Technology, like most things in life (food, TV, super powers) can be used for good or for evil.
Our beloved on-the-go gadgets can be a boon for relationships: They help us find each other in a crowded room; send a sweet message when we’re too busy to talk; and see each other’s faces when we’re half a world away. But as much as our devices can help bring us together, they can also drive a wedge in the strongest of relationships.
Mobile technology makes it easier than ever to be distracted from your partner’s needs. It’s important to make an effort to get disconnected from school, work, and social media and just be present with our partners. This is hard to do when our gadgets are buzzing and flashing all the time.
It’s Not a Competition, But Facebook Is Winning
Technology, it seems, creates a competitive atmosphere where significant others often lose out to their partner’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. The instant gratification of someone reaching out to you can, in some ways, be more enticing for the brain than your regular interpersonal relationships.
Research bears this out. A recent survey of mobile phone users found that 33 percent would rather give up sex than their smart phone for a week. What’s more, 28 percent said they’d go a week without seeing their significant other before forfeiting their iPhone.
Luckily, we don’t have to choose between our mate and our phones; relationship experts believe ditching our digital devices isn’t the answer especially since they help us manage the more mundane aspects of our relationship to make room for more quality time together.
Using Technology for Quality Time
Though some people may cringe at the thought of using a meeting request to book a romantic date with their spouse, it’s an example of how technology can facilitate intimacy and a consumer research expert who studies the habits of Gen X and Y. We’re redefining intimacy. It doesn’t mean we’re less intimate. It just means this is the technology that we now use to communicate.
For example, a woman in her 30s said her husband isn’t the talkative type, but he does like to text. Two or three times a day, he’ll say, I love you, babe.’ That’s intimate for him and she’s learned to make that intimate for her.
When Digital Opposites Attract
But what if what works for one half of the couple doesn’t work for the other? Technology has given us so many different ways to communicate-Facebook, texting, instant messaging, phone calls, email- that we’re bound to butt heads when our partner doesn’t use our preferred method.
You don’t have to be on the same page digitally if you’re compatible in other ways. Accept that people have preferred and uncomfortable ways of connecting.”
Digital incompatibilities don’t have to be a real problem if we accept each other’s differences and find a middle ground. Instead of saying, “I don’t know why you can’t do this,” ask, “how can we compromise in some way?” For the spouse that dislikes the phone, perhaps that solution is keeping calls brief, or having your partner ask if now is an OK time.
In fact, digital incompatibility can actually be a good thing if it gets couples to lay down some laws on how and when it’s appropriate to use your devices. If both people are buried in their phones and neither has a problem with it, there will be less tension, but they may also slowly drift apart. Complaining is actually a good sign.
Digital Rules to Live-and Love-By
Here are a few digital ground rules they believe can help establish the basis of a healthy digital duo:
Impose tech-free zones: Keep gadgets out of the bedroom and off of the dinner table. Never keep your devices out when you’re on a date or in the company of guests. If you’re waiting on an important call, explain when you first sit down why you may need to leave it out, but don’t look at it otherwise.
Keep multitasking to a minimum: Train your brain to be content with one distraction at a time. If you’re watching TV, put away the laptop, iPad or phone.
Disconnect daily: Maushart, who pulled the plug on her family for six months, suggests carving out time together. Find a routine-something you can count on-for disconnecting with your gadgets and reconnecting with your partner or spouse.
Stifle your Pavlovian response: Don’t automatically react to your phone. From a neurological point of view, if you’re checking your phone 20 times a day or responding to it every time someone comments on your status, it’s going to over-activate parts of your brain, so that you’re thinking about it even when you’re not logged on.
Work out disagreements in person: It’s too easy to shoot off an angry text that you might later regret. It’s a cop-out that keeps couples from having real discussions. By avoiding them, you’re not fostering change that would bring you closer as a couple. Gadgets encourage superficial exchanges, and only by digging in deeply can you forge meaningful connections.