Is Facebook a danger to your relationship?

Virtually everyone has a Facebook presence now. It's becoming one of the primary ways that people communicate because it is very convenient and allows for fast and easy sharing of information, catching up with old friends, connecting with new ones, and planning social and other gatherings. However as with almost everything, there are downsides. For those who are coupled, these need to be taken seriously.

Consider these 4 ways that Facebook could ruin your relationship:

1. It can take up a lot of your partner's free time

Does your partner spend hours online checking Facebook and exchanging comments, anecdotes, and personal updates with others? If so, you are not alone. People everywhere are sitting in restaurants, on planes and trains, at parties and other social events, and yes, even when spending quiet time with partners--going online and spending time with virtual friends.

Free time is a commodity that most of us lament we do not have enough of. Therefore if your partner is spending that time online rather than sharing it with you, your relationship will lose out. You will be in the same room, but their thoughts and focus will be somewhere else. This can become a habit that gets worse over time and eventually you might have little to say to one another or little interest in what the other has to share. Over time this distance could grow and lead to a loss of communication and intimacy in your relationship.

2. Your partner can easily reconnect with an old love

It's almost too easy to find people online. Virtually everyone has tried Googling an old friend in order to get information on how they are and where their life has taken them. This often happens when someone is recovering from a relationship break-up or divorce, and thinking about past loves and what might have been. They decide to look up their first or most significant (ex) love, and it just happens to be your significant other. Out of the blue they send a message that they would like to friend them in order to catch up and hear all their news. Sounds pretty innocent, right?

Their intentions might be just that, but we know what can happen with good intentions. Your partner is happy, maybe even flattered, to hear from them. They fill each other in on what is happening in their lives, dish about any mutual friends, and agree to keep in touch. If an old flame reignites for either of them, this connection fueled by nostalgia for a simpler time, and the selective memories of how great it was between them, can grow into something more. After all, a connection like this can provide a fun and romantic escape from the challenges of their present life, which includes you. As their interactions increase and their bond grows, you can find yourself on the outside, questioning the relationship and what you can or should do about it.

3. Online friendships can turn into something more

People are often approached with a friend request by the friend of a friend who has seen their page. Perhaps they share a common passion or interest, this other person might work in the same industry, or they might have many mutual friends. Maybe there is no special reason, just a desire on the part of the one seeking the connection to build their network.

Once they are friends, then all their posted personal information, likes, interests, and work and personal news are available to one another. There can be a growing feeling of intimacy even if they have never met in person. Over time, this could lead to more online and potentially offline connecting when they find that it is so easy to talk about things with one another and turn to each other for guidance and objective feedback when problems arise.

These relationships don't usually start with the intent of crossing relationship boundaries. It's more of a slow creep where one day they wake up to find that they have become emotionally involved with someone else. Perhaps they are thinking more and more about this person each day and increasingly initiating contact with them. This is an emotional affair--and only a step away from physical infidelity.

4. It's hard to establish appropriate boundaries when it's an online friend

There are many couples who are comfortable with their partner having same sex friends, offline and on. A number of these folks are also open to the idea that exes can be just friends. They often have very transparent relationships with one another and know each other's online passwords and share many mutual friends. They hear the stories about Facebook friendships creating problems for others, including close friends and family members, but have never really worried about this happening to them.

Then an old flame contacts the partner of one of these happily coupled people. Their significant other doesn't try to hide it, and indeed, lets them view the message. They know the history and that it was their partner who broke off the relationship before they met. They also knows this ex had a hard time moving on, but eventually did. However, that relationship has just ended, and now here this person is. The partner is feeling discomfort and is concerned about this other person's motives, and wonders if they should discuss it with their significant other. They finally do and their partner brushes it off as just an old friend checking in. However they begin to see a lot of likes on their Facebook page from the person, comments about their partner's posts, pictures the other person has posted that the partner has commented on--and an increasing amount of communication between them. They feel the need to have a frank discussion with their partner about their concerns and want to talk about appropriate boundaries; they are just not sure if this is appropriate or how to bring this up without sounding controlling and jealous.

The key to dealing with a situation this will be in keeping the lines of communication open, truly hearing what each has to say--and continuing to give trust and show respect, while also addressing any red flags as soon as they appear. Facebook can be dangerous if there is a space between you that another person can see and then tries to fill.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"Addicted to social media?"
List of more "Confronting Unacceptable behavior" articles

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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