How should I respond if my spouse receives inappropriate and flirtatious messages via social media? I ran across something like this on her page the other day and it's been bothering me ever since. What can I do about it?
The first thing you should do is sit down and discuss this with your spouse. It's important to be open and honest and lay everything out on the table. Don't get angry. Don't accuse or blame. Instead, use "I-based" language. In other words, try telling your wife how you feel and what you experience when you see these flirtatious messages coming over the Internet. Ask her what she thinks the two of you should do about it. Bear in mind that online flirting is really no different than any other type of flirting. Try to approach the situation just as you would if someone had approached your spouse inappropriately at a party or some other social event. Be humble and sensitive. Bring all your best communication skills into play and make the preservation of your marriage the number-one priority.
Once you've talked the matter through, move on to a discussion of boundaries. Ask your spouse what can be done to put a stop to the inappropriate messages. Be open with one another about your respective expectations for social media. Work together to draw up a list of Facebook "best practices." If the two of you have been maintaining separate Facebook pages, we strongly suggest that you share your passwords with one another and maintain an "open door policy" where Facebook communications are concerned. Make sure that icons, photos, and any other visual images posted on the page remind visitors of your marital relationship. Use pictures that show husband and wife together. The whole point is to design a page that reflects the couple's identity as a unit. This in itself will discourage flirtatious messages from individuals whose motives are less than honorable.
Your wife can draw a line in the sand by telling the individual in question, "If you don't cease and desist I will unfriend you." If the flirting continues, she should go ahead and block him. Meanwhile, remember that you don't necessarily have to deal with this problem via Facebook. In the Internet world it's important to know when it's time to "take things off-line." If it seems appropriate, either you or your spouse should contact this person by phone and have a serious conversation about the matter. Be sure to let your words and actions be guided by objective standards of propriety rather than by emotions.
If you need help sorting this out, feel free to give us a call. Our Counseling department would be happy to discuss your questions with you over the phone.
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Making Marriage Work in a Social Media World