I just watched the beginning of what could potentially be the end of an acquaintance’s marriage unfold on Facebook. It was horrible.
It began with the wife proudly posting that she had successfully hacked into her husband’s email account and found some "questionable" messages he shared with another woman. Without detailing exactly what the messages did or did not reveal to her, she went on to announce her plans to confront her husband when he got home from work. Then, as if to add insult to injury, she tagged him in the status update.
You’re thinking that this is absurd and unnecessary, right? Me too. But wait, there’s more. Just a few moments later, her equally Facebook-addicted husband responded. He pleaded with her to take down the posts and insisted that she had it all wrong. But he offered no further explanation. He was surprisingly calm. She responded, refusing to delete the post and demanded that he explain himself right then and there….on Facebook! Now, at no point during their back-and-forth was there any indication that this couple used any means of communication other than Facebook to address this very sensitive subject. This was failure number one.
Just minutes later the trolls arrive. Two of the wife’s “friends” (you’ll understand the quotation marks in just a moment) inserted themselves into the debate—one insisted the wife file divorce papers "in a hurry," while the other suggested that she had a hunch this man was a dog "all along." Again, this is all playing out publicly for everyone they know, and even some people they don’t, to see. This was the second failure on their part.
Shocked that his wife had not yet removed the post, the husband returned to the chain and insisted she do so immediately and stop "putting their business out there." As expected, he then told her friends to mind their business too. I continued to read along in disbelief. Why did this conversation take place online? Have they not heard of text messages? It didn't take long for things to go from bad to worse here. The wife and the trolls, err, friends, banned together to attempt to bully the husband into publicly confessing to what he’d "done." Failure number three.
After that, the conversation came to a sudden halt. I assumed that they had finally wised up and picked up their phones to communicate like human beings. An hour later, I looked again and noticed that no one else had said a word. An hour after that, I checked in again and this time, poof, the entire conversation was gone.
Did he cheat? Was it a misunderstanding? Are they okay? I still have so many questions. But the truth is, it’s none of my business, or yours. And, this couple shouldn’t have made something this private so public. You can’t safeguard your marriage if you’re sharing every bump and crack online in real time. Now don’t get me wrong, I do (over)share the details of my marriage online. If you follow me on social media, you probably know my husband’s name, what we did on our last date night and what color our living room couch is. However, you don’t know the last time we engaged in a heated argument before bed, made love or missed paying a bill. That’s all intentional, because we don’t play around with our personal business. It’s our marriage, not yours and my husband and I are both very clear on that. We’re happy to inspire others with tales and images from our love story, but never to a point where we feel obligated to involve friends, family and complete strangers in the most intimate moments and decisions of our lives.
You want to share your marriage with the world? I say, go for it! But remember that if you don’t set boundaries together and stick to them, you could be putting the very bond you cherish most at risk.
Dear married folks: I enjoy seeing your vacation photos, your newborns and your playful banter online—I really do. (Even those endless selfies!) But, to be honest, I cringe at your public spats, callouts, and emotion-fueled, wordy TMI rants. As tempting as it may be to post now and discuss later, doing so could lead you one poorly thought out post closer to an irreparable rift in your marriage. And, for what? A few extra likes? It's not worth it.
Charli Penn is the ESSENCE.com Relationships editor. Follow her on Twitter here.