Sure, Facebook makes connecting with new and old friends around the world easier than ever — but it also makes it easier to disconnect from the person that matters most: your spouse.
Psychologist John Grohol, the CEO and founder of Psych Central, sees this happen all the time.
“Readily available communication on Facebook leads people to pursue temptation or engage in risky behaviors,” Grohol told The Huffington Post. “Facebook makes it easy to engage in less inhibited communication — which can lead to taking risks we wouldn’t ordinarily take in our everyday life.”
Below, Grohol and other relationship experts share different ways Facebook drives a wedge between couples — and how to avoid the issues in your own relationship.
1. Watching other couples’ PDA on Facebook makes some feel inadequate about their own relationships.
“Several clients have told me, ‘I’ve had to get off Facebook. It makes me crazy.’ They are struggling with the idealized view of others’ lives as portrayed in cheerful, perfect-looking posts on Facebook. Even before social media, keeping up with the Joneses has never been healthy for couples. It’s an unobtainable and superficial goal.” — Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist based in Fayetteville, Arkansas
2. Oversharing on Facebook can cause major arguments.
“Sharing too much can be a problem. One of my clients, Carolyn, had been working really hard. One spring morning, she and her husband Thomas decided she’d call in sick to work so they could take the kids to the zoo. As she was scrolling Facebook later in the day, she saw that Thomas had posted a photo of them in front of the elephant house. She was enraged! She felt betrayed. He felt like she was overreacting — none of her work colleagues (at least not ones who’d care) are even friends on Facebook. Thomas apologized. Even though he didn’t intend to hurt or betray her, he could see the impact of his choice was hurting her. They used this fight as an opportunity to talk about differences between the two of them in their social media usage: Why did posting family pictures at the zoo feel important to Thomas? What was the meaning to him? What would it have felt like to just let it be their day — unposted, unliked, uncommented on? They also talked about Carolyn’s resistance to social media. Certainly, she didn’t want her zoo trip on Facebook because she was playing hooky, but as they learned, this was a deeper and longer-standing resistance for her.” — Alexandra Solomon, psychologist and author of Brave, Deep, Intimate: 20 Lessons to Get You Ready for the Love of a Lifetime
3. Couples check Facebook instead of checking in on each other.
“One of the issues I see come up most often is when one partner feels neglected because the other partner is on their phone checking out Facebook whenever they’re together. When I have clients express this concern, I encourage them to talk about it openly with their partner. I coach them on how to share their feelings using ‘I’ statements and to directly state if they are feeling ‘upset’ or ‘neglected.’ More often then not, talking about it openly and making little shifts in how the concerns are communicated makes a huge difference.” — Jennifer Twardowski, a self and relationship coach.
4. Family and friends who continue to interact with exes can drive a wedge between couples.
“Divorce and remarriage have long invited questions and challenges regarding boundaries and loyalties, but Facebook forces individuals, couples, and entire families to face brand new dilemmas. My clients Rick and Sarah were married for 10 years. They recently divorced and Rick is now married to Lynne. Rick’s family and friends had not yet unfriended Sarah, so when one of them commented on Sarah’s photos or posts, it was like a knife in Lynne’s heart. She wondered if she’d ever belong in this new family. Rick felt caught. He tried to comfort Lynne — of course his family loves her, but they’d known Sarah for years. Lynne felt insecure in this community and mad at Rick for sticking up for Sarah. So Rick reached out to his family and friends. Rick’s family and friends reacted differently — some were upset at him for the request. There are no easy answers here, but I would invite all of the players to identify the tension and connect with the feelings stirred up as they sit with the dilemma.” — Alexandra Solomon
5. Friend requests from old flames can lead to affairs.
“Amy, a client of mine, was happily married for over eight years. She accepted a friend request on Facebook from an old love, Joe, thinking it would be harmless fun to catch up with him and see what was going on in his life. Amy started messaging him through Facebook and the more they talked, the more they also began to flirt. Flirting made her feel special and a little reckless, two things that were missing from her predictable marriage. It started off harmless enough, but over time, it started to get more and more serious. Finally Amy decided to meet up with Joe for a drink. That bad decision led to another — to sleep with him. She instantly regretted what she had done and went home wracked by guilt and shame. Should she tell her husband? Amy decided against it, thinking it would be a one-time thing. However, the next day she was back on Facebook, messaging Joe and planning the next time they’d see each other. Each time she did it, she felt more and more guilty. Eventually Amy’s husband found out about the affair and they were forced to have a long talk about what to do about their marriage and future together. As this example shows, in a marriage, you have to keep connected with your partner and limit your flirting -– especially with your exes — on messaging apps or social media sites like Facebook. Doing so will reduce unnecessary temptation.” — John M. Grohol, researcher, author and CEO and founder of PsychCentral.com.
6. And after infidelity, the site makes affair recovery even more challenging.
“I have been shocked at the sleuthing some spurned spouses are able to accomplish. Facebook makes it extremely difficult for couples to recover from an affair even when it is being used innocently; the site itself triggers suspicion, pain and bad memories in the betrayed.” — Amanda Deverich, a marriage and family therapist based in Williamsburg, Virginia
7. Checking Facebook before bed can put a damper on intimacy and affect sleep.
“If you’re chronically surfing Facebook when you could be going to bed with your partner, it can damage your relationship. Not only are you on your computer screen when your partner might be interested in relationship-enhancing conversation, physical intimacy, or a cuddle, you are likely tinkering with your natural sleep cues that could leave you sleep deprived. As I’ve told clients, avoid social media (and screens) at least one hour before bed in order to help you get the best sleep possible and so you can engage with your partner instead. Keep the bedroom a screen-free zone.” — Alicia H. Clark, licensed psychologist based in Washington, D.C.