Relationships have, in ways, become more and more complicated as technological advances increase in our society. With the new wave of communication via the internet, we have opened up a whole new online world where getting in touch with people is easier than ever. Websites like Facebook are a fantastic thing for those of us with friends and family we want to stay in contact with, giving quick updates about our lives. However, this is a very risky situation to get in when it is used to contact ex-lovers and any potential tempting romantic situations. Facebook makes it easier than ever to “get to know” someone quickly and easily. You skim their profile and feel closer instantly, and then with a few quick and easy emails or instant messages you feel closer than ever. Then, the real issues begin. Before you know it, you are trudging that fine line between innocent conversation and infidelity. For those of us worried that our partner, or even ourselves, are beginning to walk this line, here are some ways to help breakup-proof your relationship.
Agree Upon Rules
Depending on how long you’ve been in the relationship, it is important to discuss and agree upon internet and phone usage rules. This is important as a whole (don’t ignore your significant other for a dumb phone game or friend drama, it’s not worth it), but it becomes increasingly important when it involves communicating with the opposite sex. Have the discussion and evaluate what is reasonable when it comes to:
- How often it is acceptable to use the internet
- Who it is acceptable to talk to
- Whether or not private messages are okay
- Where phones are acceptable (bedroom, dinner table, during “your time”, etc.)
- If you will be sharing your passwords
- If it's okay to be Facebook friends with an ex
- If flirting is considered cheating
Every couple is different and the rules will vary depending on insecurities, trust issues, closeness, the way you interact, etc. BUT it is important that these things be discussed openly and agreed upon to prevent issues in the relationship. The leading cause of infidelity with social media is when things aren’t openly discussed. A lot of people have different ideas about what is considered cheating when it comes to online discussions as well. It’s important to know when your partner will consider themselves cheated on.
This one is also subjective to the duration of the relationship. For example, it wouldn’t be appropriate to demand passwords and intimate details behind every Facebook friend in the first month of a relationship. However, once you’re committed to each other, it is completely acceptable to expect the other person to be honest with you. You should know who nearly every member of the opposite sex is on your significant other's wall/friend list/etc. And if you come across someone you don’t know, when you ask about them there should be no hesitation in telling you who he/she is. Basically, you should feel as if your partner is comfortable leaving their page open and logged in in front of you.
If either of you are communicating with an ex, there should be open dialogue about what is talked about and whether or not this bothers the other person (if it does, you should respect that and agree upon how best to handle the situation). If the other person is caught hiding messages with an ex from you, this could be a red flag that the possibility of cheating might be becoming an issue.
Spotting the Red Flags
When they’re keeping secrets- While it is not always necessary to know each other’s passwords, at the very least there should be some level of honesty regarding private contact on their account. If they don’t want to share their password, they should at least not be hiding when online and always logging off when they’re done (this is suspicious behavior that needs to be looked into).
When either of you are spending too much time online- The internet is great, but if either of you are spending too much time on social media instead of together you are more likely to be drawn apart. Limit time online and commit to spending time together.
When you enjoy your time online more than being with your partner- Playing online can be fun and relaxing, but when you find yourself enjoying communicating with people online more than you enjoy spending time with your partner, then you are starting to get into the “danger zone”. It’s time to end contact with whoever is distracting you online and communicate with your partner why your relationship might be in trouble. A lot of times, a partner engages with someone online because they don’t feel enough validation from their partner; be sure to discuss if this is the issue.
“But it’s innocent”- What is Cheating?
Everyone has different definitions of what cheating is. Some draw the line at having sex with another person, others feel cheated on if there was any physical touching beyond hugging, and others feel cheated on if there was even just intimate talking and flirting with someone of the opposite sex.
In the grand scheme of things, what your definition is only matters inside your relationship. It’s important to communicate when you would feel cheated on so your partner knows where to draw the line and vice versa.
The safest bet is to have this talk and then to assume that anything you feel guilty about or tempted to hide, while technically might not be “cheating”, is still a red flag that you are getting way too close to it. Or at the very least, this behavior will make your partner feel betrayed and hurt.
In the world of technological advances, communication has never been more important. It's healthy to make your partner feel safe and secure in the relationship so that they never feel cheated on or betrayed in any way. Open communication, compromise, and respect are key.
Have any other suggestions on breakup-proofing your relationship against Facebook? If so, be sure to leave your suggestion in the comments below.