How can I tell if my involvement with social media-Facebook, Twitter, etc.-is detrimental to my marriage? I don't think this is the case at present, but I don't want to be taken by surprise either. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?
Your marriage needs to be your most important relationship. As far as you are concerned, it has to take priority over every other connection with every other human being. If you sense that that this is no longer true for you, or if you suspect that your feelings for your spouse may be slipping from the number one position, it's time to stop and take another look at the situation. This is particularly true if the quantity and quality of your communication with your spouse appears to be going downhill.
This can happen for a number of reasons, of course. But there are ways to tell if your involvement with Facebook has anything to do with it. Is social media dominating your time? If you're spending more time on Facebook than you are interacting with your spouse, or if you sense that online "relationships" are more enjoyable and fulfilling than your marriage or other "real life" activities, this is a definite sign that something isn't right.
You should also watch out for disagreements about the content of your Facebook page or pages. For example, if one spouse is unhappy with the way the other is representing the family, this could become a source of serious conflict. The problem can be especially significant if one partner feels that the other's Facebook postings or photos are silly, that they're giving the entire household a foolish reputation, or that they violate the sanctity of the marriage covenant or the family's privacy in any way. Arguments about the appropriateness of "friend" requests from ex-spouses or "old flames" can be another potential landmine. You'll know that social media are impacting your marriage in a negative way if you ever find yourselves caught in the middle of that discussion.
Secrecy in any form is another danger signal. Do you feel a sudden compulsion to log off or minimize the Facebook window when your spouse walks into the room unannounced? If so, you need to ask yourself why. Transparency is the foundation of trust, and trust is essential to every successful marriage. This is why we recommend that husbands and wives who are active in social media maintain an "open door policy" by sharing their passwords with one another, both out of mutual respect and as a way of ensuring accountability.
In connection with this last point, we'd suggest that there are several additional questions you need to ask yourself about your interactions with online acquaintances and "friends," especially those of the opposite sex. Do your conversations include things that should be kept between you and your spouse? Do you find yourself daydreaming about any of these people? Do you look for excuses to visit them online? Do you share thoughts, feelings, or problems with them that you don't reveal to your spouse? Are you convinced that they understand you better than your spouse does? If so, there's a danger that these relationships may be crossing the line between the platonic and the romantic. It goes without saying that this is a serious red flag.
If any of these danger signals are present in your marriage and your use of social media, we'd urge you to sit down with your spouse and take a very close look at your situation. It might be a good idea to do this with the assistance of a trained counselor. Our staff can provide you with referrals to qualified professionals in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy. They will also be happy to discuss your questions with you over the phone if you'd care to give them a call. You can contact our Counseling Department for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able. We'd consider it a privilege to come alongside you in any way we can.
Making Marriage Work in a Social Media World (broadcast)
Unfriend Yourself (book)
Covenant Eyes - Provider of Internet accountability and filtering services.