How Technology Threatens Marriages

How Technology Threatens Marriage
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s offers a snapshot through the years of technology and how it could move the boundaries of safety in guarding your marriage–and even make it easier to have an emotional affair, or actual adultery.

It’s 1975 and Mr. Company Manager needs to talk to Ms. Sales Manager about an account. It’s after hours, so he picks up the phone and calls her at home. Her husband answers. The two chat for a bit about the latest Maple Leafs’ loss, and then husband passes the phone to wife.

It’s 1991 and Miss Recent Law Grad needs to talk to Mr. Lawyer Partner about a case on the weekend. She dials his home phone and Mr. Lawyer’s 4-year-old son answers. Recent Law Grad convinces him to pass the phone to his mommy, who explains that Mr. Lawyer Partner is out taking the 8-year-old to gymnastics. Miss Recent Law Grad used to take gymnastics, too. They chat for a bit about the lessons, and she leaves a message with Mrs. Lawyer Partner explaining why she’s bugging Mr. Lawyer Partner at home.

It’s 1982 and Johnny Doe is driving through his hometown when he passes the old “make out bridge”. He has fleeting thoughts of Mary Jane, with whom he often frequented that spot. But he doesn’t look her up, because he has no idea where she is. She’s probably married anyhow.

Now it’s 2013, so let’s redo all of those scenarios. Mr. Company Manager texts Ms. Sales Manager about the account. They banter back and forth, in texts that grow increasingly personal. He never actually talks to Ms. Sales Manager’s husband, and thus often forgets the man exists.

Miss Recent Law Grad texts Mr. Lawyer Partner while he’s watching gymnastics. She’s never talked to the wife. She knows vaguely that he has a few kids, but they’re not real to her. But everyday she and the partner text back and forth at least a dozen times. They’re becoming good friends.

And Johnny Doe? He found Mary Jane on Facebook a couple of months back. They’ve been privately messaging for a while now. She’s been married for 23 years, but she feels dissatisfied. “Talking” to Johnny reminds her of those exhilarating times when she was young and felt desirable and the future was all open to her. Her husband has no idea that she’s found Johnny again.

How Technology Threatens Marriage

Technology has completely changed the way we interact, and I don’t think it’s always for the better. Sure I appreciate being able to text my daughter when she’s late, rather than plotting revenge for making me worry. I appreciate being able to text my husband to ask him to pick something up without having to fret that I’m interrupting him by calling. Texting is a wonderful tool.

But it can also obscure true relationships. That family phone at one point acted as a gatekeeper. You couldn’t just call a married individual of the opposite sex without also talking to that person’s spouse or kids. You were constantly reminded that the person was part of a larger unit. You had no real way to pursue a more personal relationship unless you did so deliberately. Today often innocent texts can turn into something more.

Or take Facebook. According to the Loyola University Health System, it’s implicated in 20% of U.S. divorces. You can flirt with someone while sitting next to your spouse! He’s watching football; she’s messaging Johnny.

We can’t turn back the clock on technology, but I do think every married couple needs to establish boundaries that clearly tell the outside world “we are a unit”. Several of my couple friends have a combined Facebook account. Others have a “no texting during family time” rule, or a “both spouses always know the password to the phone” rule. Marriage is tough enough without other people driving a wedge. So talk to each other. Set boundaries about texting the opposite sex. Get to know your spouse’s co-workers. And above all, never stop working on your marriage.

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  1. Something I do is to not have facebook friends of the opposite sex, even if I used to be really good friends with them or we grew up together – and especially if there ever was anything between us, even just flirting! The exceptions are family, much older men who were/are father figures to me, or homosexual friends.

    Also, I try now to not exchange phone numbers with men even if it’s for a legitimate reason, because the whole texting thing can easily get out of hand, as you say.
    Jenny recently posted…shame-free marriage and miscellaneousMy Profile

  2. I often ask my husband who he’s texting back and forth with. I used to feel guilty, as if I was treating him like I didn’t trust him, but it definitely helps keep him accountable. And if I need to ask another guy a question via text, I usually have my husband do it or I text the man’s wife.

    I think technology can poke holes in marriage relationships in so many other ways, too. It consumes our attention and interferes with quality time between spouses. Husbands and wives have to be intentional about limiting their time on the computer and their availability to the outside world via phone!
    Angie recently posted…Feeling Out of PlaceMy Profile

  3. I think this is great! So many people say things like, “If facebook ruins your marriage, your marriage would have failed anyway,” and I really think that’s naive. Putting up boundaries to keep everyone accountable is so important for ALL marriages.
    Megan G. recently posted…God is so good!My Profile

  4. I don’t think I can “Amen!” this blog post enough, Sheila. I have seen examples of this very thing in marriages up close and personal. In most cases, it’s happening before you even realize it’s started. But by the time you recognize a situation has become inappropriate or is getting out of hand you don’t want to let it go. Women are EMOTIONAL creatures. We can’t help that fact, we’re made that way. But so many women forget or don’t even realize that the same thing that God designed in us to warm the home can also burn it down. I’ve seen it more than once. Socialized media is a growing cancer to marriages, as your post related. It makes things too easy, and it can waltz into your life right under your nose before you have that “well, duh!” moment. God help us to always be aware and alert to the seemingly innocent, tiny seeds we allow into our minds and hearts that can ultimately grow like Kudzu and choke the very life out of our marriages. Thank you for this post, and I pray multiple women will read it and take it to heart. God bless!

  5. I have one big AMEN on this one. I’ve been mulling over my own post on it, and you have hit all the bases perfectly, Sheila. I especially appreciate the telephone/gatekeeper reference, as I believe the same is true for our children and their text/cell conversations.

    I grew up tethered to a wall to communicate with a friend. My parents could pick up and hear the whole thing, if they so desired. I felt accountable. Texting and cell phone conversations are all in secret, mainly. We don’t know when, where, why or with whom these communications take place.

    Spouse-wise, the biggest accessibility point for my husband was through a cell phone and Facebook, when someone else entered our relationship. I was “odd woman out” … not knowing anything. Not seeing or hearing a single conversation. It’s the most divisive method to marriages possible in the 21st Century. So far (wondering what might come on the horizon …).
    Amy recently posted…Singing for God: How Well Do You Carry a Tune?My Profile

    • Amy, I wrote a blog post on being the Gatekeepers for our little ones. My girls are small right now, so I spoke more about the dangers of what we let them watch on tv, but as they get older the same will apply to phone conversations, texts, and emails. Like you, I like the gatekeeper reference, because it really applies to everything having to do with our home and family.
      Jennifer recently posted…Ashes, Shoes, and a Toddler…My Profile

      • Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your post. So many parents believe that “this is the way society is going,” and certainly, if you want to follow, it’s true. We ARE the gatekeepers. It’s our God-given job to guide our children in the directions they should go. We should be peculiar people.

        My children can’t stand to see even a few minutes of “kids’ television” programming on the “kids’ channels”. They can’t believe kids act like that (disrespectfully, non-stop come-backs, ridicule, rudeness), and that anyone would want to watch it. My daughter feels a bit left out (age 14-1/2) when kids sing popular song or talk about television she chooses not to watch, but she says she would rather be in the dark than bother with all the garbage. She prizes her Christian radio station, collection of CDs, and her “sheltered” style of life, and understands far more about the world than her “worldly” counterparts do.

        We need to use the world to teach our kids about it — what they should avoid, how they can live in it but not of it, and what living of it can (and probably will) do.

        Blessings to you … keep doing what you’re doing!
        Amy recently posted…Singing for God: How Well Do You Carry a Tune?My Profile

  6. My husband I deleted our facebook accounts when the timeline came out. At first I was curious and going back and seeing what my husband was doing in college and then I found exes and it drove me crazy! I was asking him about girls he hadn’t thought about in years and didn’t want to think about and I was acting like a crazy person. There were other reasons for deleting it like how much time I was spending but I can honestly say I haven’t missed it these two years. I have instagram to keep up with my family and close friends :)
    Claire recently posted…The time I was jealousMy Profile

  7. I think this is a major factor in our teens dating lives as well. I know I remarked the other day about the song “Sylvia’s mother” by Dr. Hook and how the kids today have no idea how nearly impossible that song would be today. The kids have instant access to each other 24/7, unless mom and dad are vigilant about the phone being put on the counter at 10 pm or something like that. I know I would go back and do things differently with my 2 twenty something girls if it were possible. You know what they say about hindsight…..

  8. Excellent article, Sheila. I like the word picture you painted with the two scenarios; it really drives the point home. :)
    Bekah Ferguson recently posted…Rats in the CellarMy Profile

  9. Technology is also the reason that I virtually never speak to my in-laws, except in person. We don’t have a landline, they refuse to try us on my cell, and they communicate invitations and similar info through Facebook. I get that FB is an economical choice, but just “tagging” someone is far less authentic and personal than an individual note/invitation. But now there is a total luddite in the family who hasn’t been on a computer since high school (he’s 25ish) so I’m curious to see whether this will change anything
    Sara recently posted…Wealth health, April 2013My Profile

  10. Kids now have internet access right at their fingertips.Unfortunately some parents are not willing to accept the danger of this. Recently I was talking to a mom of a 12 year old boy.She thought it was”cute”that her son found a cartoon drawing of a naked couple on his iPad.she said he is curious and that’s just natural.I become the odd man out when I voice my concern about thinking this is”cute”.As a mom myself to all boys,I know all too well how simple curiosity can lead to more.

  11. Very well said!!

  12. Excellent Post! I was just talking with a friend a few days ago about the dangers of emotional adultery. So many people don’t consider having an emotional connection with someone other than your spouse as being adultery. The problem is that it can lead to more, even physical adultery!

    It’s so easy to pick up the phone, text, or go online to connect with an old friend or boyfriend — especially when you’re frustrated, angry or even disappointed with your husband. But then there’s the precious Holy Spirit saying “No…”

    We all have a choice.

    The best choice is to look at the big picture of your marriage and come to the conclusion that in many cases, it’s worth it to work on the marriage you have. This may mean going into prayer, connecting with some girlfriends, or even reading some great books on marriage. It can help you to focus on God, the big picture, and off of “the other man”.
    Tiffany Godfrey recently posted…Marriage and Communication: Why Money and Marriage Talk Causes ProblemsMy Profile

    • It doesn’t even need to be an old flame to be a problem. My husband carried on an online/phone affair with at least one woman he Never met! They were part of an online “christian book club”. But what they really did was exchange a lot of personal information as “prayer requests”. And they had the “what is said here stays here” policy. So he hid his communication. And they didn’t even keep it anonymous. They exchanged addresses for ” Christmas Cards”. I discovered that at least four of them started writing letters(very personal ones) to my husband at this point-even though they all knew he was married. Three started calling him; in the middle of the night when she knew he was up because of FB and chatting. He seems oblivious to the need for transparency in his use of the internet and his phone. I get that he is having a midlife crisis, that he is an addict, and that flirting with women online makes him feel young. AND I know that, for the most part, these women would not be attracted to who he is in real life. What I don’t get are the number of women- who profess to be believers- who believe that they have a right to secrets, privacy and flirting with a married man.

  13. Thanks for this post I really enjoyed it. I laughed at the 1982 makeout bridge part because I knew what was coming!!!! Although I do have to say that Ms. Sales Manager’s husband might get more notice if she called herself Mrs. Sales Manager. :)

  14. just me says:

    I must say I completely agree! I had an ex of mine who would text me to catch up I did not see the harm I allowed my husband to read every text never deleted them unless I knew he had read them etc. My husband kept swearing my ex was still in love with me. I can’t recall how many arguments we got into over this. Then my ex finally let it slip that he was dumb for letting me go (he is also married). Since that day, I have blocked his texts I ignore his calls and messages on Facebook. I no longer communicate with him period. It has saved my husband and I a LOT of arguments and a lot of problems. I still let my husband know if he texts but I do not respond. It is not worth the hassle. Your best bet is to only speak to the opposite sex in a professional manner. :)

  15. This is so true! Love your thoughts! We all need to be so careful!

  16. I make sure to make myself unappealing by occasionally posting about placentas thawing on doorsteps, or friends steaming them in a rice cooker. Waste water treatment facility references are also useful. So is Jesus (for other reasons, )

  17. Thank you for this great article! I never thought of the family phone as the “gate keeper” to the household, but it’s so true! And that is just gone-there’s no going back now. We have to adjust! I wrote a blog post today using your article as inspiration. This was a blessing to me!

  18. AMEN! We have a joint account and we have a rule that no ex’s are our “friends” Good rule of thumb, don’t play with fire, especially when it comes to your marriage.
    Jess recently posted…A Guest Writer’s Take on Same-Sex MarriageMy Profile

  19. Amber Rene says:

    Hi Sheila! (and fellow readers)

    First of all, I just wanted to say that I have been following your blog, reading your ebooks, and taking your advice for quite sometime now. I admire you for all that you do!

    I first stumbled upon your blog while on Pinterest thanks to your wonderful 29 days to great sex challenge.

    I am coming for advice, from anyone, I am really at a loss at the moment.

    My husband and I have been struggling for quite sometime now. It began a year ago when I found out he was addicted to porn. Through prayer and commitment we were able to tackle that issue (a big thank you to you because I have turned to your posts that target that issue many of times when I was struggling with forgiveness).

    Since then, I feel like he has shut himself off emotionally a little bit. To regain intimacy I did your blog challenge and even read all of your ebooks. I am a completely different person, with a whole new outlook and relationship with god. However he, has not made any effort to connect with me.

    To begin, I work full time and am also a full time student in my bachelors program.. He on the other hand works one weekend a month. Therefore, because the time I have off is very limited I try to plan things around the days I have off. I try to make this as unselfish as possible because it does revolve around my work and school schedule, but I do like to have the week planned out because it just makes life so much easier! Everyday I do attempt to set aside time to connect with him, but he never wants to talk about anything that involves us. He always pulls the “lets talk about this later” card, yet he always finds time to talk about things he wants to do (by himself). I’ve attempted to engage in the things he wants to do (fishing, hunting, you name it) but he always makes comments about we need to find our own things to do, that we each need our own hobbies. I get very frustrated because I just want to spend time with him and I feel like I never get to because of work and school.

    Lately, I have been feeling defeated. As hard as I have been praying and trying not to, I am a little resentful. He works two days out of a whole month. I get maybe one day off per week. I feel like he can do his hobbies any time he wants to so he should at least attempt to spend time with me on my day off. Instead, he does things that he puts off all week while I am at work and school so he does those things when I actually have time off instead of trying to connect with me.

    I am at a loss. I love him dearly but I don’t know what to do anymore. Tonight for example, is my only night off and first night off in a week and a half, and he is outside working on his tractor which he has put off for the past 5 days. He waits until it is my time off even though we had plans to go to dinner. Am I being selfish? Am I asking too much to spend time with him? Please help and any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

  20. Very, very good! Couples need to be aware how easily sin can encroach…and how quickly!
    Jennifer Fountain recently posted…Baby Steps to Natural LivingMy Profile

  21. This is an excellent article. I don’t even have a cell phone and my husband doesn’t text much, so that’s not an issue. We’re transparent with each other about our Facebooks and email, and we have the passwords to each other’s.

    Another way I think technology can be hurtful to our marriages is just the way it sucks us in and steals time so quickly. I think that’s communicated by the picture you have at the top of the post. My husband and I have our desks right next to each other, so we’re facing each other when we’re at our computers. We can be “together” and still not say a word to each other for a really long time, because we’re lost in our own worlds. I have to work to discipline myself to turn off the computer and really make an effort to connect with my husband. We’re both better at this than we used to be, and it’s still a work in progress, for which I am thankful. :) But technology is definitely a “together-time” stealer!
    Jaimie recently posted…I am a sinner and a saint.My Profile

  22. My husband caught the attention of a 60 year old delusional “cyber stalker” while trying to spread the word through social media about a cause and ministry that we strongly believe in. Most of her posts were scriptures with underlying meanings. I’m new to social media and she became publically outraged (and that’s putting it mildly) when my husband began posting supporting comments to and about me. She stalked my home page and took everything I posted out of content and twisted it make her appear as a victim. She hides behind profile pics of nature and biblical renderings which are updated at least once day. Satan used this person as his puppet in an attempt to try and destroy my marriage and may still be using her with other victims. There is so much to tell about this but space is limited. Wives, please be alert and don’t overlook anything as I originally did thinking I was “supporting” my husband. This person was a 24 hour a day social media psychopath (and we believe she still is under a different name).

    (post has been edited)

  23. I so understand how technology has and is planning a VITAL role in our marriages and families. I know first hand on this and it is scary. We do not think much of it at the time, but low and behold we get swallowed up. We can not be NAIVE that it will never happen, because it will.
    Jen recently posted…Is It Time to Close Those Purse Strings?My Profile

  24. I too find texting hard on my relationship. My husband texts with coworkers all the time. I feel insecure to ask who it is, and so many times he just says “someone from work.” I can’t imagine him cheating, but it does make me feel insecure.
    Becky recently posted…Need to clean and organize your home?My Profile

  25. When we dropped our landline once our oldest son got a cell phone, I remember thinking I would never chat to my kids friends when they call or my husbands friends. It took the “community” out of the phone and made it very personal
    Jen adams recently posted…New Sewing Machines ArriveMy Profile

    • That’s such a good point! I feel like I don’t really know my kids’ friends, either, because they talk all on cells now. At least I don’t know them the way my mom knew mine.

  26. This is why my Facebook photo has me and my husband in it looking very happy, close up, cheek to cheek. Men otherwise won’t leave you alone.

  27. Amen!!!! This why we no longer have Facebook (no temptations) & we don’t text the opposite sex without our spouse knowing and neither of us have a secret password on our phone, if you have a password and don’t tell your spouse ill assume you are hiding something. Always be open and never look over the fence, fertilize your own grass.
    Regina recently posted…Prayer and Fasting can change things!My Profile

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


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