More and more I'm hearing couples say they have found something new to argue about, and its name is Social Media. In the world of tablets and smartphones it might seem like your partner is spending all day checking Facebook instead of paying attention to you.
At some point You start to wonder what is going on online that is so important.
When watching a partner spend lots of time checking his or her phone, many people begin to feel ignored. If a couple is already in conflict, then jealousies and resentments can arise quickly. Concerned or worried spouses start asking themselves certain types of questions: "Am I no longer important?" "Is she interested in someone else?" or "Is he talking trash about me to his friends?"
Even if the couple is doing well otherwise, some partners feel like a Facebook widow. The two of you never seem to talk anymore, or maybe you can't even get through a Netflix episode without a boy or girlfriend texting someone two or three times. If you and your spouse partners are friends on social media, then suspicious instincts may kick in when a spouse has added one or two new, attractive friends or associates to a friend list.
As feelings of jealousy grow, one person might begin cyber-stalking the other--stealing passwords, reading emails while the other is in the shower-- resulting in further breakdowns in trust or increasing resentment and anger towards the prying partner.
I think you get the picture. Maybe you even recognize some of these responses in yourself or in your relationship.
It's very human to feel jealous sometimes
As humans we have a set of innate behaviors for dealing with perceived threats to our relationships. Some of us begin to worry that our partner will leave us for someone else or become overwhelmed by the idea that our mate might not be there for us when we need help. The thought of being alone makes us feel alarmed.
People who are experiencing feelings of jealousy deal with the threat of abandonment or isolation by activating certain strategies to keep their partners close. Some of these strategies include becoming intrusive or clingy. Another set of strategies involves becoming angry or controlling. Each of these responses to relationship threats is a way of trying to make sure our partner stays present and engaged with us.
This type of partner is saying, "Help. I feel worried or lonely right now. I need to know you'll still be there for me when I need you." The jealous, clingy, or controlling partner doesn't really want to cause conflict, instead she or he really wants reassurance that you are still there for her or him.
If you can keep that need in mind, then you are half way towards resolving the problem.
Provide your partner some sort of reassurance that she or he is still important and that you aren't leaving.
Instead of getting angry at a jealous partner, consider addressing her needs for reassurance. Let him know he is still important to you. Here are some alternate ways of responding.
- Set aside half an hour of each day to be together with phones, tablets, and computers turned off. This can happen while eating dinner, watching a tv show, or doing exercise together.
- Remind your anxious partner how attractive she is or make a statement reaffirming your commitment to the relationship.
- Be patient when answering your partner's questions about your Facebook friends. Remember although it may appear like he is being controlling, your partner really needs reassurance that these friends aren't threats to your relationship.
- If you tend to be the jealous person, remember that asking to read all of your partner's email messages or Facebook posts is a trap. You might make your partner feel threatened by the intrusion. Even if he does give you full access to his account you probably won't feel any better. If you are naturally suspicious, then it will be easy for your mind to invent threats or reasons to be jealous where neither exists.
Some material in this post was sourced from the following article:
MARSHALL, T. C., BEJANYAN, K., DI CASTRO, G. and LEE, R. A. (2013), Attachment styles as predictors of Facebook-related jealousy and surveillance in romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 20: 1–22. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01393.x