Relationship Threatened by Technology? How to Reduce Distractions and Reconnect

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You want to cuddle, but your partner is completely absorbed in watching a game or show on television.

You want to have a private dinner and talk, but your partner keeps looking at their cell phone to answer text messages.

Do you frequently get the impression that your mate would rather cuddle up with their cell phone or tablet than with you? Does it seem like they’re more interested in listening to the TV than paying attention when you are expressing something that’s important to you?

Few of us are completely immune to the tantalizing allure of technology. But when your mate finds technology more alluring than you, it's time to heed the danger and take action. 

The Most Common Technological Rivals to Intimacy

To be able to reduce distractions, you have to know the rivals you’re facing.

Mobile Phone - No. 1 Rival

This is the hands-down the biggest techno-culprit in the destruction of relationship intimacy. It is also the toughest distraction to manage because it's small and portable. It goes with you everywhere – on dates, to the gym, on walks, to dinner. 

It even goes to bed with you. There it sits on your nightstand in all its tempting glory, beckoning you to check your texts or e-mails just one more time. It's there the next morning, eager to show you what you missed while you were sleeping.

Have you heard the word "pphubbing?"  It means "partner phone snubbing." A study at Baylor University found that when a partner feels "pphubbed," conflict ensues and relationship satisfaction decreases. It even results in lower life satisfaction in general and greater levels of depression.  

Researchers at Brigham Young University adopted the word "technoference" to describe how technology draws our attention away from our partner. If you're guilty of over-using your phone, you should know that your partner is feeling rejected, ignored, shunned, and unimportant.  

My own experience as a relationship counselor tells me that over-use of technology is rising on the list of things couples fight about most often. Partners often cite it as a reason for drifting apart and losing emotional connection. They just weren't present to each other.  

The mobile phone isn't the only technological rival. The mobile phone is the most problematic because it provides access to the others, which include:

Social Media. The allure of communication and social inclusion appeals to both genders. Some are so addicted that they have to check, compare, and post to certain sites first thing in the morning or even in the middle of the night.

Internet and Email – To some, surfing the web or checking e-mails multiple times a day may feel as enjoyable as various physical activities. It’s like a treasure hunt. When you find something you like, it floods your brain with feel-good chemicals that prompt you to keep going back.

Television – Women often lament the lack of attention they get from their husbands while they’re distracted by a sports game. Men may feel the same when their wives ignore them for watching hours of soap operas, sitcoms, or reality shows.

Video or Internet Gaming – Men seem to be particularly vulnerable to the charm of this distraction. The activity they experience in the reward center of their brain can easily lead to symptoms of addiction.

How to Reduce Distractions and Reconnect with Your Partner

Assess the extent of the problem

Examine what distracts you and when. Identify which distractions are the most disruptive and what you could do to remedy the situation. If your partner doesn’t seem to be aware of their contribution to the problem, talk to them. Respectfully let them know that you need more attention, time, or love in your relationship.

Set reasonable boundaries

Discuss and decide on sensible boundaries together. Be mindful of each other’s feelings. Make a clear plan about how to restrict the usage of electronic devices and when to perhaps completely turn them off. Plus, aim to replace electronic activities with more personal, bonding activities.

Spend tech-free time together

Communicate face-to-face often. Express yourself openly and listen without interrupting. Make a list of activities that you both enjoy, but haven't done together for a while. Maybe try gazing into each other’s eyes, engaging in a long cuddle session, or exploring each other by touch. Try to make it a regular routine to have coffee together, enjoy a private meal, or take a walk.

Use electronics mindfully

When you open your phone, focus on our intended task rather than rambling mindlessly through messages and websites.  Try signing off e-mail after work.  Determine what what usage is valid and what is trivial.  

Try making at least one evening per week completely technology-free.  Stash your phones, computers, and tablets. Don't turn on the TV. You'll be surprised by how much more fun you can have and how quickly you can restore intimacy to your relationship.