Here’s a new twist on the role social media plays in why some couples divorce. According to a new study from Oxford University, couples who communicate excessively using Facebook, Twitter, and email rate themselves as having less than satisfying relationships.
Why the marital strain if tapping out a quick tweet or Facebook message makes it so easy to stay in touch? In the study, Oxford researchers surveyed 3,500 couples to find the kinds of social media channels they used to communicate. These included Facebook, emails, texts, tweets and instant messages. Results showed that those using more than five different channels to communicate with their loved experienced a 14 percent drop on average in their relationship satisfaction.
The reason for this? Researchers believe overuse of social media and email triggers marital disharmony because of the stress and pressure that can result from feeling the need to constantly maintain communication.
In other words, one spouse may text, tweet, or IM constantly, and expect instant replies, but the spouse on the receiving end of these messages may view this as suffocating or overbearing behavior. On the other hand, spouses sending out the barrages of texts and tweets may feel that their partners are trying to hide something from them, or are ignoring them.
“Using these media is great in moderation. But more is not necessarily better,” Oxford researcher Dr Bernie Hogan tells the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. “It’s important to be accessible without being overbearing,” he adds.
While the Oxford study looks at the reasons why overuse of social media may lead to marital breakdown, texting, emailing, IM, and other methods of instant communication can remain an issue after a couple decides to divorce.
Are you dealing with an estranged spouse who just won’t respond to your IMs? Are you on the other side of this issue wondering how to get your overbearing ex to stop contacting you? Here are some tips for dealing with social media use:
Set clear boundaries: During a divorce, there may be many issues the two of you need to communicate about, especially if you have children. Establish ground rules and clear boundaries about the type and frequency of communication allowed. If overuse of messaging is an issue, limit emails to one per day and texting to emergency situations only.
Keep records: In the event you receive a threatening message from a former spouse, do not hesitate to seek help and call 911. In some circumstances, texts, IMs, emails can be used as evidence when seeking a restraining order. For this reason, don’t delete old texts or emails.
Get It In Writing: For some couples, making a casual “handshake” agreement about communication doesn’t work, and a more formal approach is needed to address the type and frequency of communication allowed between spouses in the aftermath of divorce. As you enter mediation or proceed in divorce court, talk to your divorce attorney about how to make this kind of agreement formal.