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I’ve been dealing a lot with affairs lately in my work with couples. And boy, all three of these were started with, you guessed it: social media. It starts on Facebook, reconnecting old flames, and evolves to a full-blown affair. Of course, social media is a huge blessing in many ways; how fantastic that we can stay connected with family, colleagues, and even old friends! But sometimes old relationships can present an unfortunate temptation. 

Social media just makes it so easy. It used to be you’d have to go to a high school reunion to reconnect with your crush. Now, a message from them just pops up with a flattering little, “Hi again!” No one can see it but you. It’s as easy as checking your phone; it’s instantaneous. Which is why it’s so important to have a few safeguards in place.

I’m not saying reconnecting with old friends is bad. Of course not. But when that connection happens, ask yourself a few questions: Would you be having this conversation if someone was looking over your shoulder, watching you type? Would you be willing to tell your spouse about this connection? What about your children, parents, or close friends — do you feel comfortable sharing this conversation with them? If any of those questions brings a cringe to your heart, that nervous little nod of discomfort that says, ‘no,’ then most likely you shouldn’t be having this conversation at all — and you should tell your partner right away, discomfort or no.

One safeguard to consider is for you and your partner to have open access to each other’s accounts: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, your phone, all of it. This isn’t about snooping, and that’s not what I want to encourage — this is about having a culture of openness in your marriage. Be a completely open book with your partner. When you find yourself doing things in secret, that’s a huge red flag. It might be the time to really seek help — just make sure you do so BEFORE anything drastic happens. Talk to a counselor.

Safeguards for your relationship are like wearing a helmet while you’re riding a bike. Do you have to wear it? No. You can ride your bike without it, sure. But what’s wiser? If you get in an accident, you could damage your brain permanently. Having these safeguards is a helmet for your relationships. You can succeed without them, but if you get into the tiniest wreck, it could destroy your relationship forever. The pain of healing can take years.