“Friending” an Old Flame on Social Media

Is it okay to connect with former dating partners on Facebook? While browsing around online I ran across an old boyfriend from my high school and college days. It's been years since we've been in touch and I'm curious to know what he's been up to. I'm very much in love with my husband and our relationship is strong, so I don't see this as a threat to my marriage. Any advice?

Ironically, this problem is easier to resolve in the case of a troubled marriage. The more difficulty a couple is experiencing, the more obvious it should be that they cannot and must not tolerate outside temptations or intrusions. In situations of this nature, the answer is a definite no. Do you remember that brief but highly significant verse from Song of Solomon? “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Like “little foxes” to tender vines, “friend” requests from old boyfriends or girlfriends can do great damage to a fragile or hurting marriage.

Things get more complicated when the marriage is strong, as in your case. Since you seem to have a good relationship with your spouse, we’d advise you to talk this over with him at length before you decide to do anything. If your marriage is as vibrant as you say it is, then it’s worth protecting. A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that Facebook has been a major factor in one out of five U.S. divorces. Without knowing your situation in detail, keep in mind that the risks associated with what you’re proposing often far outweigh any potential benefits. You need to be careful about exposing your relationship to threats of any kind, no matter how remote they may seem.

Since you’re the one proposing to initiate contact with your old boyfriend, we’d urge you to stop and reflect before moving ahead. Would it be helpful or harmful to your marriage to re-establish a connection with this person? Ask yourself exactly why you might want to take this step. Evaluate your motives. Are you absolutely certain that you don’t feel compelled to revisit the past because of present discontentment? Have you been thinking about the way things “might have been” if this particular relationship had turned out differently? We’re not necessarily suggesting that this is the case. We’re just saying that it deserves some thought. In the final analysis, it’s a decision that you must make together with your spouse.

If you choose to go ahead and “friend” your “old flame,” we’d urge you to do so via a Facebook account that intentionally reflects the healthy nature of your marriage. Among other things, this page should be filled with images designed to remind visitors of your relationship with your spouse. As far as possible, photos should frequently show the two of you together. The whole point is to represent yourselves as a unit. This will prevent your old boyfriend from interpreting your “friend” request in the wrong way. It’s also important to consider what impact your actions may have on your old boyfriend’s relationship with his wife. While your marriage may be strong enough to accommodate a reestablishment of this friendship, your innocent overture could very well introduce conflict and be a source of marital difficulty for them.

On the positive side, it’s worth noting that husbands and wives who connect with old friends via Facebook may be rewarded with unprecedented opportunities to enter into the details of one another’s personal dating histories. This can be an enriching experience. But it can also get tricky if it turns into a source of tension, suspicion, or jealousy. Such developments may have a healthy and beneficial effect if they help you get rid of secrets and shed some light on the past. Everything depends on the couple in question and how they choose to handle such revelations. Our recommendation is that you maintain an “open door” policy. Then be prepared to do the necessary hard work if issues from the past arise that seem to require attention.

If you’re like many couples, you could probably use some help sorting this out. Call us. Our Counseling department would be happy to discuss your questions with you in a free over-the-phone consultation. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified counselors in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy.


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