While social media can bring people together, it can also come between them. It can cause jealousy, disagreements, missed connections and feelings of isolation that can affect your relationship. We’re seeing more and more couples coming to therapy with disagreements over social media, but there are things you can do to minimise its impact.

How social media can affect your relationship

One of the main issues with social media in a relationship is when your partner is spending time on their phone while you’re trying to connect with them. For example, when you’re having dinner together or even when you’re both watching a movie. Even though they’re right next to you, it can seem like they’re miles away. This in itself feels like rejection, let alone worrying about who or what they’re so engaged with.

But social media can also cause jealousy on both sides, such as when partners ‘like’ pictures of other people or if other people express interest in your partner. Past experiences, values and beliefs mean that what we view as ‘acceptable’ can vary widely when it comes to social media use. This can lead to confusion, disagreements or an avoidance of communicating. Interactions on social media can take less than a second and yet can leave a partner feeling confused or betrayed.

Top tips

Agree boundaries and openly communicate how you want to handle the use of social media in the relationship. What are the expectations on both sides? You may have different views and so exploring these and actively listening is an important part of getting onto the same page.

If one of you feels uncomfortable about how the other is using social media, explore whether this is an issue outside of social media, at a deeper level. Ask yourself why you feel like social media is impacting your relationship. Is it because of your own insecurities? Sometimes when you’re feeling good within yourself, then you might not react in the same way.

Reflect together over how you can practise having a ‘real life’ connection over an internet connection. If using social media creates a negative feeling in your own relationship through an increase in comparison - reflect on how helpful that is for you and, if needed, set some boundaries for how you want to engage with social media.

When to see a therapist  

Going on social media isn’t inherently bad. But when one person in a couple thinks it’s fine to spend hours on their phone while the other feels rejected, or when communication breaks down, then it might be time to visit a therapist.

A therapist can help look into why one person might avoid connection and the other experiences abandonment. It could involve looking into personal histories and attachment styles.

“I’ve had more and more clients come to me with issues over social media in the past five years. Younger couples in their 20s and 30s come in and disagree on the meaning of ‘like’. Social media nowadays can become the ‘third person’ in a relationship and divide it.”

Indira Chima, BACP therapist