That’s according to a recently-released report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But before you go telling all your friends that “a third of all marriages end because of Facebook,” recognize what the report really says.
The truth is that Facebook is mentioned in one-third of divorce filings. A lot of those filing papers only make reference to an online relationship. Some husbands or wives have even declared their intention to break up through Facebook, email, or Instagram. But a great number of the divorce papers simply use Facebook messages or wall posts to make a case for divorce by pointing out a spouse’s uncivil behavior or poor parenting skills.
The widespread use of electronic media today makes it almost certain that Facebook and Instagram could be used by lawyers to build a legal web to snare an uncommitted spouse. And that’s on the rise. Consider that three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.” Whatever the case, social media is definitely playing an increasing role in families and family breakup.
More important than that, I believe the level of social media engagement in our culture today is evidence that we’re putting a lot of time into passing interactions with others and not enough time in deep relationship-building with a spouse.
Recently I saw a comment on one of FamilyLife’s Facebook pages by a husband who took a little passing snipe at his wife for everyone to see. In all fairness, he was probably reaching out for help in an area of frustration in his marriage. But those kinds of comments, when read by a wife, often make the problem worse by feeding a sense of embitterment or hurt.
Here are some principles that may help keep social media interactions from becoming words in a divorce filing.
1. Keep everything in the open. If you don’t have a joint husband/wife account (on Facebook for example) make sure what you say online is nothing you couldn’t say with your wife standing there beside you. Before messaging, ask yourself, “Is this something I wouldn’t mind my wife seeing?” You may even consider letting your wife read it first. It’s good for accountability, and it’s a good way to double-check that what you’ve written isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.
2. Say what you need to say … and say it to the right person. Rather than gripe about a marital problem on social media, talk directly with your wife. If you think it might hurt her feelings or get you in hot water, think of a way you can soften the blow when you raise the issue. In most cases, the following approach is helpful: “I know you care about me, and I know you probably didn’t think about it, but I feel (insert your emotion) when you (insert the offense). I don’t want problems to build that will isolate us. Can we work through this together?” This works for wives, too.
3. Use social media to build each other up. It’s never been easier than it is right now to send notes to each other for no reason at all, or to brag about your wife in front of others. Social media makes it easy to connect with each other while you’re apart during the day, and that will keep a relationship from drifting. Just make sure that what you say online is reinforced by what you say and do when you see each other that night. Remember, your wife is always looking for proof that she’s important to you. That gives her a lot of security.
4. When you’re together, come together. It’s very easy, even when you’re home, to drift to your own individual social media corners. By the end of the evening, you realize that you’ve hardly spoken a word. This happens with father-child relationships, too. Set your personal devices aside, and plan some face time (the real thing, not the Apple feature.)
Above all else, remember these two driving principles of building and maintaining a relationship:
- The quality of your relationship depends on the amount each of you invest in it.
- If you aren’t intentionally growing toward oneness, you’re automatically drifting toward isolation.
Don’t let your marriage become a social media casualty. Be intentional about strengthening your marriage and avoiding the things that could potentially destroy it.
© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
You just finished reading “Avoid Being a Social Media Casualty” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men.
“The Unmasking of an Online Affair” tells the story of one couple who came back from emotional infidelity.
Read Dave Boehi’s 3-part series “Are We Replacing Conversation with Connectivity” on FamilyLife.com.