Some claim Facebook is ruining marriages. But can Facebook actually help your marriage?
Well, Facebook, now you've done it. The latest study released by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) claims that Facebook actually causes divorce in one in five marriages. The reason? Hooking up with exes, flirting and the like are all too easy on the social networking site. However, I would argue that many marriages that suffer an irreparable "Facebook incident" had issues long before the spouses starting sending out friend requests; Facebook is merely an easily accessible tool for a wandering heart.
So does this mean that married couples should delete their Facebook profiles and swear off social media, at least in their personal lives? I don't think so and, in fact, I believe that if handled responsibly, Facebook can actually help strengthen your marriage.
First, though, the ground rules.
The Facebook Married Ground Rules
Ground rule #1: Choose "Married" as your relationship status. Don't leave it blank. Don't choose "It's complicated." And definitely don't choose "In an open relationship"... even if you're trying to be funny. Be up front and direct. You're not using Facebook to find that special person, or even that one-drunk-night person.
Ground rule #2: Claim your spouse on Facebook. This will link your profiles and show people that your Facebook profile is something you share with your spouse, not something you're keeping to yourself.
Ground rule #3: Exchange login and password information with your spouse. That means your spouse can not only see your wall, but can also log in and read your private messages if he chooses. This gesture says, "I want you to know you can trust me," and can also serve as a deterrent should you feel tempted to start private conversations with exes or other members of the opposite sex that you know deep down would be crossing a line.
Ground rule #4: Do not use Facebook as a place to air your dirty laundry, especially concerning your spouse. We've all read posts like "My husband is so selfish! I cannot believe he went to play softball with his stupid friends instead of coming home after work!" or "No, don't worry, I looooove cooking the meal, cleaning up the table and doing the dishes all by myself!!!" Whether directly outing your spouse's faults or using the passive-aggressive approach, it's never a good idea to resort to public rebuke. Not only does it embarrass and undermine your spouse, it also most likely makes your other Facebook friends uncomfortable. No one wants to watch you and your spouse fight in real life, and no one wants to watch it on Facebook either. And once you post something, even in the heat of frustration, it's out there for your friends (and maybe even friends of your friends) to see.
So now that we've established some ground rules, how can you use Facebook to make your marriage better?
How Facebook Can Enhance Your Marriage
- Comment on your spouse's posts. Even if it's just a "Like," let your spouse know that you're paying attention to what he has to say. Who knows, maybe you'll even find that conversation on a Facebook wall is a little easier than face-to-face.
- Flirt with your spouse. Spice things up by posting a flirtatious message on his wall, or sending him a steamy private message. (It bears repeating that the steamy messages should always be private. No one else wants to read that, especially your teenage daughter or his boss.) Use Facebook as a way to sprinkle little messages throughout the day or throughout the week, just to let him know you're thinking of him or to put a sexy thought of you in his head when you're not together.
- Show your spouse you trust him. In other words, don't freak out if he friends his 7th grade girlfriend or his junior prom date. Even more recent exes may be fine for him to friend, as long as the ex understands and respects the boundaries. Facebook is by its nature a place where people reconnect with their first love or that cute girl who sat in the back row in algebra class. That doesn't mean those same feelings are present today. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt (unless he gives you a reason not to), and it will likely only strengthen his love for and attraction to you.
- Make it a point to affirm your spouse on your wall at least once a week. It can be as simple as "My husband made the best meatloaf tonight!" or "Can't wait to go out to dinner with my husband!" Not only does your spouse feel affirmed, but you're also serving as an example of what a good marriage looks like. Sadly, some of your friends may not have good role models in which to pattern their marriage after, and the way you talk about your spouse may help someone else's marriage now or in the future, as well.
- See what others are saying about and to your spouse. This can be a good exercise if you're not feeling particularly fond of your spouse at the moment. Looking at your spouse through someone else's eyes can be a good way to remember why you fell in love with him in the first place, and can help you defuse a potential time bomb before it has a chance to explode.
- Use Facebook as a springboard for communicating off-line, as well. Sharing what your friends are doing and saying can be a great way to get a conversation started with your spouse, even progressing to deeper talks about issues, ethics or "what if" hypothetical situations.
What about you? Has Facebook damaged your marriage? Are you using it to help your marriage?