opportunities for one to indulge in an online relationship. Due to lack of information as most chats begin `anonymously, identities created online are usually admirable and desirable leading people to believe and build intimacy with a fantasized identity. Just like a real affair, an internet affair usually happens when the current relationship is facing problems. People who are keener to find companionship on the internet are those who perceive themselves as victims or are facing marital problems.
In Sikhism, marriage is not merely a physical, social, and a legal relationship but is a spiritual one. A Sikh marriage is a sacred union between two souls centered around the Guru.
“They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. They alone are called husband and wife, who have one light in two bodies,” – SGGS, p788
Hence, marriage is a relationship that assists one in understanding Waheguru and achieving spiritual enlightenment. Anand Karaj is the prescribed form of Sikh marriage in which two individuals are joined in an equal partnership. The words translate to “blissful” (anand) “union” (karaj). In other words, marriage in Sikhi is seen as “a sacred bond of mutual help in attaining the heights of worldly life and spiritual bliss. It is a unity of mind and soul. It is a means to attain spirituality and not an end in itself” (KaurLife, 2015).
The real goal of marriage in Sikhism is the union of both souls with Waheguru.” (Sikh Studies, 1995). Marriage is a way in which the highest form of love, the love for the Divine, may be experienced, (Singh, 2005). In undergoing Anand Karaj, a couple accepts Guru Granth Sahib as their guide and vow to continue the journey toward the Divine. Circling around Guru Granth Sahib signifies that Guru is the center of the couple’s life; Guru Granth Sahib represents the core while the sadhsangat represents the support (Real Sikhism, 2015). Additionally, the couple is committed in helping each other probe spiritual depths toward a more sublime and profound union with Waheguru, (Sikh Research Institute, 2008). The highest respect given to a Sikh marriage clearly forbids adulterous relationships. Kaam (lust) and Moh (attachment to material things and people) are considered to be some of the greatest sins committed in Sikhi.
Having said this, there are many underlying issues that contribute to online infidelity. Couples need to recognize these issues and learn to deal with them appropriately. It is essential for having boundaries in a marriage. Communication plays a vital role where spouses should be aware of this phenomenon and discuss as well as establish clear rules as to what behavior is and not accepted in a relationship. Couples must learn to identify online infidelity and understand the deteriorating impact it has on marriage and negative effects it brings on the mental and emotional health of the partners. It is also imperative to build and sustain trust in a marriage.
Ferron, Anik. “Spousal problems arising internet usage: Cyber infidelity and sexting”. Integrating Science and Practice 3 (2), (November 2013): 27-31. Web. 19 November 2015.
Houstan, Ruth. The truth about cyber affairs and online infidelity.Examiner.com, 2009. Web 19 November 2015.
Smith, L Brendan. “Are internet affairs different?” Monitor on Psychology 42 (3) (March 2011): 48. Web. 18 November 2015.
Kaur Life, 2015
Singh, M. (2005.) Ceremonies of the Sikh Wedding.Rupa and Co: New Delhi.
Malaysian-born Harvin Kaur Deol is a former English teacher, who now lives in Los Angeles, California. She is currently a freelance writer for Asia Samachar. She likes to observe and write on issues concerning the Sikh community in general.
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