Health & Medicine

Let’s face it: Facebook is becoming a factor in divorce

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends or uncover long-lost classmates. But it’s also a good way to ruin your marriage.

Recent research found that 20 percent of divorcing couples now mention Facebook as the cause of their breakups. It seems that flirty messages and e-mails posted on social networking sites tempt folks to say and ultimately do things they wouldn’t consider in another arena.

Of course, cheating has been around for millennia. There’s nothing new about straying from one’s vows. Still, technological advances have made access to pornography and potential partners easier than ever before. And you can do it without leaving your house.

Lawyers view all this chatting and cheating with glee. Everything that appears on MySpace or Twitter is potential evidence. A husband’s tweet, “Having fun in the sun,” even though he’s supposed to be at a conference in Minneapolis, may confirm his wife’s suspicion that he’s having an affair.

Computer firms are cashing in, too, by developing spyware that is surreptitiously installed on computers enabling suspicious spouses to monitor their mates’ cyber frolics.

What are the signs your mate may be involved in a cyber romance? Watch for these clues:

• Distraction.

• Inability to focus on you or your relationship.

• Spending extra time at the computer.

• Logging onto Facebook or MySpace at odd hours of the day or night.

• Shutting the door or hiding the computer screen when you walk into the room.

• Going to work early or staying late to chat.

If you suspect online hanky-panky, keep a written log. Write down suspicious activities, noting the dates and times they occurred. Check spouses’ computers to see which sites they frequent. Peruse cell phone bills. You’ll want accurate, verifiable data to back up your gut feelings.

Once your suspicions are confirmed, it’s time to confront your partner head-on. Let him or her know what you’ve found. Share your data. Stay calm. Make it clear that this behavior needs to stop. Now.

Listen to your spouse’s response. Does he or she promise to end the affair? Then your relationship has a chance of survival. Demand that you both enter marriage counseling together. You’ll need to discover the underlying cause of the problem and to lay out a strategy for making things right.

Your partner may deny the accusations or refuse to end the contact. That tells you that the marriage is done. It’s not acceptable to share your partner with another person, no matter how much he or she justifies juggling them both.

Regardless of the outcome, seek emotional support for yourself. You’ll need someone who can help you sort out your concerns and stresses. It’s also wise to explore the factors that contributed to the dalliance and prevent those from happening in the future.

Facebook: Friend or future homewrecker?

Is your Facebook relationship heading you over an emotional cliff?

Honestly ask yourself the following questions:

• Are you currently in a relationship, yet emotionally drawn to another person you’re meeting online?

• Do you keep this relationship a secret from your spouse?

• Do you say things to this person that you’d never say if your spouse were present?

• Do you think about this person during the day?

• Do you limit or alter other activities so you can connect with this person online?

• Do you tell this person that you are single when, in fact, you’re married or involved in another relationship?

• Do you complain about your spouse to this person and tell him or her that you are miserable in your relationship?

If yes, then you’ve got two choices: keep going in this direction and risk ruining your marriage, or end the cyber-flirting and recommit to your spouse. You can’t have them both. Tell your cyber sweetie that it’s over, and don’t make contact again.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit