Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way that we interact with one another. Physical distance means nothing if you have internet access and an account.
You can learn about the birth of your cousin’s baby even if they live across the country.
You can see pictures of your best friend from college and her family.
You can participate in debates with diverse groups of people.
You can also say or do things that jeopardize your love relationship or marriage.
According to a recent report*, divorce attorneys and divorce filings are relying more and more in proceedings on what was posted on social networking sites. This online record of gripes, flirting and otherwise inappropriate behavior is being used in courtrooms to help determine child custody and division of assets in a fault divorce.
The question being raised is what kind of Pandora’s Box has social networking become?
Has it opened up to the world a means of communication with others that breeds affairs, flirting, jealousy, conflict and eventual breakups?
As with most things, it is not this technological advance that is causing the problems– it is the people who misuse it.
Yes, there is increased access to first loves, crushes, old flames and new, attractive people too. But, social networking only provides the means by which some people choose to weaken or betray their relationship.
It can also be used in a manner that won’t lead to breakup or divorce court.
When a relationship runs into trouble it is usually because one or both people have “fallen asleep.” Of course, we don’t mean this literally.
Don’t get so caught up in the busyness of life that you stop paying attention. Too often, a couple will run from one activity to the next and, when they do sit down and relax, it’s to watch tv or veg out online. They stop checking in with one another– or with themselves– and settle in to a kind of auto-pilot mode.
This is akin to being asleep because there’s little awareness of what’s going on in the relationship. This generally goes hand-in-hand with neglect.
You might be so exhausted from your busy and stressed out day that you don’t believe you have energy to really listen to your partner or to hold him or her and say “I love you.” This builds up to a whole lot of unmet needs and that is when the temptation to look outside the relationship for love and attention arises.
Create clear agreements.
If you have noticed that your partner flirts with others on Facebook or that he or she seems to be secretive about certain social networking activities, talk about it. Don’t make accusations or jump to conclusions without reliable information to back you up.
Instead, create a code of conduct for social networking that you both will follow. This agreement needs to be clear and you both need to truly be on board for it to succeed.
Some example agreements might be…
“We will not message with non-family members of the opposite sex.” (If you are a heterosexual couple.)
“We will not complain about or put down one another online.” (You might add “or offline either.)
“We will not make sexually suggestive or flirting comments on other people’s posts or walls.” (Be specific about what flirting means to each of you.)
The point here is not to limit or to blame. It is to make sure that you and your partner can both use social networking sites in ways that don’t compromise your relationship. Once you have agreed to a code of conduct, watch for signs that your partner is following through. Acknowledge that.
Keep the connection.
Nurture your connection with your partner offline and IRL (in real life). Set aside time and reserve energy to do fun and/or passionate activities together. Connecting with your partner doesn’t always have to be a serious “let’s talk about feelings” thing.
Be creative and stay open. Invite your partner to go for a walk with you. Watch a movie together. Listen to music you both enjoy. Read the same book and discuss it. Play strip poker and see where it leads.
You could even post flirty comments on each other’s Facebook walls.
The point here is to make keeping your connection healthy and close a top priority. This will put social networking in its appropriate place– not a temptation or threat to your relationship, but just another occasional pastime.