THE BLOG

Is Social Media Killing Your Marriage?

02/25/2015 05:54 pm ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

Today I have a few questions for you: Are you in a relationship? When you are cozy on the sofa, watching your favorite TV show, where is your partner's cellphone? Is it next to yours on the coffee table? Or does he keep it in his pocket, locked with a passcode and while it rings and beeps, throughout the evening and he checks it only when you get up to refresh the popcorn? Why does it matter? Continue reading and you'll find out.

Social media is evolving at an alarming speed, with smartphones replacing simple cell phones, offering a whole new world of fast, direct and discreet communication options. Serving as multimedia datacenters, smartphones manage every kind of relationship. Social media applications lower inhibitions and barriers, making it simpler than ever to find contact nearly anyone. Why make a phone call when you can send private message with a picture or video to better engage the recipient?

Countless apps exist to exchange provocative pictures and messages, so that it is easier than ever to maintain multiple 'virtual' and real life relationships in secret. Emotional and physical affairs are now delivered on demand thanks to social media and technology. When talking with my clients the cellphone is often an important subject. Fascinated by the subject, I started to do a bit of research.

Facebook & Social Media
The website Facebookcheating.com is devoted to helping those struggling in their marriage due to an unfaithful partner's use of Facebook. The site claims that Facebook is to blame for 1 in 3 divorces. But is this really accurate? According to a Boston University study Facebook is 'a significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles, in the United States'. "People who use social media are 32% more likely to leave their spouse". The researchers added: "We believe being aware of this situation will empower Facebook users to better understand the implications of their activities and then allow them to make much more informed decisions."

The Twitter effect & WhatsApp
Others are talking about the Twitter effect. A doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, found that active Twitter users are far more likely to experience Twitter-related conflicts with their romantic partners. The research shows that these conflicts can lead to emotional and physical cheating, and even end in breakup and divorce. Outside the United States Gian Ettore Gassani president of the Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, told the Times of London that 'forty per cent of adulterous divorce cases in Italy cite WhatsApp messages as evidence of unfaithfulness. Mr Gassani added: "Social media has boosted betrayal in Italy by making it easier, first through texting, then Facebook, and now WhatsApp."

Based on the research above and my own experience with thousands of distressed couples, I agree that social networking is linked to marital happiness cheating and divorce. Social media makes it much easier to have emotional and physical affairs. On the other hand times are changing and we live in a digital era where everything is accelerating continuously. Social media is increasingly a part of our daily lives and cutting off all use is not a realistic solution.

So how do we figure out what is a normal use of social media and what could spell danger for relationships?

If your partner consistently makes his cellphone invisible to you, locks his phone with a passcode or never uses it in your presence, he may have something to hide. The distractions and temptations presented by the digital world force us to work harder for healthy relationships. That is why it's essential to insist on openness and clear communication, instead of succumbing to the fantasy on your smartphone.

There is hope. We know that a leading cause of a relationship break down is the lack of communication between spouses. As a result, many are distracted by social media in search of a third person to meet their emotional and mental needs, which ultimately leads to cheating. Mutual communication and listening are the essence of any good relationship; without them separation and divorce are inevitable.

Do we all become a victim of the 'social media monster'?

Do not allow your relationship to become a victim of 'the social media monster'. My advice is to invest time in your relationship. Communicate and share what's on your mind, and even more importantly listen to your partner. The future of your relationship depends on it.

Email, tweets, likes, photos and comments can wait, especially since they are no substitution for actual human contact. And if you are just too easily distracted, there is always another option: put your phone on silent.