Lawyers report Facebook is being cited in almost one in five online divorce petitions. Here in the U.S. and Utah, marriage therapists are seeing an increase in infidelity related to social networking sites.
Cheating is a choice, Facebook is not entirely to blame, but counselors warn there is cause for concern when it comes to social networking. What may start as an innocent “friend” request, to reconnect with an old flame, or even make a new acquaintance can evolve into a relationship with devastating consequences.
A few months shy of his ninth wedding anniversary James’ wife decided to join Facebook. When James’ son started Kindergarten, his wife had a lot more free time and spent it on Facebook connecting with old friends.
James says, “She actually told me about this guy who had contacted her on Facebook and he was from her past and she was excited about it because she hadn’t heard from him in years.”
James trusted his wife, until one day when he went to sign in to Facebook and discovered that the password had been changed. That raised a red flag and after his wife returned home late from a concert James checked her phone records.
He noticed the same strange number repeatedly and saw that her text messages had gone from 200 to 2000 in three days. James finally came to the realization that there was somebody else.
His wife left to pursue a relationship with the other man. The affair ended before the divorce was final.
“The first thing I felt there was that betrayal factor,” James says, “I blame a lot on him as far as pursuing her and being kind of manipulative. I blame Facebook a little.”
Marital and family therapist Dr. Kent Griffiths says he is seeing a lot of patients dealing with indiscretions, stemming from social networking sites.
“What I’m seeing more than anything else is the old flames. It’s the person from the past where that first love that was so unencumbered by life and the reality of living is so real and powerful to them that when they connect with that person it seems like magic land.” Dr. Griffiths says.
He claims most on-line relationships start innocently enough.
“I think some people are very vulnerable by nature and they’re quite needy. Quite honestly, there is a hole in their soul and they need something in their lives. If there is a little bit of excitement that they’re not used to, there is a chance for them to fall. There is a chance for them to be persuaded, there is a chance for them to find the excitement they think they’re lacking.” Dr. Griffiths says.
Dr. Griffiths believes Facebook is a wonderful tool for society, he just warns committed couples to use caution. Dr. Griffiths suggests couples should: Keep monitors in open spaces, exchange passwords and user names, trust, but verify information, keep posts and picture appropriate. Also, don’t let usage become obsessive and monitor your own mood so others won’t prey on your neediness.