As anyone who has given the ol' lifelong, monogamous thing a whirl will tell you, marriage is work. It’s not work like my job at a snack bar during the summer before ninth grade, when I’d accidentally drop a hamburger on the floor and then put it back on the bun (five second rule) and serve it. But it’s work in the sense that men and women in long-term relationships must make a sincere and steadfast effort to stay connected, intimate and loving with each other, which is not always easy to do.
And during those inevitable times when you’re feeling not as close to your partner as you’d like, when in fact you’re pretty pissed off at each other for reasons you may or may not even be able to articulate, there is no bigger booby trap out there than Facebook. From what I’ve seen lately, Facebook may be our generation’s version of the Garden of Eden, with ripe juicy apples – a.k.a. old girl/boyfriends and spouses – just waiting to be picked.
Here's a little questionnaire to determine how at risk you are for falling into the Facebook Marriage-Destruction Trap.
Question #1: Are you “friends” on Facebook with an ex, someone you were truly and deeply in love with at one point in your life?
If you answered yes, you may be putting yourself in very dangerous territory. Exes should fade into the background, never to be heard from ever again, unless you have kids or are, like, third cousins or something. They should not try to friend you on Facebook. You should not be able to browse through photos of their cute new partners or their adorable children. Instead, you should both cruise off into the rest of your lives, separately, safe in the knowledge that parting ways was for the best for everyone.
Why? Because we are humans and humans can be stupid. And because marriage is hard and when we feel hurt, angry and alienated from our partners our relationship becomes porous and vulnerable to outside distractions and trouble. Someday this is what will happen, if it hasn’t happened to you already: one of your exes will be in a confusing and weird place with his partner and he will start sending you weird and confusing messages about how you used to go skinny dipping and how he sort of misses all those fun times you had together. Then you will either have to cut off contact with him entirely or tell your significant other about the exchanges or hide the correspondence altogether, which will make you feel icky inside even though you're pretty sure you've done nothing wrong.
See what I mean? Reconnecting with exes on Facebook is a no-win situation. It can do nothing but stir up trouble. If you travel in similar circles or have kids, you'll see each other when you need to or have to. But when it comes to Facebook, I recommend staying away from each other's pages. Far, far away.
Question #2: Has your partner ever tried to talk to you, have sex with you or make eye contact with you but you didn't respond because you were too busy nosing around on Facebook?
I'm so guilty of this. I'm embarrassed to tell you the number of times hubby has been speaking to me and I’m nodding but I actually have no idea what he’s saying because I’m too focused on the fact that someone I knew from twenty years ago still has very shiny hair. Or someone I knew ten years ago is pregnant, again.
Though I’m not a psychologist (sure, I have a Master’s in Psychology from Columbia University, but does that really count?), I have to wonder why I’m choosing to live in the fantasy world of Fakebook rather than get busy with my husband. Or at least talk to my husband about his day. Because let's be honest here: Is the gal with the shiny hair or the mom expecting her fourth kid going to make me homemade chicken soup when I'm sick or wipe my tears after I get harangued for sharing an unpopular opinion in a blog post? No. So each time I choose the inanities on a screen over the sweet realities of my partner I’m hurting our relationship. And so are you.
Marriage, even the happy ones, require constant care and nurturing. Hmm... I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg can create a cool new Facebook feature for that. In the meantime, I'm staying away from all of my exes and working on breaking my addiction to this time suck of a website, a website I'm actually grateful for because it has helped me reconnect with my family. Confusing, right? I'm sure that's how Adam and Eve felt, right before they took a big bite out of that apple.