Technology. It has complicated the world of human interaction in unforeseen ways. Do you remember the episode of Sex and the City, when Berger breaks up with Carrie on a Post-It? That’s dated. Today, that episode would most likely have him leaving the message in a text, on Facebook, or possibly on Twitter. Modern technology has expanded the ways in which we are able to interact with one another and the rules about what’s normal, what’s acceptable and what it all means are a bit murky!
For example, I know a woman who carefully went through her Facebook account deleting all signs of past lovers when she started dating her current fiance. He insisted that she change her status, delete photos and even posts that mentioned anyone else. She did it, but asked me if I thought that was “normal”. Apparently, she didn’t.
Recently, a woman in my therapy practice described her hurt and anger when she discovered her husband flirting with a woman at work over a text message. Not “sexting”, but definitely flirting. He, of course, didn’t understand why that was a big deal to her and stated that it was “innocent”. She, however, couldn’t let go of it and was pretty upset. In the past, he might have flirted with this co-worker in person or over the phone, and the wife would most likely have never known. But today, it’s there in writing under Messages.
I know couples who regularly check each other’s search engine histories to see where the other has been on the internet. I even heard of a man who had purchased a device that reported his wife’s keystrokes in case she tried to clear her cache.
Is technology turning us into paranoid lovers? How much information is just too much?
Where technology is concerned, it’s important for couples to address it head on:
1) Take the time to talk about and draw appropriate boundaries that make both of you feel safe and comfortable in the relationship. Flirting online or on the cell phone probably does not mean that anyone is wanting to leave the marriage, but it’s never good for one party to feel threatened by the activities of the other.
2) It’s a good idea to discuss how to “affair-proof” a marriage. If either of you are starting to feel attracted to someone else, it’s a good time to turn your attention in towards one another, not away.
3) Monitor your work relationships. We all seem to be spending a lot of our time at work these days and sometimes intimacies develop with co-workers. Affairs can happen when flirtations escalate and so it would be wise to talk about whatever feelings are coming up.
4) If you are feeling threatened by your partner’s behavior, approach with curiosity and not anger if you want to increase the closeness between you. If his texting is indeed innocent, as he says, then he shouldn’t have any trouble letting go of it to allow you to feel safe. If he does, it would be wise for you to appreciate that gesture and to move forward.
5) Re-romanticize your relationship. Consciously plan for and enact the romantic gestures that you loved in the beginning of your time together. Spend time together. Share deep intimacies, flirt, and make love.
6) Seek counseling if a flirtation is more than that. Statistics show that couples wait an average of six years before seeking help once they identify a problem. In any event, you’ll want to sharpen your communication skills and focus on deepening your connection with one another. Problems are best solved when nipped in the bud.