Being in a committed relationship with someone is work. Anyone who tells you a relationship isn’t work is either lying to you or is completely delusional. It takes patience, forgiveness, and 100% effort from both people to not only make a commitment to each other, but to maintain it. In today’s world, it is becoming harder and harder to maintain a healthy, monogamous relationship with another person. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the current divorce rate in the United States is at 50% and climbing. Let me take a moment to say that again: the current divorce rate is FIFTY PERCENT and CLIMBING! That means at least half of the marriages that take place in the United States will not succeed. I don’t know about you, but I find this totally discouraging and scary.
In my Master’s Degree program and in my current job, I counsel individuals, couples and families. When I counsel couples, an extremely common theme that comes up is the issue of trust and how social media plays into that. After hearing it so many times from clients, and listening to my friends share their struggles themselves, I have come to a couple of conclusions: 1. I’m so thankful that my husband hates social media and is barely on it, and 2. Social media will be the downfall of modern relationships. However, I do think there are solutions and hope for the future of relationships! Below are the four reasons social media is a huge problem in your relationship and what you can do to fix it.
1. Instant Gratification
Instant gratification (getting what you want exactly when you want it) is a huge problem that has been perpetuated by social media and technology in general. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snapchat, and the never-ending list I can no longer keep up with, we can receive information instantly. Years ago, it was just landlines people could use to communicate with others, and before that, letters (yes, my dear millennials, in the not so distant past, people used the ancient form of communication called “letter writing” where you physically wrote on a piece of paper and mailed a letter to someone). People were conditioned to understand and accept delayed gratification (having to wait to get what you want). Now, texts are received instantly. We can communicate with each other immediately and expect a response right away. This “instant gratification” has translated over into relationships. If someone’s partner is not giving them what they want right when they want it, they will end the relationship and move on to someone else who will give them that instant gratification. This is simply not realistic. People need time and support to change and grow, as do relationships. There is simply no room for the selfish, “instant gratification” mindset in a relationship. What can you do to fix this? Learn the art of patience, acceptance, and support. If your partner engages in a behavior you do not like or is not giving you something you want right away, communicate with them. Work together to find a compromise and be open about what you both can do to work together and change. Learn to love delayed gratification!
Simply put, people have more instantaneous access to others thanks to social media. The temptation is literally everywhere. I truly believe there is a correlation to this easy access and how much more “common” and “accepted” cheating has become. I cannot tell you how many clients and friends have said, “I know I’m going to catch him/her texting/snapchatting/sexting/Facebook messaging another girl/guy. At this point I almost don’t even count it as cheating anymore as long as nothing physical happened.” WHAT?! No. This is emotional cheating and is very destructive in a relationship. It is one thing if you are in an open relationship and okay with this behavior. If that’s your thing, then great! However, if you are intentionally lowering your standards and dealing with something that makes you feel uncomfortable because you think “that’s what people do now,” that is not fair to you! What can you do? Don’t settle. Don’t lower your standards. Be clear with the healthy boundaries you want to set in a relationship. By the same token, both men and women can learn to engage in delayed gratification (see point one) and realize that maybe the short-term (and often fleeting) excitement and pleasure of talking to someone new quickly fades as the realization of harm you did to your long term relationship sets in.
3. Communication (or lack thereof)
When I was getting my Master’s Degree, I taught an undergrad class that focused on career exploration. There were a number of assignments that required the students to write professional papers, and another assignment that included writing a resume and cover letter. I was shocked when the first assignments were turned in. Many of the students wrote the paper as if they were texting (yes, text abbreviations were used) and they did not understand what was wrong with that. “What’s the point of spelling words out?” and “what’s a contraction and why is it so bad to use in a professional paper?” were questions I consistently received from every new group of students. Texting and communicating through cell phones, social media, and apps has completely ruined the way the younger generations communicate (I officially feel old after typing that). I’ve noticed that younger adults and adolescents are losing their ability to read and understand nonverbal communication because their main forms of communication are via text. This has transcended into relationships. So many arguments and fights happen via text, and texts can be completely misinterpreted. There is no tone of voice or nonverbal cues to help give context and understand meaning. I cannot even count how many relationships I know ended because of arguments that happened via text. Having face-to-face conversations (both positive and negative) are so important because 1. we are social creatures by nature who need social interaction and 2. it strengthens a relationship to be able to learn how to communicate with each other. Simply put: put down the phones and talk to your partner!
Social media has created an “all about me” generation. I’m only 27 years old, but sometimes I feel like a crotchety old lady when I walk through the mall, the grocery store, or even down the street (literally, everywhere I go) and I see people taking 25,000 selfies. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken the occasional selfie as well; however, I have “friends” on Facebook whose entire timeline are pictures of themselves that they post every couple of hours. These are reinforced by other people liking and commenting on said pictures. People are literally so consumed with themselves. This clearly negatively impacts relationships. A healthy relationship is not about one person in the relationship. It is about both people communicating their needs and compromising so that those needs are met. How can this be fixed? Make sure you are aware of your partner’s needs and engage in healthy communication (see the previous point).
Before this post comes off sounding like the rantings of the bitter 80-year-old lady inside of me, I want to note that I understand not everyone is like this. There are amazing young (and older) men and women who utilize the amazing benefits of social media and are able to maintain healthy relationships. This more just speaks to the general trends I’ve noticed in my own experiences. Hopefully as technology continues to evolve and develop, we can continue to hold on to core values and foundations that enable us to interact with others in a healthy way.
Until the next journey,