Getting into or out of a relationship can be precarious. Not only in reality, but in breaking news to extended friends and family through social media.
There is no etiquette book on how to proceed with these situations without looking like a complete and total jackass, looking desperate or alienating others in stating the simple facts of our love lives.
Yes, there are the hipster couples who believe their love is above the tawdriness of social media. They look down their noses at those who feel the need to declare their ‘status’ on Facebook. They laugh at those who fall prey to the groupthink of social platforms. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. They don’t need Hallmark holidays. Etc. Etc.
Yeah, yeah, whatever. But for the rest, their online lives are tied to their real lives so when there is a big change in one…It’s only natural to want the other to reflect it, right?
The New Relationship
Thrilled to be in a new relationship with Aaron and after a wonderful date the night before, Candace opened Facebook the next morning and updated her relationship status.
‘In a Relationship with…’
She selected his name from her list of friends and smiled.
The congratulations started pouring in. Old friends started asking when they might get to meet this new man in her life. Other mutual friends were saying, “About time!”
These friends had been out on dates with Candace and Aaron, had a great time, and were genuinely happy for the couple.
Two months is good, right? Candace thought so. It wasn’t too soon. In fact, she’d seen people change their relationship status within days of meeting someone. So imagine Candace’s shock when Aaron refused to accept her relationship status invite.
“I don’t need that on my profile!” he rolled his eyes, “We’ve been dating two months! It’s too soon.”
A lengthy fight ensued and the couple called it quits.
In the days that followed, it haunted Candace. She had really liked Aaron. What if she was in the wrong? What if Aaron was right and they didn’t need to broadcast to the world they were in a relationship? Maybe she really screwed up a good thing.
But let’s take a look at reality – If someone is upset over others knowing they are in a relationship with you, there are reasons why and none of them are likely good unless they are in the witness protection program.
“I really love Aaron. I am almost certain that he’s The One. We’ve been dating for months and everything about it just feels right. He’s funny, intelligent, handsome, has a good job, would be a good dad, definitely marriage material…I want to be with him for the long haul. I really do. So I didn’t see the harm in making it Facebook official to our friends and family. Normal people would be okay with this, right?”
“Yeah, Candace is cool. But I just don’t know. There are a lot of women out there. I’m definitely not seeing myself getting married in the next five years. I am not ready for all of that. And Candace is sexy…Really sexy. She doesn’t try to hide that and I’m not quite sure I want my family seeing some of the pictures she posts. To be honest, they’d think she was a tramp. Oh…and my friends. For one thing, they’d all have to check her out and give me a hard time about it. Then, every time they ever saw me so much as talking to another girl, they’d start asking me ‘What about Candace?” and I kinda want to keep my options open, you know? It would take someone really special to make me totally shut down all options and reserve myself for only her. I just don’t think Candace is that person. I want to keep dating her, but I don’t want to put it up in lights just yet. Or probably ever.”
In the case of relationships, unless you are that aforementioned hipster couple, if one half of the couple wants to update their status and the other doesn’t, there is hesitation there. And hesitation is always worth talking about.
If the reasons why aren’t legit, then maybe it’s time to abandon the ‘ship. A relationship status change to ‘In a relationship’ shouldn’t make you cringe. If it does, it’s time for a talk.
There is always the case that it’s too soon. So when should you tell the world? For a new relationship, that guideline is:
When you both can’t wait to tell the world about it.
You’ll know it. Be with them after a great date or a magical moment and say, “You know what I would love to do? I’d love to be able to make it public that I’m with you. Should we update our relationship status on Facebook?”
This simple conversation can save a lot of heartbreak if feelings are not mutual.
For the Newly Single or Divorced
This can be one of the hardest things to do after a breakup and you’ll never know it until you are there, staring at a drop down box with options in front of you, realizing the finality of letting someone go (And how stupid it feels that you are crying over a selection on Facebook).
It’s especially tough after a relationship which lasted many, many years. It’s easy to go on with life and forget it’s there somewhere on your social media profiles. ‘Married to Sarah Smith’.
The good thing, for you, in a divorce situation, sometimes your ex-spouse will do the honors for you and change their status first. Gratefully, this defaults your status to just ‘Married’ – No name attached, just ‘married’.
Here’s the thing about Facebook: Your every move is announced. If you change your status to ‘Single’ or ‘It’s complicated’ – Everyone will know and you will get the questions from everyone. The answer to the question, “When do I change my relationship status on Facebook after a breakup or divorce?” is this:
When you know for a fact it is over, a respectful amount of time has passed, and you are ready to talk about it.
If you’re not ready to talk about it, don’t change your status. If there is still hope for resolution, don’t change your status. If you and your spouse just had ‘THE fight’ – That final showdown you are convinced will end everything…
In the case of breakups, there are only a few reasons to change your relationship status. Think about these things before you hit that button:
- Does everyone really need to know your business?
- Has a significant enough period of time gone by in which you know you’re not going to work things out? What’s a significant enough period of time? It’s very relative to how long you’ve been together and how well-established you are as a couple. There is no wrong amount of time, but there are amounts of time small enough where you will face more blowback, social damage and judgment.
- Are you ready to answer all the questions about what happened to well-meaning people on social media who may say insensitive things?
- Are you in an intense emotional state, right now?
- Are you itching to change it to ‘Single’ just to show your ex or to advertise to everyone on Facebook that you are now available to start lining up dates?
Remember, while changing your status can cause chaos, there is NO harm, even if they moved on and are already with someone else, in keeping your relationship status as it is for as long as you want, as long as you are not actively seeing other people.
If you’re wanting to stick it to them by being ‘single’ on social media – This is when you should definitely pause because it can backfire in serious ways, making the one who changes their status look like the cold, uncaring one.
Try using the in-between, more respectful status of ‘Separated’ before jumping straight from ‘Married’ to the desperate-sounding ‘Single’. Remember, attorneys are bringing social media actions into the courtroom now so tread lightly during dirty divorces.
While it seems like such a small thing, knowing when or when not to make it ‘Facebook Official’ can cause real tears and emotions. It’s not “Just Facebook”, it’s a mirror reflecting our lives, how they are, and how we want the world to see us and our relationships.