We’ve read with interest an article which was published recently on the Telegraph’s website, speculating on whether office email, rather than extra-marital affairs, could now be the new ‘third person’ in British marriages.
The article considers whether the constant intrusion that work can now have into family life, via smartphones, tablets and laptops, could be overtaking adultery as a reason for the breakdown of marriages.
According to the Telegraph’s article, divorce lawyers are increasingly finding that some people’s habit of constantly checking email messages from the office whilst they are at home, is starting to drive a wedge in Britain’s couples in way that has never been seen before. Whereas it was once affairs with colleagues that threatened marriages, it is now round-the-clock contact from the office that is driving apart workaholic couples.
Official figures published early in Feburary show that divorce cases where adultery is cited as the cause of the break-up have fallen to a record low, with just 14 per cent of divorces granted as a result of adultery to wives in 2012.
Over fifty per cent of women who file for divorce are now citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ – a catch-all term which can cover a whole host of different failings. A similar pattern can also be seen in divorce rates amongst husbands who have been granted a divorce.
Pressure from the workplace that leads to a negative impact on marriage is a factor in around half of divorce cases, according to Pannone Solicitors who are now part of the law firm Slater & Gordon. In the Telegraph’s article, Pannone estimate that of the 250 divorce cases that they handle each year, one in four cases include allegations that a spouse is not fully engaged with domestic life because of the amount of time they spend dealing with work related issues, either at home or on holiday.
Vicki McLynn, a partner at Pannone, told the Telegraph: “The remote use of work technology has become so frequently cited in claims of unreasonable behaviour that it has almost become the third party in many divorces, in the same way that allegations about inappropriate relations with an office colleague might perhaps have featured in the past,” she said.
“Technology has developed at such a rapid rate that whereas taking work home might previously have meant occasionally reading or writing a report, now there can be easy and constant remote contact with the office late at night, at weekends and during holidays too.
“Technology is sold as creating a better work-life balance, enabling people to work from home, but in many cases now it is becoming the problem.
“When clients come in and you sit down and talk to them about what has gone wrong in the marriage, what is striking is the number of people now saying that their spouse is simply unable to turn off from work.
“They talk about them coming home and, instead of taking an interest in the family and what they have been doing, they are checking emails or taking messages.
“They say things like ‘even when we are on holiday he is always on his laptop’ or ‘she is on her BlackBerry’.
“People often say is adultery the symptom rather than the cause of marriages breaking down.
“And it could be the case that people are bringing work home because the marriage is already on the rocks.
“The kind of situation we hear about is people looking at emails at home late in the evening – sitting in front of the television but with the laptop open so that they aren’t even engaging in something as simple as watching programme together.
“I’ve heard of many occasions of people being on holiday and being on the laptop or constantly accepting calls from the office.”