Facebook Infidelity

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In my training as a therapist, I have noticed that almost all of our couples have one thing in common: Facebook.  Yes, these couples have issues outside of Facebook and their Facebook use is more likely a symptom of the problem than the problem itself. Yet, time and time again, couples come to therapy and talk about Facebook.  Maybe the wife found her husband’s chat conversation in which he tells another woman she’s beautiful, or a husband found out his wife has reconnected with her high school sweetheart. Maybe this “connection” occurred once, maybe it occurs often, and maybe it has even surpassed Facebook and now occurs on the phone or in person.  Sometimes it is friendly, sometimes it is sexual, and sometimes it is both.  The only thing I know for sure is that there is no one sure way to interpret these connections.  Researchers have found that a lot of confusion occurs around whether online relationships are considered infidelity, but cyber-affairs can have real impact on real life relationships.  While rules for face-to-face relationships are clear, rules for online relationships have not been established for many couples(Whitty and Carr, 2005).  Here are some tips for protecting your relationship from online infidelity.

–       Communicate— talk to your significant other about what “online infidelity” looks like to you. Defining what you consider cheating could help you both know what pitfalls to avoid.

–       Set clear boundaries—innocent friendship can unintentionally turn inappropriate. Know how much time, energy, and flirtation you can put into a relationship with another person before it crosses the line of emotional infidelity that you and your significant other have set.

–       Be open— keeping relationships public with wall posts instead of private messages helps keep you accountable to your spouse and social network. Some spouses even share an account or know each other’s passwords, increasing the transparency in their relationship.

Some couples may think that transparency means a lack of trust.  Be careful not to become obsessed with transparency because this can come off as controlling.  Rather, transparency should be a source of closeness.  It doesn’t mean you have to check in on your partner’s behaviors regularly.  Transparency means that you trust each other enough to share these things, while safeguarding your own vulnerabilities as an imperfect human being.  While you should not have to share with your spouse every time you talk with a friend, feeling as if you should hide your communication could be a personal sign that you’ve crossed a line in your relationship by which your spouse would be hurt.  If you have already experienced a Facebook related issue, consider seeking counseling by licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. As online communication becomes more prevalent, make sure you keep your Facebook fidelity strong!

-Shauna

References:

Whitty and Carr, 2005 M.T. Whitty and A.N. Carr, Taking the good with the bad: Applying Klein’s work to further our understandings of cyber-cheating, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy 4 (2/3) (2005), pp. 103–115.

www.auburntherapy.com

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