Couples ‘Be Wise,’ Experts Say
Surveys that show Facebook being cited more and more in divorce cases should make spouses think twice before "friending" someone of the opposite sex, experts say.
A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that 81 percent of "the nation's top divorce attorneys" reported an increase in social networking websites being used as evidence in divorce cases. Facebook is the leader, being cited in 66 percent of cases that involve online evidence.
"We're coming across it more and more," clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., said in a news release. "One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact."
The Facebook-divorce link has been discussed widely in the social media realm lately thanks to a survey from the United Kingdom supposedly showing Facebook being at least partially blamed for one in five of all divorces. The data is from a U.K. online divorce service that found the word "Facebook" appearing in 989 of the company's 5,000 divorce petitions, all of which were uncontested, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company's managing director called the survey "unscientific."
Whether or not Facebook is a reason for one in five divorces, it is becoming an increasing problem in marriages, Kimmons and other marriage experts say.
Couples should take common sense safeguards on Facebook, said Michael Martin, vice president for academic affairs and professor of New Testament studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.
"People need to manage the beginning of the relationship," Martin told Baptist Press. "If somebody contacts you from your past and wants to strike up a friendship -- somebody that you dated once or somebody that you knew in high school or college, there's nothing necessarily wrong with entering into that relationship. Just do it along with your spouse. Include your spouse into the conversation. If you're willing to do that openly, then it's likely there's nothing at all wrong with the Facebook relationship. If you are being invited into a conversation that you are uncomfortable including your spouse in, then you should not start the relationship."
There "absolutely" are times when a husband or wife should decline a Facebook friend invitation from someone of the opposite sex, Martin said.