Social media can be a good thing for many people. Being able to connect with friends and family across the world brings us closer together from a relationship standpoint. We know that the pandemic caused and is still causing great disruption to how many of us socialize with one another and generally lead our lives. There was some thought at the very beginning of the pandemic (if you care to think back to that time) that online and virtual meetings and interactions would become the norm due to concerns about transmitting the virus to one another.
Fortunately, due to several factors, that did not turn out to be the case. As time has marched on since March 2020, we have seen that travel has increased and that most of us are more comfortable with living our lives away from screens and digital get-togethers. However, there will always be a place for social media in our lives. This was true before the pandemic and is true now. What we need to figure out is how social media use can be beneficial for us and how it could potentially hurt our lives. Then we can pick our spots and find the best of both worlds when it comes to communicating with one another.
What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp Messenger is an internationally available instant messaging and voiceover service. You can use WhatsApp to send text and voice messages in addition to sending video calls and documents to other people from cell phones, tablets, and desktop computers. All you need to sign up for the WhatsApp app is a cell phone number. Since its creation back in 2009, WhatsApp has taken off in terms of popularity and is now in use across the globe. People everyday use WhatsApp to send secure messages to other users. Users can also create groups to discuss topics of their choosing much like on a traditional social media website.
For our purposes in today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, this is all we need to establish about WhatsApp. If you are coming across our post and have additional questions about the application, then I would recommend simply searching the term on your favorite search engine. You can learn much more about WhatsApp, its history, and any other information that you could ever hope to gain. However, for today in this blog post, we will leave it at that and move on to discuss how WhatsApp, and social media in general, can have a significant relationship with marital issues and divorce.
Where is my spouse?
It used to be that if your spouse did not come home immediately after work you could assume that he or she had gone out for a drink with co-workers or something like that. Currently, you do not need to wonder. There are many ways to keep up with your spouse's activities away from home simply by taking advantage of the technology that we have literally at our fingertips. Their cell phone has GPS tracking where you can get up-to-second updates on where he or she is located. This is a great way to keep track of your kids if they have cell phones but works in the same way for spouses.
WhatsApp can allow you to track the whereabouts of your spouse, as well. You may not be surprised to learn that social media use can be a direct cause of divorce. What may have started as an innocent escape into their past may have led to your spouse becoming more and more engaged in social media use when it comes to connecting with former partners or new relationships. There is something of a disconnect that many people experience when connecting with someone online. What may feel inappropriate for in-person behavior could seem like no big deal on the internet. However, things can quickly spiral out of control and can lead to a relationship that destroys your marriage. It is easy to say this but much more difficult to stop the behavior in many cases.
Even if your spouse is not using social media to cheat, simply knowing that he or she uses various social media platforms can be enough to cause suspicion. This is true especially if your spouse is secretive about their social media use or is not always honest with you about their habits or other behavior. Having an open and honest flow of communication with your spouse is critical to being able to understand how he or she is using social media and whether it may become a problem for your marriage now or down the line.
If you have concerns about your spouse’s use of social media, it is a good idea to pursue those concerns directly with him or her. Do not wait around and let that concern fester. Talk to him or her about their use of social media before it becomes a problem for your marriage. The use of social media by your spouse may be completely benign. However, it could be something more especially if you do not ask questions about it when you believe that it is becoming an issue.
Using social media to spy on your spouse is not what I am talking about. Being sneaky creates an atmosphere of distrust in a relationship. That can spiral out of control quickly and put you in a position where neither of you trusts one other. From that point, it can be difficult to ever achieve a healthy relationship. Rather, you should ask questions about social media use and be ready to listen to your spouse. If he or she refuses to engage with you or continues to be secretive it may be time to bring in outside help to facilitate discussions on appropriate social media use and boundaries. A counselor, therapist, or even a person that you two mutually trust could be helpful in this regard.
Trying to meet an unrealistic standard for relationship happiness
Every marriage has its struggles from time to time. No marriage, no matter how perfect it appears, functions exactly the way that the spouses want it to all the time. Every married person will tell you that their relationship takes work. However, if you were to go on social media you would tend to believe that marriage is a walk in the park for many people and that life is only rosy photos and happy status updates. Is this what you are seeing when you go online, as well?
If so, then you need to consider how social media distorts reality when it comes to how people are living their lives. While some people experience relatively smooth waters when it comes to relationships, most of us have ups and downs that can be tough to work through. I know that sometimes marriage can seem like it is a constant struggle when it comes to kids, finances, family issues, and the general state of living with another adult who has their own opinions about life and how best to live it. As a result, marriage brings about daily challenges that need to be faced head-on and not avoided.
When you see constantly happy faces on social media from friends and family your reaction does not need to be: “What’s wrong with my marriage?” Rather, you should first appreciate the happiness you see from others while understanding that the photo you are looking at is a snapshot in time. It is not a video of their life over a long period. That moment may have been a happy one and the reason why a photo was taken. However, life is a 24-hour event each day. That happy moment may have been followed or preceded by more mundane or even difficult times.
Assuming that the grass is greener in a different set of circumstances or even in a different relationship can be a dangerous course to pursue if you are basing that assumption on social media use. The way that you interact with people online is probably not the way that you would interact with them in person. What can begin as an easy way to communicate with someone from your past can quickly find you face to face with that person. From there a wide range of outcomes are possible which can be detrimental to your marriage. Rather than put yourself in a position where you are in over your head when it comes to starting a relationship that you were not prepared for, you should consider why you started communicating with him or her in the first place.
If you started a chat with an old friend as an escape from the difficulties of your marriage, then you should accept this. Many people like to set aside difficult feelings in hopes of reviving past relationships that make them feel better about their current lives. This is a dangerous path to go down considering that you cannot expect to make improvements in your current life if you continually slip back into old relationships. The truth of the matter is that relationships tend to end for a reason. If you have an old relationship that is now becoming a current relationship you should examine why that is. Sometimes people from your past can come back into your life for a good reason that is organic. Other times we can force old relationships back into our lives for reasons that are much less desirable in the long term.
The bottom line when it comes to social media and how we view our marriage is that it is easy to get an extremely distorted view of things if we only interact with others digitally. When you build real relationships with other people it allows you to gain a better understanding of how relationships truly work. Real life is a movie with ups, downs, and all the nuances that comes with being a real human being. Social media is a snapshot of time. Do not be fooled or allow yourself to be fooled by social media when comes to viewing the relationships of others.
What can you do to decrease the likelihood of divorce due to social media usage?
To think that a divorce is likely because your spouse uses social media frequently would be a huge mistake. I do not want to give you the idea that simply because you or your spouse utilize social media regularly that there is a problem in your relationship. Again, it is possible to use social media responsibly. However, if you believe that your spouse’s, or your own, use of social media is becoming a point of contention in your marriage then there are some steps that you can take to address those concerns.
The first thing that you can do is to determine whether you have the skills necessary to artfully discuss these topics with your spouse. This requires a certain degree of self-reflection and honesty that can be difficult to possess. If you think that you may not have the communication skills or patience to discuss these topics with your spouse, then you may want to bring in someone like a marriage counselor or therapist into the picture. Usually, this would be done after first discussing the subject with your spouse to gauge their willingness to participate in the conversation.
If you do wish to start a conversation it would be a good idea to do so without distraction. For example, starting to talk with your spouse about concerns over social media while you are scrolling through your phone can be a self-defeating exercise. Rather, it would seem to be a good idea to put your phones away, turn off the television and spend some time focusing on the issues of your marriage together- free from distraction. This is a much more hospitable environment for accomplishing something meaningful when it comes to your marriage.
Next, you can discuss appropriate boundaries when it comes to the use of social media. Many times, your spouse may be unaware that you are uncomfortable with their use of social media or that the types of conversations that they are having are inappropriate. In situations like that, you can begin to address those problems with your spouse patiently. Point out how their social media use is impacting you and what he or they can do to help reduce strife in your marriage. You may be surprised to learn just how receptive he or she is to your ideas and concerns.
You may be surprised to learn how simple it is to get in contact with a good marriage and family therapist. Finding a therapist could involve you contacting your health insurance provider to obtain a list of providers that are covered by your health insurance. Due to the magic of the internet, you can find therapists and counselors who are in other places and can meet with you virtually. Also, I imagine that many therapists can meet with you in person here locally as concerns over in-person therapy sessions have lessened recently.
Additionally, a leader of your religious congregation may also be able to assist you in obtaining therapy. This may be through offering you therapy to him or herself. Or there may be a parishioner who can offer their services and who is a therapist. Many times, these folks would be willing to meet with you on a reduced fee or even a free basis. In some instances, you may be more comfortable with speaking to a person like this who shares your religious beliefs and practices.
the bottom line in what I am telling you is that there are options for you to pursue when it to comes to remedying any issues when it comes to your personal life and marriage. Communication is the central point in this discussion. If you are willing to talk through the problems in your marriage, then you have an opportunity to solve those problems constructively. I have discovered in my time as an attorney that it is important to be intentional and to develop a plan when it comes to solving any problem period you may have wandered into problems with social media and the Internet regarding your marriage, but it is difficult to impossible to just wander out of those problems. Rather, you need to be able to take your plan and implemented it as best as possible to salvage your marriage.
If you believe that you have worked as hard as you can in that you and your spouse are at a dead end when it comes to trying to save your marriage, then it may be time to consult with an attorney to learn more about your options regarding a divorce. We thank you for joining us in our blog today and hope that you will consider the Law Office of Bryan Fagan regarding that subject.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.