Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Facebook, Texting, And Your Marriage

To have a wonderful, deeply intimate, and lasting marriage, both partners have to "close the exits". In our parents' generation, this might have been not ignoring your partner by reading the newspaper at meals, instead of conversing with your partner. Or, it might have meant don't zone out watching television next to each other every night. Mix it up, and keep the relationship fresh by having some high-energy fun together. Get out together to date nights and to do active things frequently. Pay attention to the sexual relationship you have with your partner. Be fun, and don't take the many available exits to intimacy.

In the past several years in my counseling practice, I am seeing more marriages hurt by social media, and the availability of secret texting,to create dangerous detours to the marriage. When old flames can become your Facebook friend, and a veil of secrecy hides hurtful secret messaging, the temptations abound. Some couples are beginning to discuss these dangers, and how they want to handle potential boundary violations to the marriage, which may hurt your partner and ultimately end the marriage. These are important questions couples should discuss. What do you and your partner feel about recognizing each other as partners on Facebook? Some couples share their passwords. Others discuss it with each other when an old romantic interest surfaces and makes contact. There are no easy or universal answers, but each person should be mindful of the terrible risks involved and the temptation to the middle-aged ego.

Couples therapists across the country are noticing the same trend and risks with social media and technology that I am seeing here in Newport Beach, California. On November 2, National Public Radio ran two related stories by my AAMFT colleague, therapist Jennifer Ludden. NPR's program All Things Considered ran a story on "Can Social Media Break Up A Marriage?", and one titled "I-Phone Makes 3: Marriage In The Digital Age". The world is clearly changing, and relationships and marriages are trying to figure out how to navigate these uncharted waters. Both of Ludden's articles and her interview can be accessed through NPR's website, http://www.npr.org and look for All Things Considered, under programs.

Here's what I know as a couples therapist for these last 20 years. Be careful. Be mindful. Things can start innocently, and go very wrong. Be aware of how lies, secrecy, and confiding emotionally in someone else, besides your partner, can distance and undermine your marriage. Be conscious of not interrupting your sacred time with your partner to do business on your I-Phone. Protecting the special bond between you and your mate is each partner's sacred responsibility, or you cheapen the value of what it means to be your partner. Temptation is more available----and more secret----- than ever before. And a deep and enduring marriage, with a marriage partner who loves and cares deeply for you, has never been more valuable. Closing the exits to secrecy and betrayal means protecting something more real and more lasting than flattery. Real intimacy requires real boundaries.

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