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Social media may not seem like a habit that has much of an impact on your relationship, but the way you and your partner agree—or disagree—to use it can go a long way toward the health and longevity of your marriage. From spending phone-free time together to purging your friend list, these social media rules from Laura Heck, LMFT, a Salt Lake City marriage and family therapist, can give you a solid place to start.
“Fights are generally conversations we should have had sooner, so take the time to talk about your preferences now so that you aren’t managing the discomforts of breaking a boundary later,” she says. “Most boundaries start off rigid and flex over time. You’ll learn one another’s preferences through a series of small, corrective conversations.”
Related: Three Reasons to Take a Social Media Detox During Your Honeymoon
1. Get acquainted with each other’s social media friends.
The first activity Heck suggests to her couples is going through each other’s friends list. “Pretend like you are at a dinner party and meeting these social media friends for the first time, getting to know who they are and their place in your partner’s world,” says Heck. This gives you an opportunity to ask about anyone you don’t know—is this a freshman year lab partner who now posts amazing travel photos, or an old fraternity brother who can’t stop bringing up those wild college nights?
2. Clean up your own friend list.
As you review their friends—and your own—decide whether each is a “friend of the marriage.” “Friends of the marriage are going to be people in your life that respect and uphold the boundaries and vows of your marriage,” says Heck. “They are rooting for the success of your relationship and are actively encouraging your well-being.”
When you find someone who isn’t, be ready to hit the unfollow or unfriend button. “If your partner is uncomfortable with you being friends with your old college buddy who resents her, or perhaps an ex-girlfriend you haven’t spoken to in years, this isn’t a debate,” says Heck. “It’s social media versus your marriage—no comparison.”
Unfriend (or at least unfollow) people who are directing your attention away from your marriage. “You may come across a few people who are not friends of the marriage and need to be purged, and it will probably feel pretty great to go through and clean up your old ‘single’ social media account that is full of all those Tinder dates turned into three-week flights,” says Heck. “You don’t need to know when they got a new puppy or went to Napa…delete!”
3. Set rules for disconnecting.
You don’t need to completely abandon your social media presence, but you should talk about how and when you’re both willing to set your devices aside—not just during important conversations, but during downtime, too. “I am a huge fan of disconnecting from all electronic devices completely in moments where you potentially could connect meaningfully with your partner,” says Heck.
Car rides are one example: You may be a bored passenger, but scrolling through emails instead of pointing out landmarks or chatting about what’s on the radio is a missed opportunity to connect. “The message is: ‘I’m not interested in you and what you have to say, so I’ll be over here scrolling through endless posts until we arrive at our destination.'”
Mealtimes and vacations are two other times you should clarify: “Meals are a hard no with social media,” says Heck, but she admits vacations might offer room for compromise. “You are together for extended periods of time and there are going to be times when you need a break or want to catch up with the outside world.”