Kim has come to loathe the internet. Because she's in her late 30s, she can remember a time when the world didn't revolve around the computer. She can remember a time when dating was more straight-forward than it is now.
When she was a teenager and even in her early 20s, social networking was not an issue. Unlike today. When Kim's husband gets home from work, it seems like he rushes directly to the computer. He stops for dinner, but then is back online.
Kim thought her husband was mostly playing around with his fantasy sports teams and reading online newspapers. Recently, however, Kim looked at her husband's Facebook page. She saw the name of one particular woman crop up over and over again.
The joking back and forth between her husband and this woman seemed innocent enough, but there was something about it that made Kim feel suspicious and jealous.
“Why is he ignoring me and spending so much time online and cyber-flirting with this other woman?” she worries to herself.
The internet has most definitely changed the world. The limitations of making friends and getting to know people, sometimes intimately, have mostly been removed through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately, this has paved the way for online affairs, cyber-flirting and a whole mess of misleading cues that trigger jealousy and conflict for couples.
If you and your partner argue about how either (or both) of you interact with others online, you can probably relate to Kim. You might feel ignored, less interesting than the games and people online or you may suspect that your mate is having an online affair.
It can be difficult to know what is true when you see certain comments on Facebook walls. If you ask your partner about it and he or she says, “It's nothing!” you might not know what to believe.
If internet use-- specifically social networking-- is a volatile topic in your relationship, creating clear agreements with one another can bring more harmony and closeness to your relationship.
Consider this “Code of Internet Conduct” and create agreements you both feel good about...
Remember, it's absolutely essential that any agreement or code of conduct be talked about and freely and fully agreed to by both you and your partner. If this is a set of demands or an ultimatum, the dynamics shift and it becomes a “make or break up” statement.
#1: If you can't say it in front of your partner, don't post, tweet, comment, instant message (IM) or email it.
No matter how private you think your line of communication with another is, do NOT use the internet as a place to put down or gripe about your partner. True, sometimes you might need to vent or process your feelings before talking it out with your mate, but the internet is not the place to do it.
It is especially not appropriate to complain about your partner to someone who might misinterpret your words as invitation to be more than friends. Vent and process in your journal or face-to-face with a friend and then resolve the issue with your mate.
#2: Know what the line between socializing and flirting is. Don't cross the line and, if you do, recognize it and stop.
It can all depend on your perspective. To people who are more introverted, the behaviors of more extroverted people can seem like too much, like flirting. Have an honest and specific talk with your partner about what feels like flirting to you. If you have very different opinions about this, try to listen to understand where your partner is coming from and look for areas of overlap in what you each are comfortable with. Draw that line between what is socializing and what is flirting from there.
#3: Be clear-- with yourself, your partner and anyone you interact with on the internet-- what your relationship commitment is.
The interesting thing about the internet is it's not too difficult for a person to pretend to be something vastly different than what he or she actually is. Don't pretend that you are single while online if you've made a commitment to be in a relationship with someone. This doesn't work in anybody's favor, so just don't do it. Make sure that whatever relationship commitment you've made, you've done so with clarity and honesty.
#4: If you are spending more time online (social networking or merely surfing) than you are engaging with your partner, figure out why this is. Address the issue and re-gain your connection.
Even if you aren't flirting or having any kind of inappropriate interaction with others, you still can damage your relationship because of your internet use. We know, there are so many exciting and entertaining things to do online! Just be aware if you are using the internet as a way to avoid your partner or to avoid a tense and unresolved issue with your partner.
If so, identify what the issue is and what you'd like to do about. Then, go to your partner and find a resolution so that you two can start to re-connect and make your relationship more of a priority again.
Susie and Otto Collins are relationship coaches and authors who help couples communicate, connect and create the relationship they desire. Click here to get their free ebook, Passionate Heart-Lasting Love.