A new survey conducted by U.K. divorce website found that 33 percent of divorce petitions in 2011 contained references to Facebook. Another survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that “Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66% citing it as the primary source.” Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers stated they “have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence” during the past few years.
What’s so bad about Facebook and why is it playing a role in destroying marriages? While there are many benefits of Facebook, there are a few points to be aware of when it comes to getting between you and your spouse.
1. Keeping up with the Joneses
Today our lives are an open book. Login to your Facebook account and you can learn just about every intimate detail of your friends’ existence. Even if you think you feel secure in your relationship, you may begin to discover that your marriage is not as exciting as you thought it was. Facebook has given new meaning to the term, “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Take one wife who read about the multiple family vacations of her acquaintance. Why couldn’t her husband take her and the kids camping too? A huge fight ensued and although he agreed to go camping, they realized afterwards that no two families are created equal, despite the acquaintance’s romanticized postings of being “camp mommy.”
It is easy to view the lives of others and want the same for ourselves. This often creates an underlying anxiety which can lead to tension at home and unreasonable demands. That Facebook friend may look like she’s having the time of her life traveling and buying new clothes, don’t lose sight that her husband may have a multimillion dollar business. Don’t lose perspective when being bombarded with the outer (and often false) grandeur of other people’s lives.
2. Relationships with the Opposite Gender
If you are in a relationship where you feel unloved or disregarded, a little bit of attention from the opposite gender can be tempting. The ease of causal comments on Facebook can lead to a slippery slope where we can find ourselves becoming increasingly attached to someone other than our spouse. A nice comment here, a little chat there, and next thing you know you’re emotionally invested in a relationship.
If you think I am exaggerating, Drs Pat Love and Steve Stosny write in How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It (p.89) that even if you are happily married, spending enough private time with someone you are attracted to can turn that chemistry into infatuation. All the more so, if you have an unfulfilling marriage. Chatting on Facebook or instant messenging when no one is around can add the thrill of privacy to the conversation. Pretty soon you could find yourself in a compromised situation that you don’t want to be in.
3. Airing Your Dirty Laundry in Public
If you are feeling frustrated with your spouse it is only natural to want to confide in a friend. Yet, unfortunately it is not always a smart decision. Ideally one should learn appropriate relationship tools to be able to communicate directly with their spouse. This keeps the relationship where it needs to be, between husband and wife. If this is not possible, then an unbiased third party who will just let you vent is the next best option. The problem arises when you begin talking about your spouse with friends who may influence your relationship in a negative way.
Take for example a woman who posted a derogatory story about her husband on Facebook. A friend commented, “Only your husband would do that.” This affirmation of her husband’s shortcomings was surely not a positive contribution or encouragement of her relationship. Furthermore, many of our friends may have bad marriages themselves and would love someone else to commiserate with. Facebook can serve as an easy way for a chat which may offer free advice and discouraging feelings about our spouse. As we sink further into negativity, we forget about the possibility of trying to make the relationship work.
While studies may not always be fully accurate, as a marriage counselor, I have seen the negative effects that jealousy, relationships with the opposite sex, and discussing your marriage with friends, can have on a relationship. While Facebook can be a great way to keep in touch, it also can provide much easier access for these outside forces to enter your relationship and wreck it.
Some of the ideas in this article are based on Rabbi Slatkin’s new book Is My Marriage Over: The Five Step Action Plan to Saving Your Marriage, available for download at http://www.therelationshiprabbi.com/is-my-marriage-over