It talked about a pastor in New Jersey who has banned (yes, banned!) Facebook in his church. He has ordered 50 of the church's leaders (who are married) to delete their Facebook accounts or resign. He has also challenged church members to delete their accounts as well. The article goes on to explain that this pastor's issue wasn't Farmville or wasted time, but instead adultery. The pastor defended his stance by saying that he has counseled 20 couples from his church who have all had marital problems surface because one spouse reconnected with an old flame via Facebook.
On top of that, the Journal adds that "according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have either used or been faced with evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years."
So, should all married couples refrain from using Facebook? Here are a few thoughts on the subject:
1) First, it is clear that Facebook and other social networking sites have become a means of communication and connection for affairs to blossem. It creates opportunities to re-connect with old flames and new people to flirt with.
However, to make a blanket statement that all married couples should delete their Facebook accounts is really ridiculous. It's important to note that the 20 couples the New Jersey pastor has counseled make up about 3-4% of his entire congregation. Thus, this is another case of an extreme decision based on a vast minority. This would be like saying that 50 years ago, any married man in the business world shouldn't have a secretary or a stay-at-home mom shouldn't hire a pool boy. Just because Facebook can be used for evil by some people doesn't mean that everyone will use it the same way...like the other 96% of this pastor's church.
2) This all being said, we do have to ask the question of "Does Facebook cause affairs in some cases?" There is that 4% and the glaring statistic from divorce lawyers. So, does it?
In my opinion, I would say no. In His Need, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard Harley talks about the 10 greatest needs of men and women and gives advice on how each spouse can meet them. He also bluntly explains that when these needs begin to be unmeet, that is when the door of an affair begins to be opened. Naturally, a person will begin to seek elsewhere to be listened to, affirmed, romanced, embraced or more. What might start as something innocent, eventually grows as this new person begins to fill more and more of the needs that should be being filled by their spouse.
When this is the case, what is the cause of an affair? Is it the other person, the fact that you work with someone of the opposite gender or because you found one another on Facebook? None of the above. Those things all are simply a vehicle for something bigger going on. The cause is in fact a lack of needs being met accompanied by a lack of communication, understanding and clear expectations. Facebook or not, when this is the case for someone in a marriage, they are going to try to find a way to have their needs met. Canceling your Facebook isn't going to prevent this.
3) So, where do we go with this?
Here are a couple of final thoughts to think about and talk with your significant other about:
- Think through the "friends" you have on Facebook. Is there anyone that you have as a friend that provides a temptation for you? Maybe this is emotional fulfillment in chatting or exchanging messages or maybe this is someone you find attractive as you regularly scan their photos. Consider de-friending them or blocking them. It simply isn't worth it...
- Are you friends with past flames on Facebook? Is your spouse ok with that? As you ask this question, try to really listen to your spouse's feelings and don't just be defensive. Be honest with yourself about why you may not want to de-friend that person.
- If you find yourself reaching out to someone other than your spouse to fill a certain need in your relationship, I want to challenge you to take immediate action and cease the communication. Then, take the time to try and communicate to your spouse what you are feeling and thinking. It's important that this is done in a non-threatening and accusatory way. If you feel like you have tried that before, I would strongly encourage you to seek out a pastor or counselor to see as a couple, or if your spouse is unwilling, on your own.