Love it or hate it, social media plays a large part in our everyday lives. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to Youtube, it doesn’t matter how far you run, it always seems to catch up. Phones have become permanent fixtures in our hands, and we spend hours and hours staring at both small and large screens. We take photos of food, friends, and events to share with other people who write the same hashtag as us. We ask for advice from complete strangers before our families. We’d rat her spend a night commenting on Youtube videos than go out to the theater with friends. We do things for the views and not for ourselves anymore.    

And of course, one of the places you can see the effects of online communication the most is on your marriage. Social media is one of those things that sneaks in under the radar because “everyone is doing it,” and before you know it, it’s caused a large rift between you and your wife and you don’t understand why. So, how can all this online activity harm your marriage? Let’s count the ways.

Tuning Out/Ignoring Your Partner

This is probably one of the most obvious ways online behavior harms your marriage. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your wife in bed and she just kind of nods along while scrolling through Instagram pictures? Has your wife ever tried to stand in front of the computer so that you’ll hear what she’s saying? In both situations, the other person starts to feel disrespected, unheard and forgotten. Nothing feels worse than not being as interesting or engaging to your SO as random pictures or words from strangers.  

The worse part about this is that, for the most part, people don’t understand that what they’re doing is hurtful or disrespectful. They’re just caught up doing something different. As much as humans wish they can multi-task, humans are better at focusing on one task at a time. So when you or your SO goes to interrupt the other, the person using social media can’t switch from one task to another. That’s why you get the nods and the “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” even when she’s not hearing a word you’re saying. And that’s also why your wife goes nuclear after you shrugged off yet another attempt to ask you about your day.

So, how can you fix this?

First, if you’re the one guilty of ignoring your wife, it’s time to make more of an effort to put down the phone, turn off the computer, or close the tablet and listen. Yes, look her in the eyes and engage with her. If you find it hard to disconnect, then maybe you need to begin to ask her for help. Ask her to take your phone or hide your phone after dinner. Go for a walk together and leave your phone at home. Have blackout times where both of you are forbidden from using your phone.

If she’s the one who seems to be ignoring you in favor of FB, then you need to bring up your concerns. Tell her that her social media usage makes you feel disrespected, ignored in your marriage, and hurt. Tell her that you want to reconnect and then, just as above, make times where you both aren’t allowed to touch your phone. If you and your wife have a competitive streak, you can even make it into a game (“The first person to touch their phone has to do the dishes….naked.”) 9 times out of 10, she probably doesn’t even realize she’s disrespectful and so you need to show her that this  is no longer acceptable and you want a change. If she cares about you and the marriage, she should try to make an effort to help solve the issue  

It creates unrealistic expectations

Social media is fake. Or rather, it’s an exaggeration on real life. Everyone wants to show the best parts of themselves online. It’s not very often someone posts something mediocre or dull online. Instead, everything is flashy and glamorous and perfect. Everyone has a perfect marriage, job, and house on the internet. 

It’s easy to get swept up in these fantasies. When everyone around you looks like they’re having the best time of their life and you’re not, it’s hard not to wonder if things would be easier with a different partner.

Here’s the thing though 

No one has a perfect relationship, job, body or life. When you start to compare your life to social media, you will always lose. Your wife will always lose when compared to an airbrushed supermodel. If you had that woman though, she wouldn’t be as perfect as you thought she would be. Maybe she’d be a violent alcoholic or someone all of your friends hate. You get my drift. 

So, treat social media like you would a magazine. It’s nice to look at, but it’s far from reality. And when you look at your marriage – don’t compare it to everyone else’s “Online Marriage.” Instead, compare it to what it was before. Has your relationship gotten better or has it gotten worse? If it’s worse, why? Can you return it back to the way it was before? In what ways has it improved? That is the real test as to if your marriage is headed in the right direction.  

It fosters jealousy, snooping, and infidelity

Social Media can turn a relationship into a toxic cesspool in one fell swoop. 

Because online networking is so far-reaching, it’s very easy to connect with a million different people from a million different places. You can make new friends, new business partners, and yes, new partners. In fact, experts say that social networks have made it easier to cheat with both familiar partners and also previously unknown strangers. 

So when someone is permanently on their phone (especially late at night or during times when normally they wouldn’t be), it can cause the other person in the relationship to question what they’re doing. It’s not unheard of, then, for one partner to go snooping on the other partner to see if their concerns are valid. Often, even if there aren’t any red flags on the social media account, the partner who snoops will find out something they didn’t want to know. Perhaps there’s nothing explicit in the chat, but the two people discuss their marriages or issues in their marriage. Maybe there are a few flirty chat messages here and there. Whatever there are, one partner is eventually going to end up questioning the other. The other partner is then going to get angry as well because their privacy was invaded. This causes an obvious rift between the couple. 

Jealousy is also created when one person in the marriage is constantly “liking” or looking at another person’s online accounts. Often these “likes” will pop up on their SO’s homepage, which can deeply hurt the person who sees their partner is engaging with someone new…usually in a flirty or sexual manner.

Both of these scenarios are relatively normal occurrences when dealing with social media.     

An excellent way to fix this is to be upfront with your wife and most im  portantly, yourself. If you’ve started engaging with someone online for validation, you need to stop what you’re doing and take a long hard look at your marriage. Why do you need this person’s approval in your life? Why can’t you get this from your wife? Have you both been drifting further from each other? Once you realize that your marriage needs work, you need to be the one to cut off contact with your virtual crush and get to work rekindling the spark with your wife. Take all of that time and effort you spend on your online crush and put it towards your wife. Be upfront with her about where you’re at in the marriage and the things you would like to improve.  

If she’s the one who is spending a lot of time talking to a certain someone online, sit down and talk to her. Tell her that you’ve noticed what’s going on, you feel disrespected, and you want to work together to get your marriage back to where it was. Be direct, but not accusatory. If you snooped on your wife, then also fess up this. Tell her that you know it was unacceptable, but you were worried about your relationship and wanted to look into it further. She probably won’t be happy – but don’t let her use this as an excuse not to talk about what’s going on with her online crush. Both of you did something wrong to hurt the other’s trust, and both of you need to work through those issues together. If you find that you’re both stuck fighting the same fight ad nauseum, it’s time to look into marriage counseling.  

Of course, if you find hard evidence of cheating, then you need to consider if working on your marriage is worth it. Sure, social networks makes it easier to cheat, but your wife’s actions ultimately come down to her. Your boundaries are yours to decide, but make sure that if she has done something that you find unforgivable, then you need to find a divorce lawyer and start getting everything ready. If you’re still willing to work on the marriage, then marriage counseling should be your next step. Either way, know that you get to decide what is right for you and your life and that you have control of how you react. Make the choice that is right for you.  

Creating a false life to get likes

Social media is addictive for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest ones is because it gives you immediate positive feedback. In fact, according to the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, the “social” and “visual” parts of your brain are activated when you receive “likes” on Instagram-like social networks. To add to this, it doesn’t matter if the like is from a complete stranger or your friend – it all feels the same. So if you post a picture and someone likes it, it makes you feel good. When you see people comment on your posts and respond, it makes you feel popular. You want to continue to feel good and popular, so you share things more and more. 

On a small scale, this isn’t a problem in a marriage. It becomes a problem when you are no longer living your life for you, but instead, you’re doing things for a faceless group of strangers who have the ability to like your content. A great example of this is when you and your wife have been arguing, but 10 minutes later, you both take a cute photo together with big smiles on your faces and “I love you sooooo much!” as the caption. Of course, you love each other – but at this moment, it’s not real. You’re posting this for other people – not the two of you. And do  you really think you’ll look back fondly on that moment or will you be thinking of the huge fight you had before you took it? 

It’s hard to separate an online persona from the real life, but you and your wife need to do this to have a healthy marriage. It’s okay to have online presence as an accessory to your marriage, but when it starts becoming more about the facade than the actual relationship, it may be time to take a break. Go camping far from Wi-Fi, take a hiatus, or limit your recreation online time on a weekly basis. Put the phones down during dinner, enjoy the music at the concert without Snapchatting, and talk to each other like you used to do. 

Social Media is a Tool 

Overall, social media is a tool. And just like all tools, its usefulness depends on how you use it. If you let it take over your life, run rampant through your marriage, and take up all of your free time, then prepare to have a very chaotic relationship with your wife. If you decide to use it in moderation, then make a conscious effort to keep that standard in your marriage. If your wife is struggling with a social networking addiction, then you need to be direct and upfront about what’s going on. Ultimately, it is her choice to quit her addiction – but you can be the guiding light that shows her that her behavior is unacceptable and how to get help. And honestly, in the end, your marriage is worth more than a few hundred likes. Don’t forget that. 

 


(c) Can Stock Photo / AntonioGuillem

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