Clare Mackintosh: The Facebook divorce
PUBLISHED: 10:00 12 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:00 12 July 2016
For years I've been happily waxing my lyrical on social media in the knowledge that my husband was blissfully unaware of my rants. But no more
Apparently the most anxiety-inducing event of one’s life is moving house; comparable only to death and divorce. This age-old advice needs updating. Because you know what’s stressful? When your spouse joins Facebook. For years I’ve been happily waxing lyrical on social media, in the knowledge that my husband was blissfully unaware of my rants. It seems teabags don’t walk to the bin on their own, I might - somewhat passive-aggressively - have posted. Who knew? Cue a series of empathetic ‘likes’ and comments from friends married to tea-bag-abandoners and toothpaste-lid-leaver-offers. Hardly a scintillating conversation starter, I’ll accept, but the sort of water-cooler banter in which the work-at-home freelancer tends to engages on social media. Who else is there to hear our woes, but the postman and our 564-strong list of Facebook ‘friends’?
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t entirely without discretion. I’d never have posted about the fungal infection my husband had back in 2001, or detailed that frustrating habit he has of disappearing to the bathroom at the exact moment supper is ready, but run-of-the-mill gripes are fair game in social media land. Being the sort of person who is liable to spontaneously combust if required to keep exciting news to herself, Facebook was also my go-to platform for surprises. Three days to go! I disclosed to my (naturally enraptured) followers, beneath a photograph of the hotel I had booked as a birthday surprise.
Last week my husband went away for a week. As I worked I could hear the dulcet tones of the builder singing to himself as he installed a bathroom suite, ready for the ta-da moment on Friday evening. Pre husband-on-Facebook days, I might have documented the highs (all on track, love - your hubby’s going to be dead chuffed) and lows (you should probably take a look at these damp floorboards…) of said installation, in my own online version of DIY SOS. But now? Now there’s no point even taking photos. Posting general status updates has entirely lost its allure, now that my audience is so close to home. ‘Hey, I saw Jack and Sally today,’ I’ll say cheerily, as my husband arrives back from work. ‘Yes, you went to that new place in the High Street, didn’t you?’ he’ll say. ‘The carrot cake looked sublime.’ I open my mouth to ask about his day, then remember I already know, thanks to the status update he posted an hour ago. At this rate we’ll be able to give up talking altogether, communicating solely via social media.
My friend Judy is convinced she has the answer. She and her husband both have Facebook accounts, with many mutual friends, but they are not themselves connected. ‘I couldn’t stand it,’ she tells me. ‘It was like having someone standing over my shoulder, watching me type.’ I know just how she feels. Oops, I posted, just the other week, had to sign the late book at school… again. Seconds later there were footsteps on the stairs. My husband’s face peered round my office door. ‘If you made the packed lunches the night before,’ he said helpfully, ‘you’d give yourself an extra ten minutes in the morning.’ Wisely, he retreated before I could find something to throw at him. I wondered if this responsiveness could work in my favour.
Deadline panic, I posted, the following day. Tea needed! I waited. And waited. Nothing. Clearly spousal selective deafness also applies to Facebook. Should I unfriend him? It seems a little harsh. Perhaps we could have a trial social media separation. Message other people. It’ll hurt at first, of course, but before too long there’ll be a kitten gif to raise a smile; that video of Trump and the blow away hair. We’ll get through it. I wait until dinner to broach the subject, but the right opportunity doesn’t come up. I try again before bed, and again at breakfast, but can’t find the right words. There’s only one thing for it. I’ll have to let him know via Facebook.
Follow Clare on Twitter! @claremackint0sh