Online interaction may have revolutionized the way many people around the world communicate with one another, but it turns out that there is at least one serious downside – Facebook is hurting romantic relationships.
The University of Missouri recently performed a study that showed high levels of Facebook use among romantically involved couples could lead to jealousy (since the users were more likely to closely follow their partner’s online interactions).
But more threatening than feelings of jealousy and potential arguments over who’s posting what, the real problem with Facebook is its potential to lead people toward emotional affairs.
Facebook and other social networks allow users to reconnect with old flames, to see photos and read updates about the (perceived) happy lives of others, and if a marriage is experiencing some problems, these temptations can cause people to emotionally invest in an online relationship – and severely damage their marriage.
Here’s a prime example:
Mark and Jamie had been dating for about 6 months when she got pregnant. Given their religious beliefs, in an attempt to do the right thing, they decided to get married. Walking down the aisle, they convinced themselves and each other that they were madly in love and this was the right decision. A couple of years after the wedding, along came baby number two. They had a “fine” marriage, and both of them truly liked the other person. All good, right?
Around ten years in, Jamie was connecting with friends from high school on Facebook. While rediscovering lots of her old friends, she also reconnected with her first love, who was also married. They began an online relationship. She poured out her soul to him. He understood her. He told her about all of the dreams he’d had of her over the years, and that he’d never loved anyone as much as he loved her. They “fell in love.”
Now, was this love real? No!
It was based on fantasy and stories they told themselves and each other. She didn’t have to pick up his socks. He didn’t have to listen to her snore. It wasn’t real, but this feeling is one of the most intoxicating drugs humans experience. They truly believed they were “in love.”
Because of these feelings, Jamie wanted out of her marriage. She was sure that when her and her high school sweetheart were together, she would finally be happy. Her “air-tight” reason: “Mark and I were never in love in the first place.”
But by this point, it didn’t matter. She was married and had a family. Jamie and Mark could grow in love and keep their family together, but not unless she stopped talking or emailing or texting with the high school sweetheart.
As hard as it was for her to stop, once she didn’t have her excuse that she and Mark were never in love, and understood that the whole internet thing was an illusion, she was willing to give her marriage a try.
They got honest about how they truly felt when they got married. They got clear on what they needed out of a relationship, and they talked about what they wanted out of life. They started dating and trying new things that were exciting and fun, and they grew in love.
Nowadays, Mark and Jamie report being very happy!
So, what did Mark and Jamie do right? They were finally able to be honest about what they wanted, see each other for who they really were, and “grow in love” with the real person they already married.
The online “fantasy” is really at the center of the whole issue. It’s all too easy to imagine a life with someone else when you can look at their pictures and chat about all the things bothering you – and not have to actually interact with them in real life.
These emotional affairs can also turn into physical affairs if people don’t keep their behavior in check, and these are even more difficult for a couple to bounce back from (though it isn’t impossible!).
The sad reality is that these stories are becoming more and more common, and many couples aren’t even aware of the threat! That’s part of the problem, too. What seems like casual catching up with an old friend can very quickly turn into confiding in each other about marital problems, reminiscing about a past relationships, and other similar talk that leads directly into the territory of an emotional affair.
To avoid these temptations, be aware of the threat! Avoid getting into too emotional of conversations with your online friends (especially exes), and if you’re having misgivings about your relationship, don’t seek solace from someone else – tell your spouse so you can start working on a solution!