There are many benefits to social media. It connects us with others, allows us to share parts of our lives with friends and family, and is a great source for connecting with accounts and individuals that share your hobbies and interests. Social media can also be a great source of frustration and suspicion for couples — especially in the aftermath of an affair, regardless of the type of love affair.
Maybe it’s about how much time your partner spends on social media instead of with you. Or, perhaps the previous infidelity was conducted through or facilitated by social media DMs and messaging. No matter what the reason is for your discomfort, it’s valid and worth working through with your partner.
Establishing healthy boundaries around social media use within the context of your relationship is a great practice to help address your negative associations and prevent further conflict. So, let’s learn how to set boundaries with social media in a relationship effectively and compassionately.
How Does Social Media Affect Relationships?
At this point in history, it’s not a stretch to say that our phones are pretty much an extension of ourselves. Work, play, research, dinner plans… we do everything with our phones. And the average person spends about three hours a day on social media. That’s one-fourth of our waking hours.
When you look at it that way, there’s no way for social media to not influence your relationship in some way. But it’s up to you both to make sure that the impact is a positive or neutral one rather than a negative one.
Social media can influence our relationships mainly by influencing us — because our personal state of mind and emotional health are what we’re bringing to the relationship.
We only post the most exciting or interesting parts of our lives on social media. We know that our feeds are curated, but it’s easy to forget that everyone else’s is too. Following friends who post lovey-dovey content — or worse, professional influencer couples — can make you feel like something is missing from your own relationship. And trying to live up to these expectations can make you overlook your actual relationship and partner.
Seeing your partner like or comment on another person’s posts is a little like watching them flirt with that person — especially if it’s someone attractive. Even normal posts of your partner’s life can spark a form of jealousy when they’re about events or subjects you’re not involved with. It can make it feel like there’s a distance between you — like there are things you don’t understand about them.
Distraction from Quality Time
This is probably the most common complaint we receive about social media use in relationships. They check their phone during dinner, scroll through social media in bed, or glance at their feed while you’re watching a movie. We’re all guilty of it. Social media is designed to be addictive. But spending uninterrupted quality time with your partner is how you foster romantic intimacy. When that’s taken away it can feel like abandonment.
How To Set Boundaries With Social Media in a Relationship
There are no set-in-stone social media rules for couples. The boundaries that you decide on with your partner will be based on both your emotional needs and comfort levels. But here are some concepts to consider to help you build your specific boundaries with one another.
If you’re struggling to reach an agreement that makes both of you happy, consider having the conversation with a therapist in the room to guide and moderate.
Consider Your Privacy Preferences
This is a different discussion for couples in different places in their relationship.
For a new couple, setting boundaries around privacy and social media is more centered on respect for the other person’s preferences about things like when to post your relationship on social media. Maybe one person is very open and shares personal information freely, but the other is more private. They’ll need to discuss what’s appropriate and respect each other’s wishes.
For a couple that’s recovering from infidelity, setting boundaries around social media is about rebuilding trust. But suddenly giving your partner complete access to your accounts and DMs can feel like a massive invasion of privacy. Talk about what each of you needs to feel safe emotionally. Maybe you can compromise with boundaries like, “You’ll show me your social media messages if I feel uncomfortable and I ask.” Remember, the goal is to eventually reach a place where there is no need to check one another’s messages.
Set Aside Social Media-Free Quality Time
When you’re recovering from an affair, emotional intimacy and quality time is absolutely vital. Your partner needs to feel like a priority in your life. And if a complaint on either side was too much time spent on social media, this is the perfect opportunity to prove that you’re willing to make changes and concessions for your partner.
Set aside certain hours or times that are just for you. If the social media offender is an Instagram or TikTok fiend, this can also mean not taking pictures or videos during together time. Remember, being behind the camera takes you out of the moment and makes you an observer instead of a participant.
Affair Recovery Little Rock
If you’re struggling with how to set boundaries with social media in a relationship, consider couple’s therapy. The Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center can help you and your partner negotiate boundaries that serve both of your emotional needs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 501-222-3463.