Is Facebook Hurting Your Marriage?

August 26, 2015

in Uncategorized

I’ve had more than one man tell me facebook (or some other form of social media) has become the other man for his wife. A couple actually said she was cheating on them with facebook. Not having an on-line affair, but spending so much time on facebook it felt like she was having an affair. Others express frustration over not being able to be with her for more than five minutes without her checking her phone.  And, yes, this includes women who use their phone right after or during sex.

When I Googled “facebook hurts marriages” I got almost half a million hits. This includes some scary studies done on how social media can hurt and even end marriages. It’s not in his mind, it’s a real problem. 

Add to this a growing number of studies* which show heavy facebook use results in being less happy and more lonely, and these men have a very valid concern.

Woman with social media © aydemori |

Please realise I’m not against social media as a whole. Lori and I use both facebook and Twitter for what we do for marriages, and they can be powerful tools for growth and healing. The issues are quantity and quality. Get small amounts of good stuff and you will do well. Get bad stuff, or too much stuff (even if it’s good) and you and your marriage will suffer.

While men are not immune to this, it is much more of a problem for women. Some have suggested this is porn for women, and given the ways it can hurt marriages, I can go with that.

I hope this warning causes you to think and maybe re-evaluate your use of social media. Like any tool, it can do good or bad; it’s how you use it that determines which.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m opposed to anything that hurts a marriage!

Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults | PLOS ONE
The Anti-Social Network
| Slate 
Here’s an Explanation for the Connection Between Facebook and Unhappiness |Science of Us 

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

libl August 26, 2015 at 3:10 am

Yes! I admit I am addicted to my phone, though I do keep it out of the bedroom and put it away when hubby is talking to me or spending time with me.

Why the addiction? For one thing, I am home, alone with the kiddos, broke, and an introvert. So going out, finding a sitter, and affording to go out is near impossible. I need human interaction but I can’t afford it, or don’t have time, or can’t get a sitter.

Social media is a virtually free outlet to keep in contact and interaction with a who passel of friends and family I can’t visit with due to time, money, and distance.

It is a placebo, a cheap substitute that gets the job done. Hey, kind of like how porn is to real sexual intimacy.

It’s free, easy, non committing, with a great variety, and can be accessed any time, anywhere, and make me feel like I actually connected with someone.

Communication porn.


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 9:45 am

@libl – I think you have described and explained it very well. It does fill a need, even if it does so poorly.
A big part of this is how our society marginalises mothers, especially mothers of small children. And sadly much of the church does the same.
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Lynn August 26, 2015 at 4:55 am

I think over-dependence on social media is more an equivalent to sports mania than to porn use. I think of my dad, glued to the TV and the whatever-ball game as Mom waited to put dinner on the table. It’s been a pleasant surprise to me that my husband, much as he loves sports, turns the TV off to eat meals and will leave a game in progress to get to bed at a decent time. Maybe there’s more jealousy involved on the part of the non-Facebook spouse because there’s some type of relationship going on there, as opposed to just watching sweaty men moving some kind of spherical object across a field, or court, or what have you.


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

@Lynn – Probably a better analogy for many.
However, for those who get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and feel compelled to check their e-mail and social media before they go back to bed…
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Candace August 26, 2015 at 6:02 am

My husband is the one addicted to his phone. He touches his phone more than me!! I’ve voiced my concerns and but they have been overlooked. I can’t compete with it and have stopped trying. I enjoy social media but I have placed my own perimeters for my own safety. I made a promise to God that I would only use it to share updates about family and to encourage others. This works for me!


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 9:47 am

@Candace – Yes, men can do it too. And it’s just as painful and harmful to the marriage.
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IntimacySeeker August 26, 2015 at 6:07 am

Excellent post. Addictions and affairs come in many forms. After a bit of thought, I think the porn comparison is spot on. A woman might argue that her social media use doesn’t harm her marriage the same way because she is not using social media for sexual fulfillment. But if we assume that a man’s top priority in the marriage is sexual intimacy and a woman’s is conversational intimacy, then we have an apples-to-apples comparison.


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

@IntimacySeeker – No argument from me!
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IntimacySeeker August 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

But what happens when we look at the harm caused to the people on the other end of this scenario, namely the women in the porn or the folks with whom we are exchanging info via social media? The actors in the porn are objectifying and exploiting themselves and damaging their souls. Are the counterparts in the social media exchanges doing the same? Do we still have an apples-to-apples comparison?


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 8:52 pm

@IntimacySeeker – An interesting question. Several suicides have been blamed on what happened on social media, so it’s not harmless.
What we put out there can be used and abused by others, including those who have it in for us or become upset with us.
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T August 27, 2015 at 12:04 pm

IS, from the Christian viewpoint, we absolutely do NOT have an apples to apples comparison. At best, there are parallels between the two.

Is Facebook okay to use in moderation? Is porn? Is Facebook okay to use as long as it doesn’t take anything away from our spouse? How about porn? Is it okay to have conversational intimacy with anyone other than your spouse? What about sex? Some needs are okay, and even healthy, to meet partially outside the marriage. Some are not.

Paul points out a parallel: Misuse of Facebook can hurt a marriage. Porn can hurt a marriage. It is faulty logic to say that this parallel means Facebook is equivalent to porn. By that logic, then domestic violence is porn. Alcoholism is porn. Sexual refusal is porn.

I get that there are other similarities: a spouse becomes compulsively engaged in a solitary activity to the extent of abandoning their spouse. This can be true of many things, including sports – like Lynn pointed out. Online gaming. Television. Reading. Being a workaholic. To this end, I think it is better compared to an addiction than to porn. The problem isn’t the content, but the gross misplacement of priorities and lack of self-control.

However, a comparison of MISUSE of Facebook with porn ADDICTION is not without merit, maybe that is Paul’s point.


J August 26, 2015 at 7:01 am

Excellent post! I have noticed in my own life that on days where I’m on my phone too much or check Facebook more that I should, I’m down and grumpy in the evening. In contrast, on those days where I’m too busy to check my phone or read a bunch of empty status updates, I’m typically friendlier to my family and more cheerful overall. I even did a Facebook fast for a while and found I was much happier and more at peace. Unfortunately, many schools, groups (including our Sunday School class) and clubs have taken to using Facebook for announcements and such…in some cases replacing text blasts or email. It would seem that to keep in touch one almost has to have some kind of social media account. The trick is finding the right balance. I’m still trying to establish reasonable and workable “rules” for myself.


Paul Byerly August 26, 2015 at 9:49 am

@J – I used to use facebook for information in, but it was so much work to sort though things! I ignore my personal account now.
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Feeling Hopeful August 27, 2015 at 1:07 am

I read this post early this morning and have given it a lot thought before commenting. While I agree that Facebook and other social media are hurting marriages when overused, I’m not buying into the porn comparison. Facebook can lead to both emotional and physical affairs, just like porn can. Beyond that circumstance, I don’t agree with comparison. And, I don’t think that extreme is what you used as the basis for this post.

I think porn use has a much bigger impact on a wife than phone/social media addiction has on a husband. I’m not talking about the comparisons of the needs being met. As for as needs, I can somewhat see the comparison. I’m talking about the personal impact to the spouse. Things like self-esteem, trauma, trust between spouses, self-trust/questioning self-judgement, feeling like a fool, self-doubt, sense of betrayal, violation of the marriage vows, grief, loss, etc. These are just some of the things wives experience when they discover a porn habit or addiction. Although husbands probably experience some of these, I don’t think they experience most of these feelings when their spouse is addicted to Facebook. I think they are hurt and angry because they are being neglected, but I don’t think they have the same feelings of a personal attack or that the world as they know it is destroyed. I’m not diminishing the impact Facebook addiction has on husbands. I know these husbands are hurting. I just don’t think the comparison is fair when you consider the impact to the individual spouse in addition to the impact on the marriage. Another big difference is that most porn use is done in secret, whereas, most phone/social media use is done in the open. Wives are blindsided by the news/discovery, which adds to the pain they experience.


Paul Byerly August 27, 2015 at 9:30 am

@Feeling Hopeful – You make some excellent points. The porn analogy is one used by some of the men who are dealing with this. So they think it hurts them the way porn hurts women. I don’t think it’s that simple., but telling those men they are wrong is not helpful.
Not being done in secret is an interesting point. She does it in front of him all the time. She does it in pubic, showing the world she cares more about her on-line life than her real life with her husband. These things hurt a lot, and they happen many times a day to some men. It’s not the same, but it’s painful and destructive.
Bottom line, marriage are destroyed by anything we put ahead of the marriage. I’ve seen it happen with good things like work, family, and even church. It’s not the thing, it’s the thing being out of it’s proper place in terms of priorities.
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Feeling Hopeful August 27, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I can understand a husband in this situation making the porn apology. Telling them in the midst of their pain they are misguided would not be the right thing to do (unless they are using this as an excuse for their porn habit).

I am concerned, though, that men in general don’t understand the damage porn use actually causes wives. They are told very generic things about why they shouldn’t do it. “It’s a sin. It destroys your marriage and your sex life. It hurts your wife.” It’s not often that I see someone tell husbands they are actually destroying their wife and giving the specifics of how this happens. For some men this knowledge wouldn’t change a thing. For others, it might make all the difference. Also, sex is sacred in a marriage. Porn crosses sexual boundaries in the marriage that should never be crossed. Unless a wife is crossing the line with Facebook, this analogy shouldn’t be used. It makes me wonder why men chose to make the comparison (whether it’s Facebook use or other things). Is it simply a lack of understanding or is it more about justifying porn use? I think it’s likely some combination of both.

When it comes to Facebook addiction, I’d have to ask what is driving the wife. Is she missing something she needs in the marriage that she gets from FB? Is it some sort of passive aggressive behavior because the husband has neglected her in the past (perhaps for work or gaming)? Are there unresolved relationship issues? I suspect there is some relationship issue driving this if it has become a huge problem and continues after the husband has expressed how this hurts him.

As far as your Bottom Line, I completely agree.


Feeling Hopeful August 27, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I neglected to say that I agree with cheating analogy, just not the porn analogy. Wives are giving their time and attention to something other than their husband. Yes, I can see where that would make a husband feel that he is being cheated on. He is being cheated out of time that should be his! And, of course, the same applies to men who spend too much time working, playing golf, fishing, etc. We could give numerous examples of things that apply to both sides when talking about things that could be compared to cheating.


Paul Byerly August 27, 2015 at 5:22 pm

@Feeling Hopeful – I recall the poor woman who told us his bass boat was the other woman. This is a perfect analogy I think.
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Feeling Hopeful August 27, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Early in our marriage, our neighbor called me “the working widow” because my husband traveled extensively for work. I understood it, but never really felt that way myself because when my husband was home he always showered me with time and attention. I never felt neglected emotionally even though we were apart so much. I have always been very blessed in that regard. And, every day I’m grateful for those qualities in my husband!


Paul Byerly August 28, 2015 at 10:29 am

@Feeling Hopeful – You’ve given me a great post for The Generous Husband – thanks!
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Paul Byerly August 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

@Feeling Hopeful – I agree most men have no clue how porn use affects their wife. I’d say I have a better grasp on it than most, and I would not say I understand.
Many men do understand women see porn use as a horrible wrong against them. When a man feels this way about social media use his calling it porn could be an attempt to communicate just how bad it is.
Are some men saying this to justify porn use? No doubt. Do some women reject the analogy to justify their social media use? Could be.
In that it may have detracted from the point, I’m sorry I mentioned porn at all. I’ve talked to men affected by this, and I’ve seen them cry. It’s not a minor issue when it’s bad; it’s a horrible thing which is killing his love for his wife and starving his marriage of life. The fact it’s not sin does not make it any easier for him. If anything it makes it worse because most folks won’t even call it wrong. Tell people in the church your husband uses porn and they will tell him he’s wrong. Tell people in church your wife uses facebook too much and they will either say it’s a non-problem or ask you what you have done to push her that way.
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Feeling Hopeful August 27, 2015 at 10:23 pm

You said, “Many men do understand women see porn use as a horrible wrong against them. When a man feels this way about social media use his calling it porn could be an attempt to communicate just how bad it is.”

Yes, that makes sense! I can totally see that is likely where they’re coming from when making the comparison.

I also see your point about the responses of people in the church. If husbands are expressing a serious concern for their marriage and it gets dismissed as not wrong or they feel they are being blamed, that’s very sad. Whatever the issue, it should be taken seriously.

I hope I didn’t come across as either dismissing the issue or blaming husbands with my comments. If so, that definitely was not my intent. I do recognize this is a very serious issue that destroys marriages. The issue needs to be addressed, and I feel for anyone who is experiencing the negative effects.


Paul Byerly August 28, 2015 at 10:30 am

@Feeling Hopeful – I was not attributing motives or thoughts to you, just following something to another idea/rant.
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Paul Byerly August 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

One thing I’ve heard from several men is how their wife shares things she should not on social media. Basically they are accusing her of gossip, which the Bible clearly calls a sin.
Of course men and women both do this in various ways, and it’s wrong regardless of the method.
Another issue is sharing of intimate details, including sexual information. Again, both men and women do it, and it’s disrespectful at best. The danger of social media is it’s easier to go too far because it’s not done face to face. That, and once it’s out there, it can never be taken back. While sharing what someone told you is hearsay, sharing something you wrote is hard to dismiss or claim it was misunderstood.
Plenty of people have regret something they put on line. May we all have wisdom i this area
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Henri August 27, 2015 at 7:35 pm

It is an addiction. And I bet in years to come, if it isn’t happening already, there will be therapy, counseling and self-help books to over come it.

I don’t see it similar to porn. I understand what Paul was communicating in that men are saying this because they don’t understand the damages porn can cause to women, perhaps not much beyond women “feeling replaced”.
I will say thought that it is an unhealthy emotional connection that is being built. The damages are social, for all the irony of it being “social media”, we have forgotten how to actually socialize.

And if you think its bad now, think of the kids growing up who think this is all just normal, because they’ve grown up in a world of technology. Not like most of us, who grew up without it all, and slowly having been learning it. Probably very similar to how not so readily available porn was decades (centuries) ago, but now its everywhere, and we have a generation who thinks its all normal.


Paul Byerly August 28, 2015 at 10:33 am

@Henri – You make a good, and scary point about those who are growing up knowing nothing else. I’ve watched young couples at restaurants go through an entire meal with no words spoken to each other as both type on their phones nearly non-stop.
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H October 23, 2015 at 6:23 pm

As I lay here alone in bed, reading this article, my wife is in the other room on Facebook. She rarely comes to bed before I have long since fallen asleep. I have spent more nights than I could count lying awake waiting for her only to drift off and wake up disappointed in the morning. We haven’t even made it to ten years yet but this trend started about month two of our marriage. She just isn’t interested in me and I doubt she ever has been. I feel alone and abandoned by the only woman I have ever truly loved (and the only woman I have ever been with as I did wait for marriage).


Paul Byerly October 24, 2015 at 7:45 am

@H – I’m so sorry.
I’ve seen it suggested facebook can be an addiction. While that may be a misuse of the word addiction, it does seem accurate for some folks.
Maybe an intervention would help, but odds are the people she trusts enough to listen are her facebook friends.
If you have not told her clearly how you feel and where this is leading, please do so.
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H October 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

I wouldn’t consider it an addiction. It is more of an avoidance tactic. I am always available as a willing partner when she has desires that need satisfaction but once that is over, I am no longer important. If it wasn’t Facebook, it would be something else. I have tried talking about it with her but it always ends in an argument followed by 2 months of denial. I have been reading many marriage sites like yours trying to work on myself first. I appreciate your prompt response. I just hope someone else may be helped by what I have shared. My situation is not likely to change until she decides to meet me halfway. In God’s hands now.


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