To Friend or Not to Friend: Facebook Boundaries With Your Former Spouse
Social media can support or tear apart your ability to effectively Co-Parent with your former spouse. On the one hand, you are trying to push aside hurt feelings from the past and focus on the present day raising your children together; on the other hand, one post from your former spouse can tear down all your resolve to do so in one moment. For example, a common complaint is that former partners decide to do something that they absolutely would not agree to do when they were married to you — and then post it on social media sending you into a spiral of anger. Begged her to go skydiving with you when you were married and she absolutely refused? Now you see a picture of her skydiving — and worse yet with some muscular guy that you don’t know but could be that trainer at the gym you said was always flirting with her! Asked your former spouse to help pay for an expensive extra-curricular program for your child that in your mind is a “once-in-a lifetime opportunity” and he says that money is too tight? Wait until you see a picture of him at the most expensive restaurant in town, or with a picture of a new motorcycle he just purchased! He refused to throw away his old, ratty “dad jeans” when you were married to him and now you see him in a hot new pair of expensive jeans next to his new boyfriend? BOOM! In one moment, all of your efforts to remain positive, neutral and focused on the present are gone as you move into an emotional rage that threatens to undo all your hard work as an amicable Co-Parent.
For all these reasons, sometimes being friends with a former spouse on social media can be dangerous and lead to negative feelings. Your former spouse may not intend to hurt you, and may be completely unaware that something they are posting is hitting a nerve, but it happens. However, being connected on social media can also be a positive way to share pictures of the children and keep the other parent updated on fun activities they are doing with the children when the other parent may be missing them. Children seeing that their parents can get along on social media as well as in person can be positive as well, especially if the parents leave “likes” and positive comments on each other’s postings.
If you decide that the two of you will remain “friends” on social media, it is important to set some ground rules so that boundaries are established early:
- Both parents should be in agreement that this is comfortable for them and accept the fact that this feeling may change over time and either parent should feel safe to change their mind over time.
- Parents should never make a negative comment publicly online about something their former spouse posts, and definitely not in person to the children (and eye rolling counts as saying something negative!).
- Parents should consider the other person’s feelings as much as possible when posting about their lives and children. If you know your former spouse cannot stand the idea of their child jumping on trampolines, don’t post pictures of the children doing this activity. You will get a phone call within moments — ruining everyone’s good time! If you have decided to try something new you refused to do when you were married, consider whether or not it is wise to brag about it online, or at least consider giving your former spouse the “heads up” first.
- If you have a new romantic partner, let your former partner know about that person before you start posting pictures. The same goes for your children! Even if you are not ready to introduce your children to the new person in your life, do not post pictures of you together without speaking to your children about this change in your “relationship status”.
- If you decide that staying connected on social media is no longer comfortable for you and may be causing too many conflicts, contact your former spouse and let them know before you drop them online. They may be hurt and upset, but it is much better than finding out on their own.
- Remember whoever you stay friends with on social media connected with your former spouse will probably share and forward information to them even if you are not connected, so post with caution. The same goes for your children.
- Never ever disparage your former spouse or complain about your divorce problems online. Not only will this break down any positive Co-Parenting relationship you have developed with your former partner, but your children WILL find this one day. Imagine your little five-year old at age sixteen opening up a website and seeing terrible things being written by one of their parents about the other. Even if the situation has improved between the two of you over the years, your child stumbling upon this will be difficult — and you know it will be during their teen years when they are miserable enough just trying to survive adolescence!
- If you are not sure about something you should post — go with your gut and don’t put it out there. Better safe than sorry!
Remaining connected on social media with your former partner is a deeply personal choice that really depends on the unique situation you are in together. As long as you set boundaries early on, there is no harm in staying connected, but do not feel obligated to do so. After all, you are each an adult and need to stay connected for the sake of parenting, but you can choose to disconnect in other ways if that works best for your ability to move forward.