Do you constantly have your nose buried in a Facebook app? Is one of you obsessed with Twitter? Is the other an Instagram junkie? For many, social media is tempting and addictive, and it could tank your marriage before it really even begins. Some couples, in an effort to protect their relationship from technological implosion, are adding social media clauses to their prenuptial agreements. Do you need a contract to prevent Facebook and its BFFs from tearing you and your significant other apart?
The proof is in the posts
Social media has become so pervasive that researchers are conducting serious studies about whether its usage leads to marital dissatisfaction. While a study from Utah State University implies that couples who have similar social media habits are happier and more stable, it also discovered that husbands who use Facebook and other networking websites more than their wives reported less marital stability and more conflict.
“Social media is certainly one area that couples need to have a conversation about before marriage to set expectations and boundaries,” says Heather Trick, an attorney with Jordan Law in Orlando. “Now that so much personal information is posted on social media, I know couples who have very stringent agreements about what gets posted about the other person, whether photos of children get posted, and how certain accounts need to be accessible to the significant other.”
Is it the time spent on social media that’s causing problems between couples? Or is it the information that’s being posted that creates rifts? Perhaps a little bit of both. “Social media has become significant fuel in the divorce fire,” says Trick.
On the defense with a social media prenup
Plenty of marriages end in divorce, so for some, putting media rules in place sooner rather than later is just good common sense. “The reality is that break-ups or divorces can be among the most intensely emotional times of anyone’s life. Mix that with social media and it can be a recipe for disaster,” says James Goodnow, attorney with Fennemore Craig in Phoenix. “Although they may seem unnecessary or even bizarre, social media prenups may have the effect of deterring nasty, negative behavior that both former spouses would end up regretting.”
What if you got married before the dawn of social media and you fear the reaper making its way into your union via a social media app? Even if you’re already hitched, you can put some rules in place. “Couples can absolutely amend an existing prenup, but both parties must agree,” says J. Sterling Chillico, attorney with Danko Law LLC in Charleston, South Carolina. “As long as it is not illegal or against public policy, couples can contract for pretty much whatever they want.”
Break the social media addiction for love
Social media addiction and smartphone addiction are very real things. Addictions to drugs, gambling, or alcohol have made marriages implode—social media addiction may soon find its way onto the list. If you can give up the liking and tweeting and posting completely, then marital contentment may be easier to maintain; individual survey results published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior predict that a person who does not use social media is over 11 percent happier in their marriage than a person who uses social media heavily.
However, if you’re not game for giving up Facebook entirely, you and your partner might want to talk about what you both consider to be acceptable online time limits and behavior—such as whether or not it’s OK to friend or communicate with an ex via social media—for the sake of your marriage. “There’s no one-size-fits all formula for any couple. The question of prenups and what’s included in them is intensely personal,” says Goodnow.