In the world of emotional affairs, Facebook is a major facilitator.
Facebook can easily set up real-world affairs too. If you’re worried your partner is cheating on you through Facebook, there are some telltale signs. Before you read through them below, consider this finding from a 2014 study of online behaviour: a growing number of divorces cite Facebook use as a factor in the termination of the marriage.
Online affairs can happen at any point in a relationship, two weeks or fifteen years on. Facebook (which, unlike dating sites has no relationship screening process) brings people in contact with their exes, friends of friends, and hundreds of other random people.
There’s no doubt that Facebook is changing the way relate. Another study, from 2017, found that a substantial number of married people are using Facebook to fulfil emotional needs. People lay themselves open on their Facebook walls, and this rampant self-disclosure opens a space for other people to show care and compassion. This kind of virtual emotional bonding erodes the existing bond between partners. And besides emotional attachment, which is one strong inducement to cheat, Facebook also offers secrecy and online ego gratification—two other big draws.
Signs of Facebook cheating
If your partner is more distracted than usual—not paying attention when you’re speaking, acting bored all the time—take note. If their main distraction is the Facebook app on their smartphone, something may or may not be going on.
Some people just get obsessed with Facebook (or games, shopping, news, Snapchat, etc.), but other people get obsessed with specific people on Facebook. If your partner is putting their smartphone and social media life over you and the relationship, it’s a bad sign—regardless of whether there’s an emotional affair going on. The relationship needs to come first.
Another sign that your partner might be cheating on you via Facebook is they suddenly change all their passwords and/or hide their phone. If she’s just using her phone to check messages and post cat photos, there’s no need for secrecy.
In a rather sad sign of our times, some Facebook users actually refuse to accept a friend request from their partners. In extreme cases, emotional attachments led obsessed people to stalk their targets, online and/or in the real world. A partner changing passwords and locking phones doesn’t automatically mean they’re stalking someone and divorce is imminent, but something may be up.
Solutions for Facebook cheating
- Be clear about your emotional and sexual boundaries. Whether you’ve busted your partner for Facebook cheating or are just tired of having to drag them away from their phone to talk to you, facing the situation is the only way of resolving it. To avoid the grey areas that have grown up around online friendships and courtships, talk about what’s okay and what’s not okay when it comes to Facebook relationships at the beginning, middle, and end of any romantic relationship.
- Have a digital detox. If your partner is overly engaged with screens, create an understanding of when screen time is okay and when it’s not okay. A lot of couples find it works to turn off their phones at mealtimes, whether they’re eating at home or at a restaurant. Best to turn them off and leave them out of the bedroom for great sex and peaceful sleeping too.
- Prioritise each other. To head off any online or real-world affairs, make sure you place your relationship above all other things. Make time each week (each day, if possible) to catch up with each other and have a relationship check-in. Increase the safety and security in your relationship through honesty. The phrase: “Hi honey, how was your day?” is actually meaningful if there are energy and attention behind it—or you can just toss it out there and receive some equally dishonest response.
- Use physical contact to maintain closeness. Whenever you have a reunion after time apart from each other, embrace your partner in a full-body hug so you can help calm and regulate your nervous systems. Also, gaze into each other’s eyes for 20-30 seconds a day – this can really help you feel close and maintain intimacy.
If you’re faced with hard evidence that your partner is cheating on you through Facebook, you have options. You can work it out through couple therapy, or you can go to your lawyer with choice screenshots.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.