Yesterday I talked about the potential danger of social media and virtual lives interfering with our real lives. What if your wife has fallen for this and it is limiting, hurting, or threatening your marriage?
First, you need to understand why. This is going to come across as blaming the victim, but usually when a woman gets to into her virtual life it is because she does not have much of a real life. Sometimes this is because she is an introvert and feels safer with virtual relationships, but a far more common cause is feeling cut off and alone. They live too far from others, or they do not drive, or they have so many small children that getting out of the house is a huge hassle, or their husband limits their movements. In other words, the virtual life is not a replacement for real life, but rather it fills the vacuum resulting from not having friends in the real world.
Losing your wife to social media can happen slowly. At first, it is not a problem; in fact, at first it usually seems great. She is less depressed, and less whiny about not being able to get out more. She starts to have things to talk about and seems to become a more 3-D person. If the amount of time in her virtual world stays small, it will not be a problem and may well be a blessing to her and to your marriage. On the other hand, if her time and emotional investment grows, there will be problems. Housework starts to slip. Time with the kids is reduced, and you have to fight to get time with her. When she is with you, all she can talk about is the people she knows on-line. She becomes more invested in those people than in the people in her real life. (I can describe this because I have watched it first hand – not, fortunately, in my own marriage.)
If your wife has not gone too far, be glad; but keep an eye out for possible escalation. If she has started down the path to being too involved with her on-line life do not waste time, deal with it ASAP. Once it passes a certain point, it will get worse quickly.
How do you know if she has a problem?
- She stays up late, even when she is tired, to be on-line.
- She checks in every couple of hours, even when away from home (smart phone).
- She checks in first thing in the morning – like before she goes to the bathroom or while the coffee is brewing.
- She gets angry or depressed over not being able to check her social media.
- She is unable to function if the Internet goes down, and checks every few minutes to see if the connection has been restored.
- Her mood is influenced by what she does on-line.
- Real life contacts are seeing less of her.
- You wake up in the middle of the night and find she is on-line.
If you think she has a problem, but you are unsure, try taking a several day vacation without any on-line devices. Alternatively, suggest the two of you take a disconnected weekend together at home. If she is agreeable and can do it, she is probably okay. If she will not try, or tries and fails, you may have a problem.
What do you do if you think she is too involved on-line? Just complaining about it is not going to help, especially if social media is how she deals with stress. I would start by working on ways to help her have good real life relationships. If she has formed an on-line life because her real life is lacking, giving her the chance to have a real life might help pull her out. At the very least it gives her an option, and takes away the “I have no life excuse”. If there is nothing to replace her cyber-reality, she has no reason to live on-line less.
Once you have ensured she can have a life in the real world, you can start to discuss how deeply involved she is with her social media and on-line life. Try not to attack. Focus on her doing more off-line rather than telling her to do less on-line. Do not expect the situation to be fixed overnight – it took time for her to get where she is, and it will take time for her to get back out. See any movement from on-line to real life as positive, praise it, and keep gently nudging her.
Last, and probably more important, find ways to spend more time with her. Unless she has given up on you and has no desire to be with you, she should react positively to you expressing a desire to spend time with her. If you find it difficult to make more time to be with her, you may have uncovered a big part of the problem. If you cannot make more time for her, it may explain why she has taken to a cyber-existence in the first place.
(Financial support in 2012: We recently mailed end-of-year contribution letters (and sent emails to those who have not given us a mailing address). If you do not receive an email or letter shortly about your giving, please let me know. Those who gave through Razoo, should receive letters from Razoo. Our thanks to all for supporting us financially and with your prayers and words of encouragement.)
Image Credit: © marin | freedigitalphotos.net