The Ever Present Danger of Social Media to Your Fidelity

How to have a healthy relationship and still enjoy social networking,

UB’s Joyce Marter says keep and eye on your Facebook profile if you want to keep a healthy relationship. Too many times she has seen couples come in for counseling where one of the partners has put up a social networking profile without mentioning it to their partner. Or a controlling partner who has issues with their partner’s Facebook friends. Or a partner in a new relationship getting a lot of information, not all of it positive, from their partner’s social networking page.

And much too commonly in her marriage counseling sessions Marter has seen one partner begin reconnecting secretly with an old romantic partner.

“It’s the ease of which people can find and connect with others,” Marter says. “Say you have just gotten to work after a crazy morning of your kids crying and your partner yelling. Your sexy ex from high school invites you to a friend on Facebook. Do you accept? Do you ignore? This is a person you cared about and had a history with. You want to reconnect, but what communication is okay and what is not when you are in a relationship?”

So begins the multiple shades of gray that those in relationships are confronted with in this age of connectivity via Web 2.0 community sites. Marter says those in relationships need to check themselves before inviting exes, old flames and flirtations back into their life.

“What is appropriate and what is inappropriate communication?” Marter asks. “Even lighthearted terms of endearment – old pet names, ‘xoxo’, etc – can lead to flirtation quickly. Is just being affectionate inappropriate? You also need to consider possible miscommunication between the writer and the reader in terms of the intention.”

Marter says those in relationships need to consider how much is too much communication with an ex. What are the boundaries? Short emails every so often every so often can be healthy especially when kids are involved. But is communicating on a nearly daily basis with an ex via email cheating?

Again Marter mentions the ease with which social networking sites allow people to connect with those from their past. Emotional infidelity can start by simply writing a few sentences and pressing enter.

“An obvious sign of overstepping boundaries,” Marter mentions, “is setting up a secret email account that seeks to conceal a correspondence or certain aspects of identity.”

To guide couples and marriage partners who enjoy social networking and a good relationship, Marter provides these tips:

  • Disclose your social network status
  • Invite your partner to be on Facebook, etc, and be a friend
  • Suggest partner be friends with any of your friends that they know
  • Include at least one pic of their partner in their photos
  • Don’t post overly sexy pics of themselves

“Of course networking is a legitimate social networking activity,” she says. “As is reconnecting with old friends, but I am seeing a lot of negative consequences of partners in couples not realizing until too late that their Facebook friends were affecting their most important relationships.”

Finally, Marter says, don’t get caught in a web of secrecy. As easy as that can be in this Web 2.0 we live in. Healthy relationships require healthy boundaries, respect and trust, and this extends to the new online world as well.

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