Old Flames on Facebook

It is a bad idea to connect with anyone on Facebook (or other social media sites) whom your spouse distrusts or is otherwise uncomfortable.  There are numerous potential problems to your relationship that can occur in cyberspace.  [See related articles.] This is particularly true if one is naive or unsuspecting and doesn't take any measures to protect his/her marriage.  There is one type of Facebook connection that has an especially elevated risk of marital peril - connecting with an "old flame".

It is decidedly unwise to extend or accept friend requests with past exes, old crushes, former love interests, or anyone with whom you have shared a close relationship in the past.  Doing so invites an unnecessary threat into your married life.  Such threats may include: jealousy, insecurity, or anxiety for your spouse; unwanted advances from the other person; confusing thoughts and emotions; temptation to emotional and/or sexual infidelity; and many others.

Even if your motive for the connection does not stem from impure intentions it is not worth the risk.  If for no other reason you should consider how your spouse could perceive the situation.  Furthermore, you don't know what the motive (or reaction) of the other person might be.  What may begin as an innocent friendly gesture can quickly and unexpectedly turn into a deeply regrettable decision.

Some would contend that communicating with someone on Facebook is no different than running into someone in an in-person social situation.  But there are notable differences that demonstrate otherwise.  There are unique dynamics inherent to social media that can contribute to compromising situations.  Below is a partial list of reasons why connecting with an ex on Facebook is a bad idea.

(1)  Someone takes the initiative to establish the contact.  People wouldn't (or shouldn't) feel comfortable with an ex calling them on the phone to chat or showing up on their doorstep to say hello.  Why is it more acceptable to establish a connection online?  Until Facebook most people were content leave former flames in the past.  A novel form of communication shouldn't change that wise decision.

(2)  Inhibitions are lowered online.  In other words, many people are less cautious and more bold about what they say.  Real life pressures fade away and people open up more readily.  Deeper levels of communication are achieved at an accelerated pace versus traditional face-to-face conversations.  As a result, emotional attachments and even sexual attraction can develop more quickly than they would in-person.

(3)  The sterile environment of cyberspace hides flaws and deficiencies.  As a result it's easy for two people with an online relationship to idealize one another.  They appear to be more perfect, engaging, understanding, caring, and compatible with one another than they would conclude in another setting.

(4)  People tend to romanticize about the past.  This is true of both men and women.  Memories from the days of our fumbling youthful relationships can be extremely powerful.  Add to this the common experience of feeling young again when reconnecting with friends from the past.  The potential for temptation under these circumstances is significant because fantasy and reality are blurred.

(5)  Attraction towards potential partners thrives on mystique.  What could be more mysterious, unpredictable, or risque than a clandestine meeting online with a former love interest?  It's difficult for someone to appreciate the relationship with his/her spouse when it is overshadowed by the mystique of one's online indiscretions.
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