Digital Distractions

Worried-looking woman staring at an electronic tablet whil her husband sits in a recliner watching TV in the background
Christine Fleming

Tara witnessed the damage firsthand. She watched her close friend struggle to recover after the husband's decision to reconnect on Facebook with an old girlfriend took them to the brink of divorce.

"I watched the devastating effects the affair had on that family," Tara explains. The unfortunate event inspired her to take precautions for her own marriage.

Couples in this digital age face new and precarious relationship hazards. Although rekindling old flames is a leading concern, experts say it's not the only one. Consider three other potential problems:

Fantasizing about an elusive ideal

Nice vacations, romantic gifts and vibrant spirituality — from the looks of our friends' mini-feeds, other wives have husbands who make all their dreams come true. Meanwhile, we live in the nitty-gritty reality of work and family with a husband we love but don't always like. Disenchantment often breeds discord.

Action step: Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Remember, social media paints a partial picture. Every mate has issues and faults — every marriage faces tough times.

Overinvesting time, energy and attention

What's given in one area can't be used in another. Social media bombards us with alerts and updates, constantly beckoning us to participate, even if interaction with our husband is suffering.

Recently, in the dark of a movie theater with my husband, I found myself posting about our night out rather than holding his hand and simply enjoying the time together. It's easy to get pulled away from living in the moment.

"These social media connections can have an almost hypnotic, mesmerizing effect," says marriage and family therapist Dr. Beverly Rodgers, co-author of Becoming a Family That Heals. "Women need to be mindful of the time they're spending. It can become addictive."

That increased pull toward social media also adversely affects sexual intimacy, Dr. Rodgers reports. "In our practice we hear, 'We don't make love anymore because I can't get him or her off the Internet.' "

Action step: Set boundaries and stick to them. Decide to have media-free time, especially those hours devoted to fully engaging with your husband.

Compromising the privacy of those you love

Social media invites us to share the details of our lives with the world — every detail, including our thoughts and feelings about our spouse.

But just because we can share doesn't mean we should share. It's never wise to air our marital stresses, vent about our spouse's shortcomings or share potentially embarrassing information. Going public may provide an immediate sense of relief from our problems, but it does nothing to solve them.

Action step: Consider using a private journal to process events and emotions. Confide in a trusted friend or counselor instead of seeking support online.

Despite the complexities of contemporary life, God still works faithfully to repair damaged relationships. Thankfully, the Facebook-inspired affair that Tara witnessed had a redemptive ending and the marriage was restored.

For Tara, her friends' experience was a wake-up call to be more cautious in her own digital life.

Terri Foster writes for a variety of nationally distributed magazines.

How strong is your marriage? Find out today with the Focus on Marriage Assessment. This reliable assessment is based on the research and experience of Focus on the Family's marriage experts Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. Take this free assessment now. 

A portion of this article appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2013 by Terri Foster. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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