CONNECTED BUT DISCONNECTED: When Social Media is Killing Your Marriage

Most would agree that technology can be a great boon in terms of quick and direct communication, efficiency, and just plain fun.  In fact, it’s what enables me to work with clients from around the world.

But it can also be a huge distraction from real life . . . and real relationships.  As people are increasingly connected to their devices, they are becoming increasingly disconnected to their loved ones, including their spouses.  It seems ironic and unfair that the same things that are bringing people together (such as dating sites and social media) are resulting in increased conflict, infidelity, and divorce in these relationships.

The damaging effects of excessive screen time and social media are made crystal-clear from the following research and statistics:

>>  Studies have found a direct link between social media use and decreased marital quality. Couples who do not use social media are 11% happier in their marriages than couples who use social media on a regular basis, perhaps because 25% of couples fight about Facebook at least once a week.

>>  Increase in Facebook enrollment has been linked to a correlating increase in divorce rates. Fifteen percent of couples consider social media a danger to their marriage.

black couple in bed with cell phone>>  Whether warranted or unwarranted, the more someone examines their partner’s Facebook activity, the more that person reports feeling jealous and mistrustful. Fourteen percent of adults say they look through their partner’s social media accounts for evidence of infidelity.  Even though 1 in 5 feel uneasy about their relationship after discovering something on their partner’s Facebook account, less than half confront their spouses about what they discovered!

>>  Ten percent of adults admits to hiding posts and messages from their significant others and 8% of adults in relationships admit to having secret accounts.  One in 3 adults keep their passwords secret from their partners.

>>  One in 3 divorces now starts as an online affair. A stunning 30% of Tinder users are married.

>>  Divorce lawyers now use Facebook as their #1 source for online evidence to support their client’s case and a staggering 81% find evidence to use in this case. Another 64% of attorneys also use for online evidence.


For more information on the impact of social media on marriage, read this article
entitled Social Networking is Linked to Divorce and Marital Unhappiness.


The Problem of Too Much Screen Time and Social Media in Marriage

Why is social media and too much screen time so poisonous to relationships?  Consider some additional issues I see with the use and abuse of devices:

wife upset by husband sleeping in front of tv>>  Time spent online means less time focusing on each other and on other activities that normally bring energy and life to a relationship such as recreation, volunteering, reading, fitness, spirituality, etc.  I can vouch for this one in particular since so many of my clients report spending their scant free time in front of the TV at the end of long and stressful workdays.  Then they ask themselves (and me) why they don’t feel as if they know each other anymore.  (Hint: because they don’t)!

>>  Being online trains our brains to have shorter attention spans and crave constant stimulation and instant gratification, two things that run counter to building deep and lasting relationships.  Next time you turn on the TV, make it a point to watch the commercials and count how many seconds there are between changes of scene.  Marketers of all stripes know that – as our ability to pay attention dwindles – they must use all kinds of techniques (including frequent picture changes) to try to keep it.

>>  Studies show that the more time you spend on social media, the more depressed, anxious, and dissatisfied with life you are.  This is partially due to the tendency for people to compare their lives—and their marriages—to those they see online.  When this happens, they begin to have unrealistic expectations that can never be met, leading to disappointment.

>>  Social media in particular can present temptation and create a situation where you or your partner are maintaining relationships—physical or virtual—that the other doesn’t know about.  The sad reality is that Facebook (and other digital platforms) have now ruined many a marriage.

>>  Phone/social media addiction is real and is like any other addiction that needs to be confronted or it will take more and more of your life and eventually destroy it.  This has been a silent problem for previous generations, but is getting exponentially worse because kids today never experience a world without devices.

>>  Unfortunately, more and more parents are using devices to parent their children instead of providing the kind of engaging and creative interaction kids need to grow and develop in a healthy way.

Are any of the above patterns happening in your marriage or family?  If so, take note of the suggested solutions below.  (And don’t let yourself off the hook if you aren’t on your phone but watch TV for hours on end every day!  The above issues also apply to other forms of screen time such as TV time.  It’s just that our phones tend to be more problematic because they are more pervasive and go everywhere with us.  Even to bed.)


Fixing your digital addiction isn’t just about giving something up.  It’s about spending time
doing other things that feed your marriage.  Check out this article on 8 Ways to Rekindle Your Love.


How to Deal with Too Much Screen Time (or Social Media) in Your Marriage

Use these seven tips to finally get your social media and screen time under control.

ONELimit screen time with a set schedule or number of minutes you will be online every day.  Create “phone-free” zones within your house as well (e.g., the bedroom).

girlfriend suspicious of cell phone use by boyfriendTWOPut your phones at a good physical distance from your bed and establish a routine where you shower, dress, have breakfast, work out, etc. in the morning before checking them.  Make connecting with each other more important than checking your phones.

THREEPractice turning off your phones completely when they aren’t needed (e.g., evenings/weekends).  For those who don’t remember life before cell phones, it exists!

FOURBe completely transparent with your partner, sharing passwords and access to your apps, texts, and photos.  Friend each other on FB and other apps so you can post affirming messages on each other’s timelines/walls.

FIVEAgree on appropriate online boundaries you’re both comfortable with.  Are you comfortable with your spouse ‘friending’ or messaging their exes or sharing photos of themselves (or you as a couple) without your permission?

SIXDevelop a phone or TV-free “challenge” with another couple.  Coming up with creative ways to limit screen time and hold one another accountable can be a fun way of getting control of this ubiquitous aspect of your lives.

SEVENDon’t believe everything you see on social media or other online venues.  The fact is that you are only seeing what people want you to see.  If you struggle with comparison, limit or eliminate time in groups or on sites that make you feel poorly about yourself and change the way you respond when you do have to engage, moving from, “Why can’t that ever happen to me?” to “I have too many blessings to count.”

Above all, remind yourselves that your life will be richer and more fulfilling if you put down your devices and engage with your partner and the world around you!  Don’t think of this as cutting something you enjoy out of your life. Think of it as creating time and space for other things you will enjoy more.


happy couple walkingSummary

It’s easy to get sucked into our electronic devices today and buy into the myth that we are “connected” when we’re actually very disconnected from those around us, including our spouses.  Social media specifically can not only prevent you from enjoying healthier pursuits, but introduce expectations and temptations that threaten your marriage.  Setting appropriate boundaries with your devices—especially your phones—can be the one of the best things you ever do for your relationship.

Thanks to McKinley Irvin ( for the statistics above.

Are you concerned about the use of social media in your marriage?  I’m here to help.


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