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Facebook all the time? You could be damaging your relationship

The more time you spend on Facebook, the greater the chances you'll argue about it with your partner or spouse, according to a new study. And the main culprit? Re-connecting with exes and old flames, of course.

Researchers at the University of Missouri, the University of Hawaii and St. Mary's University surveyed Facebook users aged 18 to 82 and found that high levels of Facebook use predicted Facebook-related conflict – which then predicted serious consequences such as cheating, breakup, and divorce.

Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they were to monitor their partner's Facebook account, according to the statement. But it now appears that those frequent users may themselves be at risk for reconnecting with previous partners online and opening the door to cheating or jealousy related conflict.

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Newer relationships are the most vulnerable, too.

"These findings held only for couples who had been in relationships of three years or less," researcher Russell Clayton said in a statement. "This suggests that Facebook may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured. On the other hand, participants who have been in relationships for longer than three years may not use Facebook as often, or may have more matured relationships, and therefore Facebook use may not be a threat or concern."

Facebook may even be the medium that brought them together. Recent research into the short-term success of marriage matches made online found that in a sample of more than 19,000 people who married between 2005 and 2012, 35 per cent of people had met online. About a fifth, or 3.5 per cent, of them credited social media networks such as Twitter or Facebook for their courtship.

But clearly even social media savvy couples can face emotional stumbling blocks over their time online. K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, the husband and wife authors of Facebook and Your Marriage, have outlined behaviour to avoid on their website.

Many of them bear repeating for those who may be spending too much time on Facebook, like rule number one: Don't traipse down memory lane with an ex-flame.

Also, watch out for flirting or friending people who directly or indirectly threaten the marriage – even wacky family members. Don't air dirty laundry, of course.

And a more subtle one they say to watch for: Refusing to talk about what happens on Facebook with your spouse:

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"Taking Facebook off the table for discussion indicates that there could be something that someone is hiding. Stonewalling on Facebook (or any other issue) is fatal for a marriage," they write on their website.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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