Let me start by admitting to one fairly uncommon thing: I don’t like calling my husband “my husband”. I will use it once when talking to a new person, and for the rest of time I will call him, funnily enough, “James” and people will just have to work out that that’s probably the bloke I’m married to. I rarely used the word “boyfriend”, I NEVER used the word “fiancé” (it’s so gross and fancy!), and I really don’t understand it when other people ask: “Is your husband coming later?” Or “How’s the hubby getting on?” You know his name, and as I’m married to him I’m pretty sure if you say “James” I’ll know who you’re talking about!
I say this to you because I know I’m not in the majority here; people love talking about their relationships. Some people are so happy they have a wife or husband that they take the opportunity to use that label as often as they flipping can! And this is no clearer than on social media. Take a quick scroll of your Facebook news feed now, and I guarantee someone has posted a date-night selfie, or a wedding day countdown, or a status along the lines of “I have the best boyfriend ever!” Even though I don’t think my relationship is anyone’s business but my own (and maybe James’s) I understand that some people are in love and want to shout it from the virtual mountaintops. But I’ve been thinking lately, and hear me out here, maybe that’s not the best idea.
As with all things on social media, when you share about your relationship you rarely ever share any of the bad stuff. It’s all cutesy conversations, romantic days out and “guess what my amazing wife/husband/partner did for me today?” And most of us aren’t consciously trying to make it look like everything is perfect. In fact, things like that often get shared online because they’re out of the ordinary. Most couples don’t spend every night drinking prosecco on the beach and feeding each other strawberries; most evenings involve the sofa, a Netflix boxset and a plate of oven chips because neither of you had the energy to cook. Obviously that’s not really worth tweeting about, but then you only get one side of the story.
When we only post the good things, we perpetuate the myth that our relationship is perfect and sparkly and wonderful all of the time. Now, I’m not saying that we should all start posting dull or nasty things about our partners, but before you post something lovey-dovey, stop and think about the people who are going to read it.
Imagine what it’s like to be single and looking at all of these posts; to see couples living out the shiny parts of their relationship online and think “I still don’t have that.” I’ve been with the same guy since I was 18, and I think it’s so easy to forget what it’s like to be on your own. I haven’t spent the last seven years waiting for someone to come along, or dating people and it not working out, but a lot of people have, and year after year see more people getting engaged, moving in and starting their lives together. That was bad enough in the days before the internet; now single people are constantly bombarded with reminders that everyone else their age is in love, and they aren’t. I’m not saying that all single people are unhappy and lonely, but no one needs every couple you know rubbing their relationship in your face all day long.
And then there are people in couples themselves who read your Facebook wall and worry about their own relationships. Let’s be honest: you only write on your partner’s wall if you have something gushy to say (there aren’t many “don’t forget to take the bins out” posts that I’ve seen), and a part of you, whether you realise it or not, wants other people to see how cute you are together. Otherwise, you’d just text your partner the cute message (if you’re in a relationship with someone, I highly doubt you don’t have their phone number!). We may not admit it, but we all want other couples to think we’re great; to even be a little bit jealous of our super awesome relationship. Even though I’m not a coupley-type-person, I know even I am guilty of this. A few months ago I posted the following status:
“When you’re stranded outside your house and can’t get to the front door because your husband is throwing peanuts out of the window at you…”
Now, I posted it because it was funny – I came home from work and James had decided to throw so many peanuts at me that I couldn’t make it up the front path due to the onslaught. But I knew it would play well on Facebook. Part of me knew people would read it and think “look how fun their relationship is”. Heck, I even broke my own rule and said “my husband” to make the joke work! But our relationship is not fun all of the time – no one’s is. Most of us are struggling through illnesses, bereavements, job struggles and money worries together, and that takes its toll on you as a unit no matter how many peanuts you throw at the situation! But even though I know that every couple has their own unique pile of crap to wade through, when everything you see online is sunny-side-up, you can’t help but think “How are they doing so much better than us?”
I know I’m not going to stop everyone I know posting about their relationship. Sometimes, something great happens and you just want to share it with people. I get that, I really do. But the next time you go to write on your partner’s wall, or share a couple selfie, just ask yourself: do I need to do this? Who’s going to read what I write, and what are they going to think? I don’t think people will ever stop sharing the love online, but if we just tried to limit the sheer amount of soppiness on social media then maybe, just maybe, we could paint a more authentic picture of how things really are.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett