Facebook is not the cause of marriages breaking apart
Like it or not, social media is here to stay, and Facebook has become a regular part of life for millions of people worldwide. It’s opened up new possibilities that didn’t exist years ago for people to look up old friends or long lost loves.
Whether married, in a relationship, or single, the temptation to search for an ex is often too strong to resist, and it’s posing significant new challenges to marriages, alongside financial problems, disagreements on child-rearing, and sexual issues.
But what’s often brushed off as a personal escape into an idealized fantasy world can in reality be the legitimization of long-held feelings and the basis for a lifetime relationship.
Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. is perhaps the most widely recognized expert on the topic of rekindled romances. Specializing in studying reunited couples since 1993, her landmark study of 1001 couples resulted in a book titled “Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances,” published in 1997. She has published numerous other books and articles on the subject, and her website features a forum for people in rekindled relationships.
One of the fallacies Dr. Kalish is fond of debunking is that social media technology like Facebook are responsible for infidelity and marriage break-ups. She argues that while it’s true that technology has made it easier to cheat, it’s not actually responsible for cheating. “Facebook is not the cause of marriages breaking apart. Facebook does not book hotel rooms…No doubt about it, though: cheating is enabled with ‘new and improved’ technology in general,” states Dr. Kalish in her article “Extramarital Affairs in the New Millennium.”
While Dr. Kalish notes the often unhappy outcomes for married people who have affairs with old loves, she does point out that therapists all too often are ill-equipped to provide helpful guidance to their clients in these situations. In another article titled “Real Rekindled Romances vs. Reel Reunions,” she claims that “Like their friends and family, their psychologists insisted that rekindled romances were mere ‘fantasies’ and recommended that they ‘move on.’ If the client was married, he or she was often advised to ‘find what is wrong in your marriage, because that is what you imagined having with your lost love.’ This advice is not helpful to lost love clients, who do not want their reality denied or their feelings belittled.”
One such therapist is Rob Dobrenski. Dr. Dobrenski writes of not one, but three of his clients who left their marriages for high school sweethearts in his article “Reuniting With Your First Love, On the Net.” He believes that “There’s a possibility for a permanent footprint in your brain when it comes to your first love.” Whether married, single or widowed, that footprint can be a force to be reckoned with, but for the unavailable “…when the relationship moves from Facebook to IM to text to telephone and then to personal contact, the attachment…has perhaps manifested itself in a true rekindling of the romance, with much more backing than any affair could produce.”
Dr. Kalish’s original study was conducted prior to the advent of the Internet. She found that two-thirds had reunited with loves from the age of 17 or younger, and they stayed together at a rate of 78%. The overall sample of research subjects stayed together at a rate of 72%. A subsequent study done in 2005–2006, however, was different for one primary reason: 62% of the participants were either married and having an affair with the old love, or the other person was married, or both. Only 5% of these couples married each other.
Dr. Kalish’s online quiz reveals the falsity of other misconceptions. Rekindled romances are typically not illusions created by unhappy people or unhappy marriages, and married people who found lost loves were not looking for affairs. An ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is not necessarily a lost love, and not everyone has a lost love. It’s not true that married adults in lost love extramarital affairs usually leave their marriages to be with their lost loves, and quickly regret leaving their marriages.