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How to Navigate Social Media as a Couple

Digital boundaries are the lines drawn around healthy and unhealthy use of social media.

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A lot of couples have conflict when it comes to social media. There are great benefits to social media—connecting socially, sharing pictures with friends and family, finding a group of individuals with a shared interest, or even support groups for all types of things. However, if you aren’t careful about setting digital boundaries in your relationship, it can be a source of frustration between you.

In general, boundaries are limits set with other people that indicate what you deem as acceptable or unacceptable behavior. They can be physical like, “I don’t like when strangers stand too close to me at the store,” or emotional like, “If you speak rudely to me, then I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” Digital boundaries are the lines drawn around healthy and unhealthy use of social media. These are important in your relationship to hold your quality physical time together sacred. 

Common arguments regarding social media can be centered around time. Do you or your partner spend a lot of time on devices browsing social media when you get home from work? Perhaps one of you is on your phone at dinner and not being present. I think we are all occasionally guilty of this. We hear our notifications chime, and it can feel like an alarm telling you to check your phone. What that does is distract from the other person and it can cause turning away from bids when a partner is trying to connect. It can also lead to the presence of the Four Horsemen, such as Defensiveness when called out, Criticism when you call your partner out, Contempt after discussing it way too many times, and even unintentional Stonewalling by ignoring your partner.

If you notice this type of conflict building in your relationship, it can be a good time to set those digital boundaries. As a couple, think about what you see as a healthy amount of time to spend on social media. Are there times you want to avoid it completely, like on a date night? Find a compromise and remember to use a gentle start-up when asking for your needs. 

Other things to consider can be how you utilize social media. Some people prefer to keep their profiles private. They may not want their partner to post about their relationship status, details of their relationship, or even tag them or post pictures without approval. Think about how you navigate connection with each other’s friends and families as well. Is it okay to add or follow each other’s friends?

If you find yourselves on opposite ends of the spectrum with social media use, it can help to find a Gottman trained therapist to help you navigate the conflict. A therapist can help you not only listen to each other but find and hear any underlying dreams, values, or core needs behind your beliefs. Until you truly understand your partner, you cannot compromise. You also need to be aware of your own core needs before reaching a compromise to make sure you don’t agree to something that doesn’t align with those.

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Kari Rusnak manages her telehealth private practice and is currently licensed in Mississippi, Colorado, and Utah. Kari is a Board Certified Telemental Health Provider and trained in EMDR. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist and her practice focuses on LGBTQ+, those in open/poly relationships, chronic pain, and sexual health. Visit her website at www.karirusnakcounseling.com.

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