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Updated Apr 1, 2013 - 11:02 am

Protecting your marriage in a social media world

Keeping a marriage strong takes work. While the divorce rate in the United States has declined, it still hovers around 40%. Being aware of things that might weaken your marriage is the first step to avoiding them.

We live in an era of constant information via texts, tweets, emails and notifications. It’s easy to get distracted and give more attention to your phone than your spouse. Social media sites make it simple to find old friends and make new ones, as well as contact and converse with people all over the world. Wondering how to protect your marriage from the barrage of online distractions? Keep reading for some practical tips.

Real face time. Long-lasting, secure relationships demand intimacy and time. It is best if some of this time is with each other. Don’t text each other from different parts of the house. Instead, find your spouse and spend time together whenever your schedules permit. I like to connect with my husband at bedtime, where we talk about our day, pray together, and plan for our future. Some of our best discussions happen in these minutes.

Transparency. Honesty is important in many aspects of marriage, including social media use. Your spouse should know your email password and be able to check your account. I don’t feel threatened if my husband picks up my phone and checks my messaging app. Usernames and passwords to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should be available to both spouses, particularly if one spouse isn’t a member of the site. For example, my husband chooses not to use Facebook, but often looks at my News Feed. Transparency helps eliminate opportunities for trouble in marriage.

Set boundaries. Discuss when and where it’s appropriate to use social media. Decide if you want your date nights to be uninterrupted by the ping of a text, or if you don’t mind checking your phones once or twice. My husband reads a sports message board that sometimes competes with me for his attention. He’s good about turning off his tablet when I’m ready to talk, and I try to be patient and wait for him to finish what he’s doing. We don’t allow electronics at our dinner table or during some family activities. Choose the boundaries that fit your situation.

Ask tough questions. If you suspect your spouse is using social media in a way that might damage your marriage, like having long online conversations with an old boyfriend or confiding in a colleague, ask him or her. Even if you don’t suspect any errant behavior, an honest discussion about online habits will be helpful to assess any potential problems. Questions you could discuss together include:

Do you have any online relationships I should know about?

Do you feel like you can confide in me?

Are there any websites you visit you don’t want me to see?

Is our relationship the most important one to you?

Do I spend too much time online and not enough with you?

Use social media positively. There are many good things about social media. Use these technological tools to help strengthen your marriage. Text your spouse sweet things throughout the day, or send photos of what you’re doing. Acknowledge important events or successes on Facebook and your spouse will feel supported. Tweet about the kind thing your spouse did for you, or how happy he or she makes you.

Gadget-free zone. Make part of your home free from the distractions of electronics. We don’t use our phones in our bedroom at night. We turn off the computers and tablets before coming to bed. The gadget-free zone can be temporary, like during a movie date night. It can also be relocated as necessary. Once you and your spouse get used to the idea of gadget-free zones, they will help you feel free from the temptation to text or surf.

Using social media does not mean you will grow apart from your spouse, but each partner should be aware of the risks involved. The opportunity for rekindling old romances or finding new confidantes is made simpler with technology. Implementing protective strategies can safeguard your marriage from the dangers of social media. Consider your own habits and change them if necessary. Your marriage is worth it.



Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She can be reached at amypete@gmail.com.

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