“All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can’t be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Bible
A few years ago an article appeared in this column highlighting the dangers of Facebook encounters to marriage. It’s not so much Facebook itself as it the ability of electronic networks to connect us quickly and easily to just about anybody in the world.
The challenge to resist the temptations we are subjected to as a result of the social networks has continued to increase. Connecting with people remotely over the Internet seems to remove barriers and inhibitions that might otherwise guard against risky connections.
A survey carried out in 2009 by a United Kingdom divorce website found that 20 percent of petitions for divorce based on behavior contained the word “Facebook.” A follow-up survey in 2011 has showed an increase to 33 percent of such allegations.
The top three reasons in the petitions were as follows:
1. Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
2. Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
3. Facebook friends reporting spouse’s behavior.
The U.S. is no better. A study published in 2010 by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers cited a survey that linked Facebook to one in five divorces.
The social networks provide a very convenient mechanism for people to say and display things that they would never do person to person. People fail to realize that whatever goes on a social network becomes available to the world.
A simple rule to remember is to never put anything in an email, on a social or business network or any other electronic media that you wouldn’t want your spouse or a total stranger to read.
Heather Riggleman, a founder of Her View From Home, has written an article titled “When Friendships Go too Far (guarding against emotional affairs) in which she offers some suggestions on how to protect your marriage in social settings, whether in the real world or the virtual world.
First of all, implement the Five-Minute Rule. If you run into friends or acquaintances of the opposite sex in public without your spouse, limit your time talking to them to no more than five minutes, even in places like Walmart. Your friend may be a godly person, but we all can be tempted. A sympathetic listening ear at the wrong time when you may just have had a spat at home can have serious complications.
If you work outside the home and have reason to meet with members of the opposite sex, don’t be alone unless it cannot be avoided. And in any case tell your spouse about it soon.
Next, share passwords. Be fully accountable to your spouse with mobile phones, emails, social networking and all other forms of communication. Give each other full and direct access to all accounts. Share each other’s passwords and other account information.
Do everything you can to build and support trust. Place the computer so your spouse can view it at any time. And be open to unannounced visits from your spouse while you are working on the computer, not necessarily to check on you but just to demonstrate complete openness.
An important component to protecting marriage is the recognition that it takes effort. It is easy to slip into complacency and even apathy. We then become more vulnerable to the temptations coming our way because our barriers are weak and our guard is down. Take time to build your marriage by doing things together, whether attending a marriage retreat, going on a mini-date, or taking a walk.
Finally, communicate frequently and directly with your spouse. Put down the cell phone, turn off the computer, look directly at your spouse and listen (talk once in a while, too). Personal intimate communication in relationships is much more fun than Facebook.
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aikenfamco.com.