Another day, another Facebook engagement announcement. And then come the Instagram engagement photos followed by the YouTube wedding day videos. You can’t even go onto Pinterest without seeing rings and bouquets pass by and now social media relationships are like show off.
Weddings are following you around the internet, and you can’t escape. It makes you hear wedding bells and long for the day when your man will pop the question.
When will it be your turn? When will you get to announce to the world that he finally put a ring on it?
But before you start following wedding planners on Instagram, I want to make sure you are focusing on what matters: You have a partner who is loving and supportive and a partnership that is healthy and primed for your “happily ever after.”
If you remember anything about this piece, remember this: Healthy relationships are more about what happens behind closed doors than what happens in front of a camera.
Social media relationship effects on others
By now, you see and feel the effects of social media on your daily life — and especially your relationship. Why does social media have such an impact? Because it encourages you to compare other people’s relationships to your own. And not only do you compare yourself to the blessed lives of others, you create “stories” of other people’s lives based upon perception. You see their picture-perfect images on screen, and you imagine that those perfect smiles and selfies are indicators of your friends’ perfect lives.
But that perception is based on partial truths. When you create a story based purely on your perception of someone else’s social media newsfeed, you fall down a judgment spiral of comparing your real and honest relationship to the idealized relationships you see on social media.
And that is simply a prescription for pain.
Here’s why: When you begin to compare your very real relationship to your perception of others’ relationships — especially based on their curated and posed social media images — you put pressure on yourself, your partner and your relationship to live up to those images.
And this is what I want you to realize: You will never, ever live up to an image. Because it’s just that, an image. It is just your perception of someone else’s relationship based on one split second of their day. You can’t make your relationship into the picture-ready moments you see on social media.
Now I know this question is in your head because my clients ask it all the time, “Suntia, there are good relationships. How can you say they are not real?”
Are social media relationship real?
I am not saying that the relationships you see on social media are not real. They may be happy couples in healthy relationships.
What I am saying is in every relationship there are challenges and moments that will not be spotlighted on social media. There can be arguments and annoyances and inequality and infidelity and dishonesty. When you compare your relationship with only the perfect moments you see, you come up with an irrational belief about someone else’s relationship.
For example, if you and your partner cannot find time to go out together or find the resources to take a trip together, but you see a couple on Instagram documenting their trips, date nights and mountain-top adventures. You know that couple. The one who constantly posts pictures of exotic destinations. The one whose romance seems effortless. While you adore them as people, the Facebook posts of them snuggling at concerts and on picnics fill you with resentment. Every time you see another cliff dive or beach selfie, you latch onto their happiness — and your unhappiness. You feel like your inability to spend quality time with your partner is consuming and destroying the relationship.
If only you two took more trips, all your problems would be solved, right? Then you go a step further, and you start highlighting more of your partner’s flaws because he is not living up to the picture-perfect partner you compare him to.
When it comes down to it, your perception is that other couples are traveling and happy, while you are not. Scrolling through Instagram puts you in a negative space, which leads to escalated arguments with your partner.
Let’s pause and rethink the situation.
Yes, the couple you see on Instagram is traveling together and making time for date nights, but do you know how they handle their finances, in-laws, children, careers or communication? Do you know if there is any infidelity?
No, because these challenges are not posted on social media.
If the couples you see are facing any of these challenges, does it make them any less happy? No, but it does make them more real. And you are focusing only on one aspect of your relationship based upon the limited knowledge you have about their relationship.
Social media is a great place to see and connect with others, but we have to understand that it is a place where people come to show their best selves. And sometimes I see couples using filters and pretty photos to actually hide from or avoid real issues in their relationship … but that’s another post!
And beyond that self-judgment and relational pressure, comparisons on social media can lead to anxiety that something is wrong with you or that you are not where you need to be in life. As I see with my clients, that anxiety can cause you to feel like you need to rush into a high-paying or cool-sounding job, into vacations or having children, or into a relationship or marriage.
Marriage, weddings, engagements… These can become particularly eye-catching and envy-inducing on social media.
If you want to get married, I think that is an amazing desire. However, you should not long for a wedding just because you saw five people get engaged on Facebook last week.
But I get it. Social media engagement and wedding posts can make you go all shades of jealous. Especially after you realize (after a few hours of social media stalking) that those couples have been in their relationships for a shorter period of time than you. It’s enough to make you start putting pressure on your partner. It’s enough to make you feel anxiety about where your relationship is going. It’s enough to make you question whether you are good enough. And it’s all because you are basing your relationship on a perceived story of another relationship.
So instead of thinking about Instagram-worthy engagement photos, what should you concentrate on?
You should acknowledge your relationship challenges and focus on overcoming those challenges. Whether you see a couples counselor or therapist like myself, or you make long-term, constructive changes within your relationship, you should work on showing gratitude for the relationship you have while also creating positive changes.
You want a real relationship that shows the journey of love and that lasts a lifetime — and I want that for you. I want your “I do” to be the best decision you have ever made. But you have to work for it. You have to keep the authenticity of your relationship. Remember not to lose your power or stray from your own path. You are on a journey in life, and you must ensure that your goals are what you really want and not just something that looks good on social media.
Is it fun to see other couples traveling and being happy? Yes! Is it OK to see what other couples are doing and then to be inspired? Yes!
But their relationships are not a guideline that you have to follow. They are not the one standard for happy couples. The experiences they are posting online are fun, sexy and cool, but that’s definitely not all a relationship is. If you see something on Instagram that you want to try with your partner, talk to him or her about it, put your own spin on it and do it because it will bring you joy and happiness (not because of how many likes it’ll get you).
So as your friends announce engagements or post wedding photos online, I want you to work on feeling happy for them — without letting it bring you to a place of self-judgement or jealousy. Remember, the energy you give out is the energy you get back. And then understand that getting married is wonderful but a healthy partnership is the first — and forever — goal.
Don’t get stuck on what you see. Focus on what’s real to you.
If you need guidance and expertise as you work to make your relationship better than any Facebook post, I encourage you to book a session with me. Our sessions will be a judgment-free zone where you can talk about your relationship with your partner and yourself. If would like to want book an in-office or virtual appointment with me go here.