Does media use really impact marital quality?
This question has been swirling around in the minds of many for more than a decade. Attorneys say they are seeing the use of social media impacting divorce cases now more than ever before, and it is not uncommon at all for couples to argue about media use in a marriage counseling session.
Anybody who eats out would likely say there is no way media use isn’t impacting marriages as they watch couples sit at a table together with both of them on their device instead of talking to each other.
Jeffery Dew, associate professor at Utah State University and his colleague, Sarah Tulane, decided to examine the issue. They conducted a study of more than 1,300 randomly selected married couples and measured their use of television, video games and social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The couples rated their marital quality in terms of how happy they were in different areas of their marriage, how often they fought and how likely they thought they were to get divorced.
The findings showed that the more husbands used social media websites, the worse they both felt about their marriage, and both spouses reported more conflict. Women whose husbands spent more time on social media reported lower levels of marital happiness, and both husbands and wives perceived higher levels of divorce likelihood.
It is interesting that the husband’s use of social media appeared to impact marital quality more than the wife’s. Dew and Tulane speculated that, since women use communication to build their relationships more than men do, they see it as just another tool to communicate and connect with others. However, men’s use of social networking sites may violate social norms and expectations about their behavior, which could lead to marital issues.
What can couples do to help ensure their marital quality is not impacted by media?
Just because you are sitting beside each other in the same room doesn’t necessarily mean you are spending quality time together, especially if you both are in your own worlds utilizing media. Take steps to ensure that media doesn’t distract you from the most important relationship in your life.