My husband and I have started arguing a lot about how much I look at Facebook, even though I only check it a couple of times a day. I think what my husband is really upset about is that I see what my friends’ husbands do for them — stuff he never does for me! They get the flowers, spa treatments, romantic dinners, and surprise getaways. Now, we are on a tight budget, and I know that, so he couldn’t shower me with luxurious treats even if he wanted to. The problem is: he doesn’t seem to want to! Should I have to give up Facebook just because I’m now getting a reality check on how humdrum our marriage is? Why shouldn’t I expect more from my husband?
– Wanting More
Dear Wanting More,
Facebook can be a good thing — except when it’s not. And one way it is not, is that it can completely mess with people’s expectations. You really think that what you see on Facebook is a “reality check?” That’s like saying that what you see in a Disney movie is a “reality check” that you should have a 14-inch waistline and if you don’t… something is wrong.
Recent research from Slater Gordon has found that social media like Facebook can play a role in dividing even the happiest couples. Why? Because social media presents a completely false sense of reality, “pointing out” what’s supposedly lacking in your life and relationships in comparison to others.
When we become dissatisfied with our life or loved ones based on what we see online from other people, the problem really isn’t about Facebook or Instagram or anything else: it is our perspective. We’re allowing ourselves to compare our every-day life, with all of its stresses and troubles, to someone else’s carefully-chosen highlights. And the choice to do allow ourselves to buy into the lie – or not — is entirely up to us.
One of the most telling results from the research I did for my book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, was finding this one reason the happy couples were so happy: they refused to allow themselves to have unrealistic expectations of their spouses. Instead, they looked for what their spouse did do well, and were grateful for it – no matter how large or small. In fact, in 8 out of 10 highly happy marriages, each spouse gave credit to their mate for the happiness in their marriage, essentially saying “if it weren’t for my spouse, we wouldn’t be nearly as happy in our relationship.” But in most of the so-so marriages, the reverse perspective reigned: each spouse would take credit for any happiness there was in the relationship, and then think, “My spouse is the reason we’re not doing as well as we could, and I am the only reason this marriage is holding together!”
So your husband doesn’t appear to measure up to some of the super-husbands you see on Facebook. You know what? No man can truly measure up to some of the fantasies presented on social media — including those same men! (In the same way that even the most beautiful actresses don’t truly measure up to the airbrushed, Photoshopped pictures of them presented on magazine covers.) If we want a healthy marriage, we cannot let ourselves dwell on the romance-novel-worthy illusions. Instead, for me, I want to concentrate on my husband’s truly positive qualities — those things he does that amaze me, that I really appreciate, that no one else can do as well — then I am incredibly grateful for him instead of rating him against the perceived Supermen touted on Facebook. Which, again, are just an illusion: they are normal men. Normal men with weaknesses as well as strengths.
Right now, you’re buying into a lie. A lie that says these other husbands are better than yours because all you see are their positives.
For the sake of your marriage, you need to wake up. And start doing the equivalent of a social media filter on behalf of your own husband. What are the things your husband does that are wonderful? What “picture” (so to speak) would you post on Facebook that would show him at his best? Is it the picture of him pushing your daughter on the swing so you could get an hour of much-needed rest? Post that in your own mind! Is it the description of how he comes home from an exhausting day of work and still goes out and mows the lawn? Remind yourself of that!
Look for the things he does do that are amazing — and let him know them. Then even if there are some real issues to work out in your marriage, if you will switch your perspective like this, you will see all the ways he truly is your superhero and all those other husbands don’t measure up to him!
Do you want Shaunti to share these life-changing truths at your church or event? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.