We’ve all seen it before: a couple sitting together on a dinner date both completely ignoring one another in favour of their smartphone. Neither one looks up in acknowledgement of the other for most of their time together, both engrossed so deeply in something clearly riveting on the screen. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable to watch at times, though more and more couples are favouring their smart phones over face to face contact. So much so, in fact, that they could even be having a conversation on social media as they sit across from one another in a restaurant.

Technology can be quite wonderful. With smart phones and tablets we can access a world of information at almost anytime. We can keep in touch with distant loved ones, and share our lives in an instant with those we hold dear. No doubt, technology has many wonderful advantages, but what happens when it intrudes upon your relationship? Many women are reporting that their relationship is suffering from the recently coined term, technoference.

Technoference is defined as interruptions or distractions stemming from the use of technology devices such as phones, tablets, television or computers. One study has found that those couples that favour these devices over real time conversations or intimate connection find that their relationships may suffer over time, as well as their overall life satisfaction. Partners often conclude that when technological devices are favoured over real conversation that their relationship is no longer a priority. So how can you avoid the relationship burden that technoference may present?

Create boundaries around techo-time

Couples who have avoided the dreaded impact of technoference tend to have strong boundaries around where and when smart phones and other technological devices may be used. One way of deciding the boundaries around technology may include certain locations, for example, the bedroom. Deciding that phones, tablets and laptops don’t enter the boudoir can increase intimacy and improve sleep. Making the bedroom a technology free space allows each of you to look up and really see your partner whilst hopefully engaging in meaningful conversation and physical connection.

Have a conversation about how technology interferes in the relationship

If you feel that the use of technology is interfering with your relationship, then it may be time to address your concerns overtly. If you worry about how much time you or your partner spends on social media or other distracting technological pastimes, then talking about it could make a difference. Simply initiating the conversation, whilst owning your own part in the dynamic, creates a space of honesty. Explaining how it feels for your when your partner favours technology over quality time allows them to understand your feelings better and encourages a space for negotiation.

Let’s be honest, most of us spend more time on technology than we would like to admit, but if you are open and honest about it, then you can start to change how each of you uses technology. Setting firm boundaries and creating honest conversations is an important way to navigate your individual needs and requirements around taking time out. Setting techo-free spaces and times might be all it takes for each of you to finally look up from your device and make some much-needed eye contact. Who knows what you might see when you really look at your partner once again?

Reference: McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2014). “Technoference”: The Interference of Technology in Couple Relationships and Implications for Women’s Personal and Relational Well-Being.