Chivalry isn’t dead, but it may be flatlining on your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Social media has helped change how people think about communication, says Linda Wing, the co-founder of the Relationship Center of St. Louis.
Just look at celebrity relationships on social media. In March, reports of a breakup between Australian pop star Iggy Azalea and her NBA fiancé, Nick Young, were revealed after an online video surfaced in which he admitted cheating. It escalated in June when Azalea went to Twitter to announce their split, saying home security cameras had caught him with someone else. He responded — of course — via Twitter.
That's life ... hate me or love me I'm still going to love life man— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) July 2, 2016
Twitter is just one of the social mediums where couples are finding it tough to communicate. The “instant” nature of it can be demanding.
“The expectation is you’ll be ready to communicate whenever I’m ready,” said Wing, a couples counselor since 1988.
That need for instant communication has caused issues in some relationships she sees. Wing has watched the growing impact of social media and the digital world in how people meet and interact. She works with couples who range from their early 20s to well into their 60s.
Sometimes Wing has couples who come into her office with their cellphones to show her evidence of one partner’s promiscuous online behavior. Occasionally, her clients will ask what exactly is considered cheating.
“I’ll tell them that an affair is anything you do or say that you wouldn’t do if your significant other were there,” Wing said.
At the Relationship Center, she said, she advocates for transparency. After infidelity is discovered in a relationship, she suggests that partners give each other access to their phones as a part of the healing process. She also suggests that married couples share a Facebook page.
“If you’re in a married relationship, if there’s a reason you don’t want your significant other to see how you’re communicating (with others online), then there’s a problem,” Wing said.
So does she share a Facebook page with her husband? No, but she said she wasn’t tech-savvy. She said her son put her on Facebook and “I don’t put anything on there. I see my grandkids’ pictures.”
Because social media is an integral part of most people’s lives, experts say that setting boundaries will help maintain a healthy relationship.
“For people in new relationships, it helps to quantify at the outset what the relationship policy will be as it regards social media presence,” said Change Inc. owner Ryan Thomas Neace.
Neace is a counselor who founded Change Inc. in St. Louis in 2013. He believes that for couples — new and old — to move forward, they need to ask questions such as:
• Do we share our dating status online for others to see?
• Does the fact that we’re in a relationship mean that we should suspend or delete our dating site profiles? (There’s a distinction. Some people may see suspending as casting doubt on whether a relationship will last.)
• What level of influence do I wish to give my partner about what I post?
• Are there restrictions for social media postings out of consideration for a dating partner?
Neace said he believed people in relationships should cut their partners some slack when it comes to social media.
“For example, if you’re regularly feeling jealous or suspicious about your partner’s interactions, it may indicate a more fundamental lack of trust, or some previous unhealed wound between the two of you,” Neace said.
When a couple decides to split, there’s a social media cleanup that can get nasty.
“I think there are a lot of people who try to torture each other with Facebook (after the breakup), so they feel like they’re winning,” said Wing. “I think that really hurts exes.”
In celebrity-land, superstar singer Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris ended their relationship via an announcement wishing each other well. Then came some cryptic Harris posts and a purging of a year’s worth of coupledom photos from Instagram and Twitter.
Wing and Neace have seen some former couples use social media to seek revenge or stalk.
“It is almost unilaterally counterproductive for both parties after a recent breakup, but especially for the one doing the stalking,” said Neace.
The best litmus test for whether you’re stalking?
“Ask, ‘How do I feel afterward?’ My clients typically feel rotten,” Neace said.
The idea of being friends after a breakup isn’t impossible, but a timeout — including social media — usually is needed first.
“The difficulty is that even when relationships end badly, most people desire to one day become friends again,” said Neace. “But the operative phrase there is ‘one day.’”