It was a typical day in my couples counseling practice. I listened to a heartbroken spouse tearfully share her pain regarding what her husband had done. She had just discovered he had been cheating on her for the past six months with one of his old high school girlfriends. “How did this happen?” I asked the husband. He began to cry as well. He didn’t understand how it happened. He mentioned making jokes with the woman on a social media site one day when he saw her post something humorous. From there he described a tale of secrecy that moved to full-blown sexual indiscretions. His wife found out because he left his phone on with one of her messages loaded.
Social media has a seat at the table in most homes, and it is only a matter of time before it extends its reach even more staggeringly. Such integration in daily life begs the question: What is this finger-play of contact doing to my marriage?
8 Questions to Help You Consider the Impact of Social Media on Your Marriage
Here are eight common questions that you should be asking yourself and your spouse so that social media doesn’t detract from your relationship.
1. Is social media causing distraction in my relationship?
You should consider three things when assessing if social media is causing distractions in your marriage.
1. Rely on each other for support. If social media friends or networks are taking the place of your relationship, then it is a problem.
Discuss the issue with your spouse and see what he or she wants and needs from you. Adjust your social media usage to accommodate.
2. Keep your spouse as your first priority. If your spouse feels that social media friends and connections are a higher priority to you than he or she is, evaluate if it is worth using.
3. Keep your emotional connection strong. Make sure the emotional connection you have with your spouse is always a priority. If you maintain very healthy emotional bonds and you maintain good daily, weekly, and yearly traditions to support those bonds, using social media may not be a problem.
2. Is it possible to be addicted to social media?
Yes. There are three important questions you should consider to see if an addiction may be present for you or your spouse:
1. Do you or your spouse have impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning based on your use of social media?
2. Do you or your spouse spend more time using social media than you intend, or does your use of social media continue to increase?
3. Do you or your spouse have difficulty controlling your use of social media?
If you answered yes to all three, an addiction problem is very likely and you should seek professional help to overcome the addictive tendencies. If you answered yes to one or two of them, then you might want to consider setting restrictions on your social media usage or not using it at all.
3. Is it appropriate for me to interact with someone I am attracted to through social media?
I generally suggest you don’t even touch this one with a ten-foot pole. If you feel an attraction to someone, simply avoid them. Don’t friend them, don’t talk to them, don’t send them pictures. If your spouse is jealous, make sure you discontinue anything that may make him or her feel that way. If you are jealous, speak up.
4. How much information can I disclose online?
Always keep your relationship status where you know your spouse wants it. Make sure you really know what your spouse is comfortable with before disclosing anything. Don’t embarrass your spouse.
5. Has social media contributed to trust problems in my relationship?
If there has been a trust violation or infidelity in your relationship, you will likely experience these three phases of emotions:
Phase 1: Roller Coaster. You may feel extreme emotions that cycle rapidly. You may feel out of control, and all you can see are relationship problems.
Phase 2: Moratorium. Following the extreme emotions, you may experience an emotional shutdown to avoid the pain. While you may want to push to find out everything about the trust violation—and it is important to know what happened— seeking to know every single detail can become too consuming.
Phase 3: Trust building. Only after the previous two phases will you even want to explore the possibility of forgiving and rebuilding trust. This is normal. Do everything you can to be patient. Ask the offending spouse to apologize in this phase.
6. How do I discuss my concerns regarding social media with my spouse?
Discussing social media use may be met with some level of friction in your relationship, especially if problems have occurred. As you talk through things, the goal should be to come to a comfortable agreement with your spouse about social media use. Focus on sharing three things:
1. The underlying emotions you feel regarding social media.
2. Why your opinion is so meaningful to you.
3. Your emotional needs regarding the issue.
As you communicate, don’t focus on trying to get your spouse to agree with you. Rather, focus on understanding each other’s thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to agree with each other to compromise; however, you do both need to listen and respect the other person’s feelings.
7. Can social media be helpful for me or my marriage?
Despite all the risks social media can pose, benefits can come from its use. If you want to maintain friendships, then keep in touch. Most importantly, if you decide to use social media, use it to emotionally connect with your spouse.
8. So—bottom line—is it ok for me or my spouse to use social media, or should we avoid it?
The most influential factor should be what is in the best interest of your marriage and the feelings of your spouse on the issue. If he or she is comfortable with your current use, then you are probably okay. If not, find a way to align your usage with his or her desires. If you choose to continue using social media sites, let your involvement reflect what you and your spouse have discussed and determined is best for your marriage.
Go find your spouse right now and talk through all the thoughts you have had reading this article. Make plans together to help ensure that you and your spouse will always have a loving, committed, faithful relationship. Always put your spouse and your spouse’s feelings first. If you do, you can experience the true joy of marriage while avoiding the potential pitfalls of social media. If you focus on what’s in it for you, you may be all you have left.