Till Tweet Do Us Part

Now it’s certain. If General David Petraeus couldn’t keep his emails private, then neither can you.

He allegedly tried staying under the radar by hiding pillow talk with his paramour in the drafts folder of a secret Gmail account. But any dim-witted teenager knows better. If you’re looking for trouble, you will likely find it. And thanks to email, Facebook, Twitter and texting, it’s easier than ever to find trouble in paradise.

Couples are coming into therapy steaming about emails, texts, tweets and Facebook posts they discovered on their partners’ smartphones, computers and tablets. Smartphones and the Internet have changed the way we obtain information and draw innuendos and have opened up issues of privacy that affect our most important and intimate relationships.

A front page article in the New York Times reveals that courts are grappling with the issue of cell phone privacy in criminal cases. Can a cop search a suspect’s cell phone for incriminating evidence without a search warrant?

What about the expectation of privacy in our personal lives, with our spouses or lovers? Does a spouse have a right to privacy even if there is suspicion of infidelity? Couples are wrangling with these issues and are having difficulty drawing boundaries and making sense of what they discover.

I counsel couples that checking their spouse’s email accounts or text messages is a violation of trust. Your partner’s emails, tweets and posts are private. And, besides the point anyway.

Most couples know when there is trouble in a marriage: contempt, sarcasm or indifference becomes the norm. Connection is lost. You argue more than you make love. You start taking each other for granted. Maybe you even become suspicious of an affair.

Problems in relationships predate the digital era. Diverting attention away from a problem to a third party is as old as the hills. Twitter, Facebook and other digital modes of communication provide an outlet for distraction and avoidance. If you sense that something is wrong, talk to your spouse about what you are feeling, and any suspicions you may have.

Marriage is about two people in the end, after all. Couples are helped by confronting issues in their marriage directly. They key to intimacy is trusting what you feel in your heart, and not what you read in an email or tweet.


More posts about relationships:
Learning from Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin: The Post-Scandal Playbook (April 24, 2013)
Working Families (March 5, 2013)
New Year, New Sex (January 10, 2013)
Me and My Smartphone–A Love Affair (August 7, 2012)
Does Couples Therapy Work? (March 21, 2012)
Marital Pre Nup (February 8, 2012)
What makes a marriage viable—or not? In a word: trust. (February 6, 2012)