A divorce lawyer’s guide to staying together

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In the book, you call Facebook an “infidelity-generating machine.” How many divorces in your experience stem from social media?

James J. Sexton

It’s a huge factor now, and it’s getting worse every day. I can’t remember the last time I had a case where social media was not either a root cause or implicated in some way. And it’s always the same story: people maintaining affairs via social media or communicating with people they don’t have any business communicating with. Infidelity is so easy now, and it’s poisoning marriages.

The problem I have with Facebook specifically is that Facebook creates these very plausibly deniable reasons for you to be connecting with people emotionally in ways that are toxic to marriages. And people are using social media when they’re bored or vulnerable or in transition, not when they’re having a wonderful time with their spouse or enjoying life.

And what are we looking at? We’re looking at someone else’s carefully curated greatest hits, right? Because what do we put on our social media? We post our best moments. We put our coolest pictures where we look the best. We put our most exciting things.

We curate carefully what we put up there. So if I’m in a vulnerable, lonely, bored place looking at everyone else’s curated greatest hits, of course I’m going to think I’m doing worse than I’m doing. Of course I’m going to think my relationship isn’t as interesting as everyone else’s, or as happy as everyone else’s.

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OK Google, Just Stop.

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Wife: OK Google, play Regina Spektor.

Google: Sure, here’s Regina Spektor on Spotify.

Husband: OK Google, stop!

Husband: OK Google, play Mumford and Sons.

Google: All right, playing Mumford and Sons on Spotify.

Wife: OK Google, play age-appropriate music for a middle-aged man.

Google: I am sorry, I don’t know how to play that.

Husband: OK Google, play music that isn’t also playing at a Starbucks right now.

Google: I am sorry, I don’t know how to play that.

Wife: OK Google, what are the typical terms of the, “I cook, YOU clean” rule?

Google: I’m not sure how to help with that.

Married to Their Smartphones (Oh, and to Each Other, Too)

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Sherry Zheng was cleaning up from dinner, ready to toss out the remaining fried rice, when she grabbed her phone from the counter to text her husband, Chris. He was upstairs bathing their three children. “Should I save you the leftovers?”

Her phone vibrated: “Sure.”

Ms. Zheng, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother in Oakton, Va., describes her marriage as happy, and she’s thankful for those kinds of small conveniences that her smartphone affords her. But like most couples, there are also times, when her husband pecks away at a screen, that she wants to toss his device away with the table scraps.

…“Can’t you just acknowledge me?” she hollered. “I’m standing right here.” Mr. Zheng promptly placed his phone on the table. (Since then, she has made her point a bit more clearly by texting him her questions, even if they’re in the same room, since she knows she’ll get a response.)

We live in a culture of dings, beeps and buzzes, as most people manage everything from bank accounts to fantasy football teams on their smartphones.

Spouses may pout if their partners don’t “like” their every Facebook post, an expectation, for some, of marital boosting. Pull out your device to check the baseball scores while on a date with your wife, and you’re bound to get an eye roll.

Type an actress’s name into IMDb while watching TV and suddenly you’re on a 10-minute bender into the black hole of your screen, distracted by a text or game notification. “Are you even watching?” your husband snaps.

…Experts say that smartphone use is meddling in our marriages in ways that are sometimes benign but often frustrating, causing quarrels and forcing couples to address an ever more important question: At what point are we choosing to spend more time with our smartphones than with our spouses?

 

STFU Parents: Mommyjacking (And Daddyjacking!) Your Wedding, Marriage, And Divorce On Facebook

2.

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 …Perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea that milestones – particularly the ones that could lead to or involve children — can occasionally elicit the worst sides within us. Even I seem to be culturally conditioned to think “Why aren’t they married yet?” or “They’ve been married for what, six years? Are they not having kids, or…?” Most of that is just me being nosy and comparing my own life track to others’, but I also think there’s something about milestones that are specific to matters of the heart (marriage, divorce) that stir up the selfishness in us all.

…When a friend posts about her own love life, these parents immediately lodge themselves in the center of the conversation. Sometimes the comments can be interpreted as relevant; at all times they should be considered mommyjacking (and daddyjacking) on someone else’s big important news. Parents, if you’re exhibiting the nasty habit of hijacking someone else’s milestone, put a halt to it now.

… [For example, in the Facebook post above] I can’t lie: Wyatt is one cute-ass baby, and I’m a fan of bananas, as well, so I can’t hate. That said, I think Alan might want to watch his step. His message is heartfelt, but what does his kid have to do with Mike and Karina’s big day? When parents frame EVERYTHING to be about their baby, it can get old fast.

 

 

Facebook’s Last Taboo: The Unhappy Marriage

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Those who have spent more than a few passing minutes on Facebook could attest to the fact that marriage is usually portrayed in an exceptionally positive light, more so than other areas of our lives. There is far more social acceptability to not only grumble but to seek input about the missteps in our careers or the sleep deprivation that goes with child rearing than about the possible fissures in a marriage.

 …So why does the social media screen tend to go dark after the wedding, only to light up with the occasional burst of good news? Perhaps Facebook is actually mimicking the real-life personal dynamic, where once the vows are exchanged, the marital code of silence goes into effect: The oversharing culture, which reigns during the engagement and wedding, suddenly morphs to undersharing about our spouses. Maybe there’s not as much of a highlight reel to show after the honeymoon when real life sets in.

It has to do with vulnerability, said Sherry Turkle, a M.I.T. psychologist and author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.” “If you complain about your pet, your job, even your children, there is a sense in which these are external to you — the complaint is about what life has dealt you,” she said in a phone interview. “When you complain about your marriage, the boundary between marriage and the self is much less firm.”

 

 

India’s ladies’ detective agencies: ‘Most people’s marriages were fine until they started using Facebook and WhatsApp’

havna Paliwal, Delhi's most famous female private detective on the lookout. Photo Stuart Freedman

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Paliwal’s success as a matrimonial detective is directly proportional to the failure of urban Indian marriage. She’s quick to point out a game-changing factor, though: “Earlier, the cheating was one-sided. Now it’s two-sided.” The culprit, she says, is technology: “Most people who come to me have been married for eight to 10 years. Their marriages were going fine, but they started copying youngsters and got into the habit of Facebook, WhatsApp. Many of them go too far into it, ruining their families.”