Technology is funny because for so many of us we feel like we can’t live without it. We are always looking for the better, faster, more efficient way to get things done…even as I sit here writing this I am connected to both my laptop as well as my phone and doing things on both. But what effect does technology have on our relationships?
In many ways technology can be a relationship life saver. Think of how much easier it is to stay in touch and to have small, but meaningful connections throughout your day because of technology. I am the first person to recommend to couples that they use different forms of technology to connect. But what about the risks?
Here are 3 of my top concerns:
- Isolation: I am seeing more and more couples in my counselling practice who are coming into my office complaining of being lonely in their relationship. It makes sense when you think about it. Nowadays people go on “dates” but spend the whole time on their phones, they hang out and spend quality time together, but most of that time is sitting in front of the tv, their tablet or their phone. None of these activities on their own are necessarily bad or harmful to a relationship, but when that is how you spend the majority of your time together, people start to feel alone, disconnected and lonely. Solution: Spend at least 30% of your time off together without any technology. Get outside, go for dinner without your phones, make the bedroom a technology free space. Whatever it is you want to do, try to spend at least 1/3 of each week connecting without technology
- Communication: For many people, conversing behind a screen can feel much more comfortable than conversing face to face. This makes sense – over text or email we can take a moment if we need to, to compose our thoughts before speaking. The challenge is that in relationships we need to learn to have difficult conversations in person so we can not only learn to be vulnerable with our partners, but also so that we can read the actual tone and emotion behind our partners words (not the tone we are reading into). Solution: if you feel like you need to start communicating through technology, be sure to not let it finish that way. Perhaps let your partner know that you have something you need to talk about, and, if you must, even let him or her know what it is, but then ask if they can set time aside that evening or some time in the next 24 hours to talk about it in person. When you talk, put all technology aside and just focus on your partner.
- We Are Never Really Present: Nowadays all of our realities (work, hobbies, friends, family, loved ones, etc) are available to us all at once. We receive work emails while we are at home, and texts from loved ones while at work. The lack of separation (or the constant availability) means we aren’t usually ever fully present anywhere. This has a damaging impact on all areas of our life, and the more stress we have in general, the more our relationships get negatively impacted because we aren’t as patient or present. Solution: learn to set healthy boundaries around when you will be connected to technology. At work, set aside time to read your person texts or emails and when you leave work, try to leave it at the office so you can go home and truly unwind and connect with your partner.
Technology is such an integral part to our everyday lives and it isn’t going anywhere. Focus on the ways in which you feel technology helps you and your relationships and the ways in which it does damage. Do you feel ready to take the necessary steps to create distance from technology in order to improve your relationship? What are some ways in which you’ve been successful doing so?