I’d rather not exploit parts of my intimate relationship for public gain.
My husband and I went to Las Vegas last weekend. Las Vegas is both the place we met again, 15 years after high school, and the place where we got married. We took a picture of ourselves outside of the chapel where we exchanged vows nearly 16 years ago. It was tempting to put the selfie on Facebook and say something like, “Silently renewing our vows at the Excalibur chapel where we were wed.”
For breakfast one morning we went to the Peppermill Restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, and again I thought it was worthy of a Facebook post. The décor was neon purple and black. Our omelet had a whopping 10 eggs in it. Certainly that was news for social media.
We didn’t post a single picture on our Facebook pages though. Our trip to Las Vegas went by without a single reference to it. No likes, no “Oh how sweet!” No notice or comments at all.
That is how we do social media these days, my husband and I, and our relationship is better for it.
I watch the way that my friends post about their relationships on Facebook. Some women post almost daily about their boyfriend or husband sending flowers, cooking them dinner, taking them out, or buying them something special. One friend frequently posts pictures of very expensive jewelry and purses that her husband buys and leaves her as little gifts while she is taking a shower, or picking up the kids from daycare. One friend recently posted how her husband had been sick for three weeks, but he found the energy to prepare her a homemade meal, dessert included. Of course there were pictures to prove it.
Facebook, along with other social media, is a hotbed of narcissistic behavior, and this public display of relationships is just another part of that. Rather than have the focus truly be on the person who did the giving or doing, these types of posts are really saying, “Me. Me. Me.” It’s about exploiting parts of an intimate relationship for public gain. The gain being that the person posting receives attention for something their partner did.
Meanwhile, single friends on Facebook are given unrealistic expectations of what a committed relationship looks like. Any couple that has been together with their partner for any significant amount of time has had intense and tough moments, conversations, weeks, months, and maybe even years. People are not discussing the tough things like the realities of finances, raising children, or career choices. For instance, I have never seen a post about how a couple agrees or disagrees on what to buy or not to buy once they combine their bank accounts. Now, that is a real issue in marriage that goes beyond cooking dinner occasionally, or taking someone out to the movies or going on a weekend trip.
I’m not saying that social media needs to play the role of educator in our lives, but the current trend to post the “special deeds” of a partner seem harmful to the relationship that is being exploited (what is the next great thing he or she can do to get one hundred likes on Facebook?), and they set up a false view of the depth of a real relationship.
I used to post love notes about, and to, my husband on Facebook, but I stopped. I stopped because the whole world doesn’t need to know the kind or loving things my husband does on a regular basis. Posting everything he does for me on Facebook makes the public recognition we get from the attention of friends, and almost strangers, our reward.
Not posting his every thoughtful action has made our relationship deeper and more meaningful and me less lazy. It used to be that posting it on Facebook was his thank you. I felt like I had congratulated him publicly where everyone could like the status, comment about how sweet he is, and that would be the end of it. Now when he makes me popcorn and cuts up some apples (my favorite dinner) and we watch a movie together, I have to find a way besides social media to thank him. I have to be more thoughtful, and more clever, but most importantly it has to be more personal which makes our relationship deeper and more meaningful to us. It creates a cycle of doing nice things for one another that public recognition doesn’t do.
Every day I read how great my friends’ partners are. Every day I silently, without any fanfare, know how wonderful, kind, thoughtful, and giving my husband is, but rather than tell you about it, I am going to show him the same type of kindness, generosity, and love in the privacy of our own home. I’ll save my Facebook posts for things about poetry and writing and my husband will continue to use his page for puns, jokes, and the occasional political jab.
We are no longer an example for other couples, and we no longer receive public recognition for our actions. Maybe we’re old fashioned in that way. It worked for my grandparents, and they made it together over 50 years. I’ll take those numbers any day.
Rebecca Whitver writes poetry and nonfiction. She has been published in Transition, Pearl, City Works, Serving House Journal, and has a forthcoming poem in Structo Magazine. She is currently working on her first book.