Our world is filled with technological devices and relationships. With technology always (or nearly always) with us, we can be more productive and fill in the gaps in our day. Isn’t that a good thing? Maybe.
Let’s look at how technology impacts your relationship with your significant other. Remember: Technology is a tool. It can be used positively or negatively.
Let’s look at those “gaps” technology often fills up. There are many opportunities in the day for “small talk” that isn’t small at all. These may not be times when you’re doing heavy relationship work. But these moments build “connective tissue” that can strengthen your relationship. (If you can put technology in its place.)
- When you wake up.
- Car rides.
- Leisure time.
- Before you fall asleep.
Those may look like ordinary parts of your daily routine, but they are chances to connect. They’re also opportunities for technology to steal your attention. “Technoference” describes when technology interrupts face-to-face interaction.
Interruptions and Distractions
Technoference affects most couples in some way. Consider these findings from a recent survey of married/partnered women by the University of Pennsylvania. The women surveyed indicated that the following distractions and interruptions happened daily.
- 62% said technology interferes with their leisure time together.
- 40% said their partner gets distracted by the TV during a conversation.
- 35% said their partner will pull out his phone if he receives a notification, even if they are in the middle of a conversation.
- 33% said their partner checks his phone during mealtimes together.
- 25% said their partner texts other people during the couple’s face-to-face conversations.
The goal isn’t to assign blame. The goal is to be actively present with the love of your life. Technology isn’t the problem. Technology presents a wealth of opportunities to do positive relationship things.
Have A Talk
The only reliable way to measure the technoference in your relationship is to talk with your spouse about it.
Feeling up to some relationship work? Carve out some uninterrupted time to talk about the impact of technology on your relationship. Here are some questions to get you started.
Please keep in mind that technology is so ingrained in our lives that we aren’t always conscious of how we use it or the habits we’ve formed. You both probably have some blindspots. Approach this conversation in a positive, constructive way.
- Do you ever feel like you’re competing with technology for my attention? What are some examples?
- Even when we’re together, do you ever feel like I’m not fully “present” with you because of technology? Do you mind sharing some examples?
- Do I have any phone/television/social media/gaming/online shopping habits that are a source of tension with you? Let’s talk about them.
- What sensible boundaries for technology can we put in place to ensure our relationship is our first priority?
These conversations can be a revelation. They can also bring up sensitive topics like mutual account access, over-sharing on social media, passwords, and other thorny couple issues. Trustworthy spouses can have strong, differing opinions.
If the technoference conversation is shifting toward past problems, insecurity, control, or trust, technology probably isn’t the real issue. You may need to bring in some professional advice to work through difficult areas where you can’t reach an agreement.
Don’t forget to be creative and discuss using technology to enhance your relationship. Stay connected through texts, Facetime, and apps that prompt conversations or help you track your couple goals.
McDaniel & Drouin Parker. (2019). Daily Technology Interruptions and Emotional and Relational Well-Being.