Facebragging: the quickest route to divorce
This time last year, my husband and I were planning our wedding. If you’ve ever been married, you’ll know that it doesn’t matter whether your initial plans include rose walls and ice sculptures, or just pork pies and an upstairs room in a pub, weddings have a way of engendering a kind of all-consuming madness that will see you having conversations with your loved ones that go: “I’ve commissioned the custom blackboard and ordered 200 lidless jam jars – have you had any luck with those metre-high chocolate ampersands?”
Like many brides, I embarked upon a weird health regime. I briefly gave up alcohol, practised yoga, and rubbed rosehip oil into my face. This was because I wanted to look good on the day – but more than that, I wanted to look good when the day was documented on Facebook.
The bar had been set high by other brides I knew, and I was genuinely terrified that my matrimonials wouldn’t measure up on social media. I had to look hotter and happier than I had ever been, regardless of how I felt on the inside. Secretly, the prospect of having unflattering photos was my second greatest anxiety about the day – the first being that my future husband would realise that his wife-to-be was vain and insane, and decide not to turn up.
You’d hope the urge to FaceBrag – use social media to boast about the high points of your relationship – would ease after the wedding. However, it appears to be the beginning of a toxic trend, in which couples carefully curate an impossibly perfect picture of their loved-up lives together. Ostensibly, it’s sharing; in reality, it’s obnoxious showing off.
Now divorce lawyers say they’re seeing a rise in the number of couples seeking separations because their relationships are “imperfect” and don’t measure up to what they’re seeing online. Holly Tootill of JMW Solicitors told The Telegraph that around one in five marital splits on the firm’s books involve spouses complaining about their “imperfect” marriages – with social media a major conduit for discontent and unrealistic expectations.
“[Facebook] looks so glamorous and so very exciting that people make negative comparisons with their own home lives and their husbands or wives as a result,” says Tootill. “More and more clients tell us that they regret how their marriage isn’t perfect in the way that they were led to believe it might be.”
You don’t say. A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend and her partner, having frothed with low-level envy for months as I gazed at their perfect Facebook life. He’d tagged her in a picture up a ladder, looking winsome in dungarees, wielding a paintbrush, captioned: “The most beautiful woman in the world is making our home beautiful too!” I’d seen them dressed up outside a casino on an impulsive Vegas holiday (“#YOLO!”) and a photo she’d posted of smoked salmon and avocado toast (“So glad I married a man who brings me breakfast in bed!”).
However, dinner was tense, because it was apparent that they were in the middle of an enormous argument, that continued whenever I went to the loo. “How was Vegas? It looked amazing!” I asked brightly. “We haven’t finished paying for it yet,” she said glumly, as he snapped, “I told you I was done talking about that!”
Another friend posts plenty of pictures of her husband playing with the kids, advocating the joys of family life. I broached the subject with her after we’d had some wine. “It’s great that Dan is so hands-on, he seems like such a good dad,” I enthused. She laughed mirthlessly for a solid 10 seconds, and then looked like she was about to cry. “He’s with them for an hour or two on Sundays, tops. And he calls it ‘babysitting’,” she explained.
Another friend’s neighbour got divorced last year, lost a lot of weight and seems to be posting pictures of her transformation by the hour (and permanently bikini’d). My friend told me: “I hear men grumbling that they don’t understand why their wives don’t go down the gym and do what she’s done. But what’s worse is that I then hear from the neighbour, who sees their wives posting about fabulous anniversary trips, and feels sad and lonely because she can’t imagine anyone whisking her away to New York for a wedding anniversary.”
It’s a vicious circle. Facebook makes us feel inadequate, so we try to compete, putting a positive spin and a pretty filter on an ordinary moment – prompting someone else to do the same. I think social media turns us all into teenagers: it doesn’t matter whether you’re 16 or 60, when you sign up to Facebook you put yourself under pressure to appear popular, fun and loved, regardless of your reality.
It’s easy to see our friends as celebrities, and our Facebook feed as a Hello! magazine spread in which they’re inviting us into their gracious home to gaze upon their perfect lives and framed family photos.
There isn’t an equivalent stream that reads like the National Enquirer, so we don’t see the other side – gossip, scandal and the holidays that start with a two-hour argument in a cross-Channel-ferry car park because no one sorted out the insurance.
But what’s the solution? Live Tweeting arguments with spouses? Instagramming burned dinners and date nights gone wrong?
Sometimes I feel inadequate about my partnership purely because my husband refuses to be in a relationship with me on Facebook. However, I think he might be onto something. In my first year of marriage, I’ve learned that when I feel insecure, I turn to social media for a boost. Yet, when I’m really happy, I simply can’t be bothered to put up a smug post.
The Daily Telegraph You see: “20 years with darling hubby and he’s whisked me off to Venice to celebrate! #SoBlessed”
They mean: “He has known me for two decades and he still can’t remember that I get seasick when I’m near a pond and I can’t eat pizza or pasta because I’m off gluten.” You see: “Finally completed on our dream house! Lucky us! Could not feel more in love!”
They mean: “We haven’t unpacked yet and she’s already banging on about a conservatory. If she doesn’t let me have my pool table, there is no way she’s getting a conservatory.” You see: “So lucky – even after all these years, he still cooks me dinner every Friday night.”
They mean: “He is nearly 50 and can’t make a meal without using every single saucepan in the house. And guess who’s washing up?! I am so sick of that Ottolenghi book.”
You see: “Happy birthday baby! All my love on your special day, could not be happier or luckier! XXX”
They mean: “How could I have forgotten?! Is there somewhere near my work that sells birthday presents?” You see: “My man went on a business trip, and spoiled me with a little something from Duty Free!”
They mean: “I have only ever worn Hermes Jardin Sur Le Nil in the 10 years we’ve been together. Why has he got me Curious by Britney Spears? Is he having an affair, and literally throwing me off the scent? I can’t believe he’d sleep with someone who wore a celebrity perfume.”
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