By Steven Adkins, MS
The re-acquaintance of old friends, classmates and distant relatives has been a recent aspect of our new millennium lives. The social network site of Facebook puts us in touch with sometimes hundreds of people from our current lives as well as past lives.
The sites, at first glance, give us an opportunity to “keep in touch” with many past friends, classmates and others on a scale that has never before been available. Recently, Facebook has become the second most clicked site on the internet, only outdone by Google, the number one site on the internet. Some individual’s Facebook sites have thousands of pictures and as many friends.
This internet intimacy with so many has led way to what has been described as “internet betrayal” in marriages and relationships of every type. It has become apparent to us in our marriage counseling practice that it is a re-current theme in couple conflicts. Experience from our practice suggests that there are negative aspects to our primary relationships brought on by these networking sites. We decided to share marriage counseling tips with you for the use of Facebook.
The problems typically occurs when past relationships, i.e. boyfriends, girlfriends, H.S. crushes or others contact someone from their past and begin casual conversations and catching up with each others lives. As in most relationship betrayals, it usually starts with several innocent comments or exchanges with some excitement in the re-connection with someone in the past. Perhaps there is some flirting or “testing the waters” of the relationship. Social boundaries seem to more easily evaporate in the discrete environment of cyberspace.
Slowly, the innocent conversations and flirting beckon one to cross the unwritten boundary agreements between someone and their partner. These are the issues that are considered “knowledge for and between partners,” and what should be kept between them. Perhaps when one party talks about marriage issues, it becomes easier for the other to openly discuss them as well.
In the context of our real world and real issues, we easily forget that Facebook and other sites most resemble a virtual reality that helps us to communicate with others. When the virtual reality takes over our “real life,” and controls our “reality,” difficulties usually exacerbate a troubled relationship. Temptations are always available, whether it is in our reality or in our virtual reality.
Here are some marriage counseling tips and questions to ask yourself. Is a social networking site causing problems in your relationship? Examine your purpose for logging in at 2:00 A.M. Do you protect your password for social websites from your partner? Are you having a troubled relationship with your partner and spending more time on Facebook than quality time with your partner? If you answer yes to these questions, you are at higher risk for crossing boundaries that will lead to further relationship discord.
Consider discussions within your relationship about loneliness, commitment, trust and developing common interests and activities. Have frank discussions to evaluate where you are and where you wish to be in your relationship. If you need help in this process consider seeing a professional to help sort out these issues.