Social media is everywhere, whether we like it or not…
And you may remember past articles warning of the temptations that online interaction can pose for unhappy couples.
Perhaps you recall the trouble that smartphones and an endless newsfeed can cause for couples that should be spending their time interacting and connecting with each other…
Those are both very real concerns, but some recent research has shed light on a way that Facebook and other social media can actually have a positive effect on marriages.
The concept is called “public commitment theory,” and social sites like Facebook have certainly become a new “public place.” The idea is simple to understand – and the research backs it up – couples who post photos together, write positive posts about their relationships, etc. are more likely to stay together.
When people put their marriage “out there” in a public way, a few interesting things happen psychologically.
• The relationship becomes a larger part of the individual’s identity, reinforced by “likes” and positive comments.
• By putting the image of “happy couple” out into the world, people have the tendency to live up to the expectation they’ve set for others – or as the author of the study, Catalina Toma, PhD, puts it: “…we become who we claim to be.”
• When your spouse says good things about you on social media, it prompts reciprocation, further reinforcing the two points above.
Another important element here is intention.
To take pictures together, to take to social media accounts to tell your friends and family what a wonderful day you had with your spouse, to take the time to write a public-facing account of your love and appreciation for the person you married…
All of that stuff is an indication that your spouse is on your mind! It shows that the marriage is a priority in your life.
It shows your Facebook friends (and your spouse) that you’re proud to married, and that you want to show the rest of the world the bond you share with your husband or wife.
The element of reinforcement then comes back into play. Once you put that image of your marriage out there, you’re more likely to maintain it.
It’s also worth mentioning that, with all of the things we could be putting on social media, the simple fact that your marriage is getting some attention from either of you is a good thing!
It’s also a nice reminder to your spouse. If you’re apart during the day, and they see a post of yours about how special you make them feel, it will warm your heart, make you think about your spouse, and likely make you feel more connected.
There are surely some exceptions here. Posting for the wrong reasons – like making others jealous, to brag, etc. – isn’t going to have the same psychological results on the person posting, simply because it reinforces a very different sentiment.
With all of the potential problems that the internet age poses for relationships, it’s great that – with the right use – it can also do a little bit to bring married couples closer together.
In fact, the lessons here go beyond Facebook and well beyond social media altogether. Think about how this translates to real life – the more forward and “public facing” you are in your marriage, the more pride you take in it. The more pride you take in it, the better you want it to be…
So don’t just post pictures together or share status updates about your wonderful date night (though you absolutely can and should do those things), also make a point to hold hands when you walk together, tell friends and family how happy you are. Be proud of your marriage and wear it like a badge of honor.
All of these things help keep the relationship as a primary focus in your day-to-day life, meaning that you’ll put more time, effort, and energy toward making it wonderful!