That subject line is a killer isn't it? I couldn't decide between that and "I know this is super long but it's worth it."
A recent event has inspired me to write about the blurred boundaries that social media presents and why the human condition sets us up to fall prey to them.
So here's me, all bright eyed snow-white-ish "just want to make the world a happy place" kind of girl. I love to meet people. I am fascinated by other people actually. I love to KNOW about other people- what makes them tick, what lights them up, their divinely appointed talents and deep-seeded passions.
It's the kind of intense interest that dating coaches suggest you show in the other party.
BEEP BEEP BEEP! Red flag. You see where this is going right?
Random person: "Hi! I love your posts. They really make my day."
Me: "Wow, thanks that's so nice of you! Tell me about yourself! What do you love to do?"
Random person: "I'm an artist and I dabble in writing. Married but it's tough, etc etc."
Me: "I hear you! Well it was great to "meet" you."
Random person then writes a few more times and each time I politely respond and even enjoy some of the conversation as random person has a pretty great sense of humor. Then around day 6, inevitably, one of two things happen. The conversation takes a weird turn, or, I open my inbox to see a picture of random person's private parts. True story.
I x'd out right before my daughter walked in the room and later, of course, chastised random person for his actions.
And then my internal chatter starts. (Along with my internal shame.)
"Oh my God. WHY!?!??! How did this happen. Did I allow this to happen? Was I too nice? Did my politeness actually sound flirty? Is this MY fault? Was there something in these conversations that I needed? Did I lead him on by joking around? But joking around is what I DO!"
All over the world, every second of the day, people are rather blindly starting "relationships" via social media, many without even realizing it. And before long, what started out as an innocent "nice to meet you, loved your post" turns into something much more, something people start to attach themselves to, something you have to explain to your angry spouse!
Feelings are hurt. Words are fired that can't be taken back.
Luckily in my case, I'm pretty self-aware and thanks to my parents, I have a healthy self-worth. I was able to stop this in its tracks!
But for many people, that's not the case, and the idea of being missed by someone half way across the world, someone who always finds you beautiful because your profile pic is all they have to go on, feels pretty damn good.
I could go on and on but here's the bottom line that might get me some unsubscribes.
In most cases (I said MOST) infidelity, of any kind, is not the cause of an unhappy relationship, it is the RESULT.
Human beings NEED connection. Ever read that story about those orphaned babies who were never held and failed to thrive? Human connection and human touch are as important to our health as food and water.
Social media is a haven for people who are lacking human connection. The mask that Facebook allows us to wear is the perfect breeding ground for connection to bloom. And sure, every once in a while on your internet home page you'll see a video of some cheesy ballpark engagement between two people who met online, but in a lot of cases, that happy ending never takes place because the people in question are committed (and I use that term loosely) to other people.
So, in essence, these social media "connections" that are formed between two people sometimes not even on the same continent, are surface at best. Sure they may placate us for a bit, but they can never become what we need them to be because OTHER elements are not present. Elements of touch, of partnership, of a shared vision and shared execution of that vision, of falling asleep together and waking up entwined and at peace. (Don't get me wrong. Plenty of people have met their spouses online and gone on to have amazing relationships, but in many of those cases, they were free to do so and not trying to passive aggressively fill voids that weren't being met.)
That's what missing from so many of these gray areas -- peace. Peace in knowing that you've forged something with someone based on honesty. Something that's free to blossom and deepen without the anxiety of wondering who might find out.
Because people always find out.
And here's where a gorgeous opportunity lies.
An opportunity to transcend our egos and deepen a connection with the person who is right in front of us.
We can begin to do this in two simple ways:
1. We take responsibility. In most cases, when our partner's eyes and hearts have wandered it's because they have become painfully aware of their Need Gap. Pretend you have a garden. And when you first plant this garden you cherish it. It's your favorite hobby. You are careful to make sure you water it. You spend time in it. You are fulfilled by watching it grow. And then life gets busy. Something awful happens. Maybe work gets tough and you get distracted and forget to water it. It begins to decay. Luckily, your neighbor, who has always admired your garden, begins to notice its sad state and decides to do something about it. Neighbor waters your garden religiously, restoring it back to health as best he or she can.
You have a choice. You can be SUPER pissed that someone else trespassed on your yard and watered your garden or you can be grateful that they kept your garden alive while you, for whatever reason, couldn't. You can choose to get self-aware and to think about where or when you may have left the door open. That gap between what your partner needs and what you give them is their Need Gap. And keeping that gap in the door closed is the key to a committed, fulfilling relationship.
2. The second way you can transcend is to break the "treat others how you want to be treated" rule. In relationships, this rule is kind of bullshit. The key to closing the need gap isn't to treat your partner how you want to be treated, it's to treat them how THEY want to be treated. My husband and I have walked this slippery slope many many times.
Example: Husband spends all morning cleaning my car while I try to work and simultaneously care for three kids, one of whom has the stomach flu. Husband is then pissed that I don't show gratitude for my sparkly windshield. But here's the thing - I don't cherish a sparkly windshield. I cherish partnership. I cherish help.
One of the most popular books of all times on this subject is The 5 Love Languages. I haven't read the whole thing, but you get the gist. We all speak a different love language and the key is to find out what language (meaning what needs) your partner has and to fill those so that your partner feels loved. And not only find out, but to continue to be curious about those needs as they will change and evolve over time. I LOVED that my husband couldn't keep his hands off of me when we were engaged. Now I just want him to empty the f*cking dishwasher and deal with the toddler meltdown without being asked to! ASK. Find out what your partner cherishes. Do they need you to hold their hand in public? Do they need their alone time? Do they need you to just let them be who they are and not judge? Find out. Endless curiosity is one of the most under-credited tools that can keep you out of divorce court.
3. Ok I said there were two but I lied. There are 3. GET SELF AWARE AND BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. When random penis pic person and I had our conversations, he always referred to me as "babe." I had seen him refer to other people as babe so I justified it as OK by saying "that's just how he talks." But if I were REALLY honest, I LIKED being called babe. It was something my husband USED to call me until suddenly, one day, he didn't anymore. I always took the abrupt withdrawal of that term of endearment very personally. As though his love for me had changed and I no longer deserved the nickname. To this day, I haven't solved that mystery, but it illuminated to me that I very much need sweet words of affirmation. Now it's up to me to communicate that to my husband and up to him to do something about it or run the risk of a neighbor jumping in and watering that need.
Once I tell him, the ball's in his court. If he chooses to not use sweet, affirming words, he technically has no right to be shocked if I start hearing (and enjoying them) from someone else.
And likewise, if he is honest and open about HIS needs, I can choose to meet them or he run the risk of his gap being filled by a hot nanny.
So it's pretty simple. If you WANT to stay happy in your relationship, do these things:
Find out what your partner cherishes.
Give it to them.
Figure out what YOU cherish.
Tell your partner so that they can give it YOU.
Stay tuned for the next installment in my "Is Divorce the New Black?" series. (Yes, I just decided at this moment, sitting in Panera, that this should be a series.)
Cheers to finding and closing the Need Gap, to love, and to the pretty great "cable after dark" sex lives that could be happening if we could all just get our heads out of our asses.