Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, especially the ones you aren't able to see very often. Facebook can help you feel connected, cared about, and supported in a relationship. However, if you aren't careful, it can also lead to some troubles in your relationship. Sometimes, I spend entire sessions helping couples resolve issues that stem from Facebook or other social media conflicts. Below are some of the most common social media issues I see and some tips for managing or avoiding these conflicts.
Loss of Communication
When something happens, good or bad, where do you go first to talk about it? Do you go to your partner or do you head to Facebook? Are you looking for validation from comments and likes on your posts or are you able to turn to your partner for comfort or encouragement? Your partner shouldn’t have to learn online how things are going in your life. He or she should be the first person you lean on in times of struggle and the first person you want to celebrate with in times of joy.
Solution: Take time to talk to your partner first before you post something on social media. This will help you deepen your connection. When you are able to lean on and trust your partner you automatically create a deeper bond. Your partner won’t feel neglected or second to social media and you will feel the validation you desire.
Comparing Your Relationship to Others
Keeping up with the Joneses has never been healthy for couples. And now with Facebook, you might be struggling with the idealized view of others’ lives as portrayed in cheerful, perfect-looking posts. You might feel that other couples are having more fun together, or that they are more affectionate than you. You might feel inadequate in your relationship or your ability to make your partner happy.
Solution: Try gratitude - the inevitable comparisons to the snapshots of lives on Facebook makes you feel you have less. Contemplating what you are lucky to have already makes you feel you have more. So maybe it’s time to look at the good things you take for granted in life rather than your Facebook news feed. And also remember that you don't know what was happening 5 minutes before or after that perfect shot was taken - we only get a brief, hand-picked, rose-colored portrayal of someone's life on Facebook.
Connecting with the Wrong People
We all have past relationship and sometimes we wonder “what might have been.” Just looking up an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend out of curiosity might seem harmless, but it might be the beginning of trouble for your relationship. Protecting your relationship begins with staying faithful to your partner and infidelity doesn’t always mean that you had an affair with someone. Once your thoughts start to focus on something or someone outside of your marriage, it can be difficult to get things back in order, Facebook flirting or messaging can easily lead to secret dinners and affairs.
Solution: Don’t go there. If you feel any little niggle of guilt or feel like you need to keep your connection a secret, it isn’t healthy. If you can’t be open with your partner about who you are communicating with on Facebook, you need to avoid that connection. Doing so will reduce unnecessary temptation and protect your relationship.
We all know someone who has to share everything on Facebook. You always know the status of their relationship - they are happy one minute and spewing flames the next. Does that change your perception of their partner? Does it make you want to take sides? If you share about an argument you had with your partner, your friends are most likely going to sympathize with you and try to comfort you. This might damage the way people think about your partner - even if it was just one small incident that shouldn’t define them.
Solution: Talk to your partner about what is happening or how the situation made you feel. You can review my post on how to process after a fight. Leave everyone else out of the equation - this will help you feel closer and more connected to your partner.
Don’t get me wrong. Facebook can be a really great way to share information and stay connected with friends and family. You just need to be willing to set limits on your usage and shut it down once in a while if you feel it is getting out of control. Spending time face to face with your partner should always be more rewarding than scrolling your news feed!
Jennifer Tougaw is a couples counselor in Denver, Colorado. She helps couples reconnect and change the way they move through time together.