Managing Technology and Marriage Problems: Staying Connected With Your Mate
“Quality time is the currency of relationships” – John Gottman
Do you and/or your mate suffer from nomophobia? “What is nomophobia?” you ask. It is the fear of being disconnected, of being without your electronic device, as in the fear of “no mobile phone.” You can self-diagnose this phobia by simply shutting off all your electronic devices – your phone, desktop, laptop and pad or tablet. Perhaps the anxiety is rising in your just thinking about such a proposition! How long are you able to endure this “disconnect” from the rest of the world? The connection between technology and marriage problems is a very real thing and it needs your attention.
Disconnect from our spouse should cause even more anxiety that disconnect from social media, texts or emails, and yet, for many, it doesn’t. This is to the detriment of relationships.
Have you ever tracked the amount of time that you and your mate spend with technology every day? It can be very eye-opening to realize how much time we spend in connecting to a virtual world and community with virtual relationships as opposed to the amount of time that we spend connecting to our flesh and blood, real-life partner.
If we were to take a survey on how much time couples actually spend together, most would say that their lives are busy and that they have difficulty finding the time to connect with one another. Some would say that they don’t have a lot of time, but the time that they do have is “quality time.” There is no quality of time without quantity of time, however. And nothing can cut into the quantity of time we spend connecting with our spouse like technology; so technology and marriage problem can arise.
Nothing seems to go grind more than technology and marriage problems.
Technology usage seems to be a particular bone of contention in many relationships. According to a Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey:
- US smartphone owners check their phones 47 times a day
- 85% use it while talking to family and friends
- 80% check their phones within an hour of getting up or going to sleep
- 35% do so within 5 minutes
- 47% have tried to limit their cell phone usage in the past
- 30% have done so successfully
More and more there is evidence that social media contributes to low self-esteem, depression and divorce. In marriages, couples frequently have secret accounts and/or passwords which they don’t share with their spouse. This can breed mistrust and anxiety in a relationship. Don’t allow your phone or other technology to create marriage problems.
A 2019 survey by Global Web Index reports that internet users are now spending an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking and messaging platforms. Imagine what over two hours per day invested in your relationship would do!
Dealing with technology in our relationships is a relatively new phenomenon, so couples don’t have any real role models for healthy ways to interact and control the use of technology in their homes. Consider the timeline of the origins of social media:
Origins of Social Media
Friendster – 2002
MySpace – 2003
Linkedin – 2003
Facebook – 2004
YouTube – 2005
Twitter – 2006
iPhone – 2007 (made social media mobile)
Instagram – 2010
Pinterest – 2010
Snapchat – 2011
All of the best research confirms that satisfying and sustainable marriages are built on a secure connection between a husband and wife.
The ability to create and sustain connection is based upon how accessible you are to each other. If you are not being accessible to your mate because you are engaged with technology, your relationship will suffer. Healthy marriages need partners to pay attention to each other and to spend time engaged in communication and connecting with one another.
Why do we fall into the trap of spending too much time online or on our phones? There are several reasons. If you are spending so much time using technology that it is detrimental to your relationship, consider these as possible reasons for your behavior:
- A need to be in the know.
- If we’re not careful, we can prefer being “liked” by many instead of being loved by our spouse. Online friends cannot know the real you, only the you you post about.
- Getting unmet needs met. Receiving attention, admiration, appreciation and/or respect are just a few of the needs that many are looking to have met.
- Addiction to entertainment and escape from reality
- Boredom avoidance. Many use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to pass the time and entertain themselves. Afterward, they feel less emotionally satisfied than they did before.
- Hardship avoidance. Life is hard and social media is a diversion from the reality of difficult situations.
Technology is like a sip of water, when the truth is, relationally, we’re dying of thirst. A sip will not quench your thirst. If anything, it only reminds you that you’re still not satisfied. So how can you manage technology so that you can maintain and build a satisfying relationship with your mate?
Here are some boundaries to prevent technology from causing disconnect in your relationship:
- Share all accounts and passwords with your spouse.
- Use software that blocks pornography if either of you is tempted to visit questionable or pornographic sites. Remember that this behavior is often a symptom of a deeper issue. Technology manifests our desires; it does not create them.
- Set boundaries together. Agree upon the time that will be spent by each of you on technology.
- Unfriend/Block anyone who might be a temptation for either of you.
- Accept only friends that you believe to be safe.
- Move your computer screen so that it is visible to your spouse.
- Don’t minimize or switch screens when your spouse walks by.
- When you are together, be present with one another.
- Create tech free days or hours, i.e. “blackouts”
- Unplug from all devices for at least 1 day on the weekend.
- Turn your phone off in meetings.
- Declare every meal “phone free”
- Finish phone conversations before you enter the house when returning home.
- Declare a time each evening after which phone calls will not be taken.
If you find that you and your spouse are not connecting, not communicating and not growing in your relationship and yet one or both of you are spending a significant amount of time with technology, technology could be the culprit. Consider getting marriage help through a marriage retreat or marriage coaching to reconnect and reestablish healthy communication and connection. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if you are struggling in this area. Remember, we are all in the process of learning how to manage technology and marriage problems to build lasting relationships at the same time!