Social media is, by definition, not private. How you represent yourself and your partner, your partnered relationship and even, your separation or divorce on social media matters. We have to make explicit choices about that.
We find that couples we work with can find it a bit silly to talk formally about social media. On the surface, it can seem like a trivial matter. The fact is, for most of us, social media is a significant part of how and where we spend our time and the primary place where we share the goings-on of our lives. While it may seem silly, raising the issue of social media matters. It also creates a context to talk about how the relationship is represented elsewhere, with friends and family, and what each person needs to feel good about that.
Keeping The Past As “Friends”
With social media, the past doesn’t always remain in the past. People are “friends” with past partners, with people who’ve had crushes on them and with whom they’ve had a crush, and friends and family members of ex-spouses. Couples have always had to navigate their partner’s past relationships, but with social media, those relations often remain connections. We encourage couples to have open conversations about who they are connected with and the impact of that choice on their partner.
Social Media And Infidelity
There’s been a lot of talk about the internet and social media in regards to infidelity. We find that, by and large, a given social media site or app is more a part of the context than the cause of infidelity. We believe couples need to talk openly and regularly about monogamy, including what each person understands to be the limits of that monogamy (For example, are we concerned about relationships that are close but not sexual? Is flirting ok?). Interactions online are often an aspect of the conversation that couples overlook. Having the capacity to talk openly about who each person interacts with online–including past romantic or sexual partners–goes a long way to normalizing these conversations.
At Tribeca Therapy, we tend to be suspicious of rigid, objective, dogmatically enforced boundaries and terms in relationships. The alternative, which we help couples create, isn’t an anything goes morality. What’s important to us is the understanding that there are no rigid guidelines. Couples must continually create and recreate their boundaries and expectations for what makes each person feel safe and cared for. This allows couples to adjust course through relationship changes, personal changes and larger global technological changes.