5 Social Media Habits That Signal Your Partner Is Unhappy In Your Relationship

Photo: Ekateryna Zubal / Shutterstock
man laying in bed looking at phone

A lot of people fail to realize the impact social media has on their relationships.

And in particular, social media habits can actually suggest that your partner is unhappy in your relationship.

These same behaviors might also contribute to the downfall of the connection between you and your love.

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The evolution of digital communication

Many Millennials, also called "digital natives," are the last generation to have grown up with both modern internet technology and a knowledge of life before it. Because of this, social media — at least as we know it today — is second nature for them.

While Gen Xers and their Baby Boomer elders may find modern technology a bit vexing, they can’t help but befriend it, even begrudgingly.

Social media has reshaped the way people communicate, engage, and even fall in (and out of) love.

The progress of social media since the late 1990s has made the world smaller and simultaneously more expansive. People are addicted to it, and nothing, it seems, is out of reach.

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The potential drawbacks of 'easier' internet

Unfortunately, the ability to be self-published authors, social and political pundits, and online detectives doesn’t always serve our greater good. Toss in a tendency to overshare in an effort to build and balance relationships, and our personal lives — and relationships — can suffer.

Thirty years ago, you didn’t have to make a pact with your dinner date to turn off your phones and leave them out of sight. You talked face to face, made eye contact, and didn’t photograph your food — unless you were a restaurant critic or food photographer.

You also didn’t steal off to a bathroom stall to give a public update on your date, let alone take dating advice from strangers.

But we live in a different world today. And it turns out you might be doing some hefty damage to your relationships because of how you use social media.

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What social media can reveal about your love life 

Finding a potential mate and falling in love can be difficult enough. There’s all that building trust, learning about one another, and battling crazy infatuation hormones. But now you have to factor in the technology and social media factor. And it’s huge.

Perhaps you met through an online dating platform, in which case you always have “ongoing availability” in the back of your mind. Is your partner always searching? Do you always want to search? Is “the one” still out there, just waiting for you to click?

And how long do you stay in a relationship before moving on? How much do you put up with and work on before calling it quits?

With everyone making eye contact with their cell phones, it’s a small step to wonder if your relationship is really as happy as you think.

Why is he always looking at his phone when we are in bed? Why does she spend so much time on Facebook? How does he talk about me to all of his social media followers? Is he still friends with his ex? Does she talk about our problems on social media?

Is there a connection between your partner’s social media usage and the quality of your relationship?

Research has shown that social media can, in fact, affect the quality of relationships, particularly for relationships three years old or less.

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Here are 5 social media habits that signal your partner is unhappy in your relationship:

1. Spending too much time on Facebook

Increased usage of Facebook has been associated with negative relationship outcomes. And affected relationships were mediated by Facebook-related conflict.

One of the negative outcomes of spending too much time on Facebook is increased jealousy.

The person who is exposed is constantly up against all the “perfect lives” in Facebook land. And their partner “IRL” may not be able to live up to the standard. They also may just feel jealous of the time spent on a social media platform.

If even one partner is spending too much time on social media, both partners miss out on their relationship.

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2. Stalking an ex’s Facebook page

Exposure to an ex’s Facebook page after a breakup can slow healing and make it difficult to move on. Curiosity makes it almost impossible not to wonder where an ex is and what they are doing.

The idea that someone you once loved and who once loved you could possibly be happy without you can feel unbearable. And that feeling can lead to interpersonal electronic surveillance — a.k.a., Facebook stalking.

The stalker wants to keep tabs on their ex’s life. Are they dating someone? Are they still friends with our mutual friends? Do they look happy? Where do they hang out? What are their friends saying about me and our breakup?

The danger of this is that it can lead to greater distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, and even a yearning to reunite.

If your partner is still scoping out their ex, they still have work to do to get over the former relationship. And there is no way to have a thriving, intimate relationship in the now when one person is still stuck in the "back then" of the past. 

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3. Posting an update to make an ex jealous

You wouldn’t think that people would use their personal social media pages to intentionally make others jealous. But they do.

There is no upside to keeping an ex as a “friend” on social media, at least early in the breakup.

If you are in a relationship with someone who does this, you will probably feel as if your relationship is more like a threesome.

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4. Sharing too much

Relationships are hard work. Intimacy is hard work. And healthy boundaries are essential to making them work.

If your partner is airing all your relational dirty laundry on social media, your relationship will feel the violation. Trust and vulnerability will be more difficult, and you will be less motivated to work through the tough stuff.

There is a certain sanctity to relationships, especially romantic ones. Personal information and painful issues deserve privacy. When input and advice are warranted, so are trusted confidantes and therapists.

And those issues belong in a private, emotionally safe setting, not in a public forum.

Even sharing too much good stuff can be a way of covering up for uncertainty about a current relationship.

RELATED: Facebook Stalking Your Ex Is Bad For Your Health, Says Study

5. Looking up old flames

There was a time when you had to wait for school reunions to catch a gander at a love interest from "way back when." But now a quick name search in Google or any social media platform will fill in the missing years.

If your partner is lying next to you but taking a stroll down memory lane via an old flame’s Facebook page, you have reason to be concerned.

During those times in a marriage when you stop communicating with your spouse, reaching out to a former lover can be tempting. But this is precisely the time when the marriage needs to be safeguarded with exclusivity, privacy, and selectivity of those who can be privy to your issues.

Playing with matches isn’t safe for children. And it’s not safe for grownup relationships, either.

Technology has the ability to bring people together and make their lives easier. It also has the ability to divide people and make their lives more difficult.

The difference, of course, is how people choose to use it.

If you or your partner is misusing social media, you may be giving your relationship a negative diagnosis and prognosis. Now is the time to communicate IRL and set your real-life relationship up to succeed.

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Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats in Portsmouth, NH.