Is Facebook, the world’s fastest growing online social network, just another in a long list of cyber threats to your marriage? The ultimate threat is not the latest technology … it is the choices you make online and offline … in cyberspace and real life.
Here’s a real life set of boundaries for our online world:
- Set Safeguards With Your Mate — Discuss with your mate: What FB friends and groups are in-bounds or out-of-bounds? How much information about yourself and family is too much information? Are either of you uncomfortable with potential FB friends? Are any communication methods off limits? We keep our correspondence with people of the opposite sex public by posting on their “walls,” or limited to commenting on status updates. We also keep each other informed of Facebook emails from people, and avoid chatting with people of the opposite sex. Whatever your safeguards, be sure that both you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to what is or is not acceptable for each other. A little bit of prevention can go a long way in safeguarding your relationship.
- Don’t Post Negative Things About Your Spouse — A lot of banter, complaining, and sharing occur when people post their status updates. It is common for FB friends to whine about the weather, joke about a frustrating work issue or report on something new in their life. But it is always uncomfortable when someone complains about his or her spouse or kids. While it may not seem like a big deal, the majority of the readers don’t have enough context or information to know if something is a simple tease or an exasperated gripe. Avoid giving too much information about the annoying things your spouse is or is not doing, and be sure not to embarrass them in your status update, or through posting pictures or videos. Don’t get back at your spouse through a public comment. Typing is not the same as talking … so don’t use the keyboard in an attempt to resolve an issue. Talk it through in private!
- Choose Your Friends Wisely — When first getting started on Facebook, finding FB friends and accepting FB friend requests can be very exciting because you’re reconnecting with people from your past. Ultimately, it is your decision to accept them into your social network. They can be family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, associates, long-lost friends or past flames. Once FB friends are accepted, they see and view everything you post publicly and vice-versa. One question to ask when requesting or accepting a FB friend is, “would my spouse be comfortable with me friending with this person?” Listen to your heart, and if you’re still not sure, ask your spouse.
- Play It Smart With Who You Talk About What With — A common pattern arises when reading a variety of news stories on internet affairs. A spouse starts chatting with someone of the opposite sex about their relationship woes. Over time, the live chats turn to emails that turn to phone calls that turn to face-to-face meetings that turn to … you get the picture. And when the adulterous relationship becomes public knowledge, the confiding spouse proclaims, “I never meant for this to happen!” Learn from other people’s mistakes. Avoid discussing your relationship difficulties with people of the opposite sex, and be careful of developing too close of a confidant online. In the book, Not Just Friends , infidelity expert Shirley Glass writes that building too close of a relationship with someone online enters the danger zone “because it meets all three criteria that discriminate between a platonic friendship and an emotional affair: emotional intimacy…secrecy…(and) sexual chemistry…sexual contact is not a requirement for betrayal.” The best way to avoid going down the slippery slope is to avoid climbing the hillside in the first place.
- If In Doubt, De-friend Them — Because you can’t judge a person by their profile picture, you may have regrets of becoming FB friends with someone. Their posts might be offensive or uncomfortable to you. Or it may be that you have a FB friend who sparks feelings in you and you find yourself looking at their profile often or looking for their next post. You may be chatting with them or online flirting with them. Or your spouse may be uncomfortable with your being friends with a past love interest. De-friend the threat! Go to their profile page and in the bottom left column is a link to remove them as a friend (and they don’t get a notice that they are no longer your friend).
Any relationship that jeopardizes your marriage is not a relationship worth keeping.
Keep in mind the words from Hebrews 13, “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.” (The Message)
While Facebook is becoming one of the most popular gathering places on the Internet, it doesn’t have to be a cyber threat to your marriage. Marriages are vulnerable to all kinds of online and real-life threats because the couples have failed to set up proper boundaries of protection and accountability.
Establishing personal boundaries is a part of everyday life with friends, co-workers, clients, and extended family members. Setting up boundaries around the marriage relationship is a key step to proactively protecting yourself, your spouse, your marriage, your kids, and your reputation.
Copyright K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, used with permission.
K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky have been married since 1994 and have co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage (their first book together due out in February 2010). Jason also authored Before “I Do” – Preparing for the Full Marriage Experience, an interactive premarital book for engaged and seriously dating couples. Jason and Kelli live in the foothills of Washington’s Cascade Mountains with their four children.