Is Facebook helping or hurting your relationship?
On a weekly basis I have clients sitting on my therapy couch and sharing how Facebook was involved in some part of their relationship. Some state that they use Facebook when they are feeling insecure in the relationship; investigating their partner’s activity with others, combing through the friends list in search for a red-flag person, searching for signs that the relationship is off-track, or looking for inappropriate comments. Other clients have stated that they watch their partner’s (or soon to be partner) relationship status as a sign of whether their relationship is in tack, broken-up, or in the works. Other people use it to keep an eye on their ex, to look up a crush, to share their relationship’s dirty laundry, or to addicted to the online banter, etc. The list is endless!
Facebook isn’t the problem….it is the relationship dynamics and our human reactions that get in the way.
Here are a few tips on how to keep Facebook from hurting your relationship:
- Jealousy and Drawing a Line: If your relationship already has the jealousy-syndrome, then Facebook won’t help. The use of this social media can really magnify the insecurities because you don’t get to see the “behind the scene” interactions between other people. If you are feeling insecure, maybe you and your partner shouldn’t have FB. Remember, the one sentence post or new friendships can be taken out of context, misinterpreted, or misconstrued. It can also create an alarm or a temptation….for either investigating or flirting. You may need to draw the line to the use of Facebook or delete the account.
- Check-In, Don’t Assume: Posts by your partner, friends, or colleagues are three words to three sentences about their world they are in. You aren’t in their world, but you get a sneak peak at their world. Since you don’t have all the back ground to that person’s post, your view of it may be completely off based. Check-in with the other person if you have concerns about a post and get the entire story. Don’t just watch and wait for the Facebook relationship status to change or get hidden, and don’t just assume that someone isn’t taking care of themselves by simply reading a two lined message. Take a leap and talk to the other person before you assume.
- Be SUPER clear: If your relationship is already on the rocks, be super duper clear with your posts. Don’t post ambiguous posts, such as “Things that make you go hmmmm…” You might be brainstorming on your next project at work, but your partner may read it after getting off the phone with you and worry that you may be in debate about the relationship, or uncertain about the bond. Even though it might not say much to you, it could spark a sensitive cord with your partner. Give a bit more info so it shows more of your world, such as “Things that make you go hmmmm…. brain storming for work.” The clearer you are, the less you have to explain.
- Post Safe Topics: Use safe topics posts that won’t strike a cord or can be misinterpreted. Safe topics may include what are doing for the day, how your work day is going, or maybe a few of your favorite quotes.
- Don’t air your Relationship Dirty Laundry: Your feelings may be consuming you and all you want to do is let it out…on Facebook. Posting your relationship problems won’t fix them. It simply posts your dirty laundry to the public and causes more problems. Instead, address the issue directly with your partner. It isn’t that people don’t care about your relationship and your struggles, but posting your issues and complaining about it isn’t appropriate…nor will it get you anywhere. Not everyone needs to know the nitty-gritty about your relationship. Think twice before you post. It is a public forum.
- Change your Privacy Settings: Sometimes personal life really shouldn’t mix with business, or certain people shouldn’t know your daily life activities. Change your privacy settings so that co-workers, family, and friends have limited access. Remember, people don’t know exactly what is going on in your world, and they may interpret your posts wrong. Piecing together someone’s life by facebook posts is very common, yet very challenging to get the puzzle pieces to fit exactly. Filter who can and cannot see your postings; save yourself a lot of pain and heart ache.
- Include your Partner: Instead of having the Facebook individual and separate, include your partner by either going on together or having a joint account. The relationship could improve drastically by simply bonding over an online social experience as a team. Allow your partner to sit next you while you go on, helping reassure them. Discuss what would feel comfortable for the two of you and find a way to include one another.
- Cut back: It is very very easy to caught up(or addicted) to the social networking and you could find daily surfing increasing and checking your cell phone for updates, or wakeup/go to bed to facebook. You might cross a line and focus on what your family member has posted that it impacts your day. Either way, your interactions with FB are hindering you and your relationships. Cut back. Know when to say no and let go of the steam. If you are on it all the time, show your partner they priority and more important than Facebooking and cut back on your FB Addiction. J
- Delete the Red-Flag Friends: Sometimes people may cross a line by posting inappropriate messages or flirty comments. If this person is a red-flag for either you or your partner, it may be time to delete them from friend’s list or you may need to confront the issue straight on. Being friends with a “red-flag” won’t help the relationship heal, improve a bond, or help your partner feel comfortable with you. It tends to have the opposite effect. If in doubt…press delete.
Relationship problems and social media may go hand in hand if you’re not careful. When you over share, especially before you check in with your partner, feelings get hurt or you may even make your partner feel violated. It takes careful communication to avoid these problems. When you’re on Facebook and in a relationship you need to tackle the issues as a couple. Everyone’s boundaries are different, so talk about yours openly with your partner. Below are some helpful tips for how to avoid relationship problems related to social media. Feel free to share the infographic on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest — remind your friends to think before they share!
- Don’t air your dirty relationship laundry to everyone on your Facebook and Twitter Friends.
- Do carefully consider who you talk to about the details of your relationship. Not everyone on your Friend list is the right audience for personal issues or relationship complications.
- Don’t be critical or attacking your partner in posts or comments.
- Do only disclose your gripes in personal messages.
Social media can throw a wrench in an otherwise healthy relationship. If you are already having problems, then, it will very often make them worse. Over sharing, private messaging with an ex during a bad time in your relationship, and deleting each other as friends are all mistakes. If you need help communicating or developing strategies as a couple, come see me so I can help!
Talk About It
Each couple has a different comfort level for how much they want to share online. Discuss what you both feel comfortable sharing before making any post (either good or bad). Sometimes one person may not want to mention a single thing about the relationship – if that’s you, you might be sending the message that you aren’t proud of the relationship. On the other hand, one partner may overshare about every argument or milestone, making the other person uncomfortable. Make sure to be on the same page before you make a move online. Communication is the key!
Hand Pick Your Support
Not all of the “friends” we have on social media are the people we can really turn to, and we don’t have control what they do or say online. In my view, you wouldn’t get up in front of a large group of people and disclose your relationship struggles, so don’t go online and do it with a two-liner post. How much you share about your relationship and to whom you share it needs to be hand-picked both online and in person. If anything is exposed, it should be handpicked and not thrown out to your 500+ friends. When you’re sharing online, send private discussions with only your closest friends that you trust.
The boundaries within each couple will be different regarding how much they disclose with others. It’s important for relationships to have a healthy set of privacy boundary for both the online world and the real world. The relationship should take priority, so the couple needs to discuss the boundaries about depth, topics, and amount. Do you talk about the latest and greatest fight? Is it okay to share about sex and intimate issues? Is it okay to post about the great sex you just had? Do you agree to share your frustrations about one another online? Always stick to the boundaries you set as a couple.
Decide Together What is and isn’t okay
It is natural to seek comfort from others, and when you online you can get support 24 hours a day. However, online communication can be a touchy subject, and often the boundary lines gets blurred. As a relationship therapist, I believe social media and relationship posting can vary for each person and each support line. It can either help or hurt a relationship. Pick wisely. Think before you post. Communicate.
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