If Facebook frustrations bring a client into therapy, my job is to help them figure out why they are a "teeterer" or why it is so hard to tear themselves away from their iPhone and connect with their partner. Without being able to delve into the nuance of each couple here, some basic parameters I offer to Facebook Widows may suffice:
What To Do If You Or Your Partner Feels Like A Facebook Widow(er)
My best advice to both partners is to agree to try logging off for a whole weekend. Even if you are not the one incessantly Facebooking, you need to log off and convince your partner to do the same. No Facebook. No email. If you must email for work, set specific times that you will do so (no more than two times per day) and stick to those parameters.
During this weekend, if you are the Facebook widow-maker, try reorienting your Facebook time toward your partner. Every time you have the urge to update your status or check your homepage, try asking your partner a question. Or give your partner a status update—in real life. Try putting the same effort, flair and energy into your real life relationship as you do with your cyber ones. In all likelihood, this will not be easy and will take a little getting used to over the course of the weekend. But stick with it and a happier, more connected relationship can be the result.
If you are the Facebook widow(er), during this weekend, be sure to be encouraging, available and engaged with your partner's efforts to reconnect. Be positive and be sure to ask your partner just as many questions as they are asking you. If you are enjoying your technology-free weekend, be sure to say so! A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reconnect
After The Facebook-Free Weekend
As the Facebook widowmaker, make an effort have a healthier balance between your cyber-life and your real life. Cut back on your Facebook time and expand your relationship face-time. Continue to use the same strategies you used over the weekend by setting parameters around how much time you spend Facebooking, and how much energy you give to your partner. Continue to give your partner status updates through good old-fashioned verbal communication. And invite your partner into your Facebook time by poking them, sending them private messages off-wall, or mentioning them in your on-wall commentary. Fun And Free: A Couples Blog
What Not To Do
Many frustrated non-Facebookers take the approach, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." They try to "friend" their way to revenge. It's no surprise that they do not tend to enjoy Facebook at all, as they are simply doing it to prove a point. Also, spiteful Facebooking typically results in a relationship with two partners over-emphasizing their cyber life instead of their real one. Instead, continue to be positive and supportive of your partner's efforts to set parameters around Facebook time. Also, please consider that some Facebooking, in moderation, can actually be an enjoyable way to communicate, both with your friends and your lover.
It is likely that both partners will find satisfaction through these joint efforts to be more connected. If you don't feel satisfied by taking this advice—or if you find yourself unable to tear yourself away from Facebook, even for one weekend—you may want to ask yourself how much you have in common with the recovering Facebook junkie quoted above. And if your partner is unable to stick with the parameters above, you may want to re-evaluate your current relationship.
Elisabeth Joy LaMotte LICSW is a social worker and psychotherapist in private practice in Washington, D.C. Her book, Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce, was a finalist in the 2008 National Best Book Awards in the relationship category. Read more about her on www.elisabethlamotte.com.