Protecting Your Marriage in the Age of Social Media

 

Does social media use cause marriage problems?  The answer may depend on who you ask.  It is undeniable that potential exists for inappropriate interpersonal behavior with services such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.  But is social networking the cause/root of the problem?  Or is it just the latest technology that people have abused in order to misbehave?

Recent research claims that one out of five (20%) divorce cases include some mention of social media related complaints.  Indeed, many people have reported ruined marriages stemming from situations in which social networking has played a role.  Others are quick to point out that during the same time period of the rapid growth of social networking divorce rates have actually declined slightly (as have marriage rates).  Social media defenders argue that before the technology existed, people utilized every other means available for their infidelity – including email, text messaging, telephones, and so forth.  They point to social networking as a tool cheaters use, but not the cause of the problem.

Most conclude that Facebook and similar online networks can be harmless and fun when utilized appropriately.  It is important to recognize, however, that inappropriate social network participation can indeed be problematic for marriages – not just with infidelity, but in many other areas as well.  Couples should be proactive about protecting themselves and their marriages from possible social media pitfalls.

Here are some practical tips to consider…

(1)  Watch the clock.  Spending too much time on any activity can be harmful to your family relationships.  But spending an inordinate amount of time engaging in social network activities can be particularly distressing to your spouse.    One of the biggest challenges married couples face is finding quality time to spend with each other. Yet, we don’t seem to have nearly as much trouble finding time to spend online.   If you are not careful, social media can be an addicting time drain.

(2)  Don’t air your dirty laundry.  Facebook, Twitter, and the like are not appropriate venues to post grievances about your spouse or otherwise cause embarrassment.  Even updates that are intended to be humorous may not be perceived as such by your mate.  Furthermore, others are not privy to the context to determine if such a post was made in jest or out of spite.  Always make it a point to present your marriage in a positive light – whether online or in any other public setting.

(3)  Share selectively.  Social media makes it fun and easy to share our lives with friends, family, and others.  Because of this ease – not to mention the inexplicable, gratifying feeling that it creates – we are often emboldened to share many details about ourselves and our daily goings-on.  While this seems innocent and harmless, it actually has the potential to endanger that special intimacy that you should be preserving for your marriage.  Be thoughtful about what you share.

(4)  Establish safeguards together.  You need to be on the same page with your spouse regarding social network options.  The only way to do this is to talk about it.  Is there current or potential online contacts or “friends” with whom either of you are uncomfortable?  Are their certain communication methods that either of you think should be off limits to people of the opposite sex (e.g. email, private message, chat)?  What level of personal and family information should be shared online?

(5)  Exchange passwords.  When you share online passwords with your spouse it reflects trust, openness, commitment, and accountability.  It also demonstrates that your online interactions are appropriate and that there is nothing to hide.  Why would a married couple not want to share passwords with one another?  The answer to that question may be revealing.

(6)  Leave the past in the past.  It is decidedly unwise to connect with old flames, former love interests, or anyone with whom you have shared a close relationship in the past.  Doing so invites an unnecessary threat into your married life.  Such threats may include: jealousy, insecurity, or anxiety for your spouse; unwanted advances from the other person; confusing thoughts and emotions; various temptations; and many others.  Even if your motive for the connection does not stem from impure intentions it is not worth the risk.

(7)  Choose your “friends” wisely.  Ultimately, it is your decision and responsibility to determine who you will add to your social media contacts.  Once social network connections are made, these people have more access into your life.  Remember, you can always “unfriend” someone whose posts or interactions have become uncomfortable or offensive to you or your spouse.  Any online contact that can strain your relationship with your spouse is not a contact worth keeping.

Kirk VanOoteghem serves as Executive Pastor of River of Life in Muncie, Indiana.  He has many years of experience as a marriage counselor and educator and is the founder of MarriageMoment.org – an online ministry dedicated to protecting and strengthening marriages.

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