Modern Day Romance: Is Technology Ruining your Relationship?
Updated: Sep 6
Whether you are watching a movie, at the park with your kids, or in line at the grocery store, it can be far too tempting to pick up your phone and scroll through social media, answer emails or respond to a text. While providing a temporary escape or fulfilling an instant desire, these interruptions and interferences from our daily life, or "technoferences", are associated with a host of negative effects on your relationship.
A study involving 143 married women found that technology use was associated with increased conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, increased depressive symptoms, and overall lower life satisfaction.
In the age of the internet, social media, and technology, people have the ability to stay connected with one another at all times, but yet, so many feel isolated and disconnected from their partners. Technoference is becoming a prominent issue among modern-day couples and may partially explain why so many couples are unhappy in their relationship.
You might be thinking, “Hasn't technology allowed relationships to grow and thrive in ways not possible before?”. Well, sure, many great things have come from social media and the internet, like the ability to maintain relationships from across the globe, checking in with your partner throughout the day or sending a sweet "I love you" text.
But with every upside, there is a downside. The accessibility of the internet has allowed us to disconnect instantaneously from others around us. How many times have you been bored or overwhelmed during a conversation that you turn to your phone as an escape? Or maybe you became distracted by an incoming text message or call while talking to your partner? Now, how many times have you been on the receiving end of this disconnection from your partner? How did it make you feel? It sucked, didn’t it? Annoying at the very least. Maybe you felt like their phone was more important than you or like they weren’t interested in what you had to say. Whatever the case, technology has the power to drive a wedge between you and your partner.
Why Technology Can Hurt your Relationship
Humans are social creatures; we need connections to survive in this world. From birth, we depend on our caregivers to survive, learn, grow, and feel safe. Developing a secure attachment involves knowing that your needs will be met and that you are safe, even without your caregiver being physically present.
This sense of security and stability is important for creating healthy adult romantic relationships. When emotional needs are not met as a child, perhaps through rejection, avoidance, or inconsistent or ambiguous behaviours/emotions, this can leave a person with an insecure attachment style that makes them hypersensitive to emotional disconnection or disengagement from their partners.
Relating this back to how technology can interfere with your relationship, if our inherent need for emotional security and connection is threatened, like when your partner is on their phone during a romantic dinner date, it sends the message that we are not safe in our relationship and throws us into panic mode. Do they even care about me? Am I not important right now? Am I not good enough?
There are other ways technology can impact relationships, but at the very core of it, technology increases the ability to disengage from our partners which threatens our attachment and makes us question our security in the relationship.
How to Save Your Relationship from Technology
Although technology can do some serious damage to your relationship, there are concrete things you and your partner can do to save your relationship. Here are 3 ways to prevent technology from ruining your relationship:
1. Manage Your Expectations
Have a conversation with your partner about technology and set some mutually agreed upon boundaries or rules. Think about when and where technology use in your relationship is appropriate, as well as how often and how long it is okay to use. This may be a touchy subject, especially if one partner has been hurt by technology use in the past, so it is important to reflect on your own usage and take responsibility for how your technology use may have negatively impacted your relationship.
2. Set "Unplugged" Times
One of the most important technology boundaries that should be discussed and created is one that involves setting times where technology is off-limits. Perhaps this may be when you are eating dinner together or going to bed. This time together, unplugged, will help establish intimacy and bonding in your relationship because it is time where there are absolutely no distractions from technology.
3. Use Technology Together
Technology isn't all bad. In fact, research has shown that when couples use technology together while engaging and interacting, it is associated with positive perceptions of the relationship. This makes sense in light of attachment theory and what we know about our desire for connectedness- when we do things together as a couple, we feel close and secure. So, sit down and play a video game or watch some funny videos together!
If you are feeling disconnected from your partner and looking to repair your relationship, contact me today to book your free 15-minute consultation to discover how couples counselling can help.
Coyne, S. M. (2020, May 21). Media and Technoference in Romantic Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-right-media-mindset/202005/media-and-technoference-in-romantic-relationships
Leggett, C., & Rossouw, P. (2014). The Impact of Technology Use on Couple Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.thescienceofpsychotherapy.com/the-impact-of-technology-use-on-couple-relationships/
McDaniel, B. T., & Coyne, S. M. (2016). “Technoference”: The interference of technology in couple relationships and implications for women’s personal and relational well-being.Psychology of Popular Media Culture,5(1), 85
Mcleod, S. (2017). Attachment Theory. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html
PsychCentral. (2018). 4 Ways Technology Is Ruining Your Relationship. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/4-ways-technology-may-be-ruining-your-relationship/
Segal, J., & Jaffe, J. (2019). Attachment and Adult Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/attachment-and-adult-relationships.htm