Ten years ago this wouldn’t have been a conversation. Phones weren’t smart phones then, tablets didn’t exist and social media was in its infancy. Now the impact of mobile devices is everywhere. So how has that impact been felt in relationships?
As a relationship counselor I find that the topic comes up a lot. Generally speaking, one half of the couple resents the other’s excessive use and considers it a barrier to contact between them, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes there is also a big question mark over what they are doing in their own digital bubble, and not just the length of time it takes for them to do it. The digital age has put trust in relationships under the spotlight more than ever; not choosing a profile picture that features the both of you can raise a question mark if that is viewed as you don’t want to be seen to be in a relationship. That is certainly not an argument that would have happened 10 or 15 years ago!
Can mobile devices be good for a relationship Yes! Tagging your SO in something, both watching a video you have a mutual interest in or uploading an album of your recent holiday together makes you feel closer as a couple. And they can also be helpful if you are single and want to find someone new by signing up for a reasonably priced dating service like eHarmony.
When are mobile devices an issue? Sat together but not communicating with one another because of phones or tablets, is unhealthy regardless if it isn’t actually an obvious concern or irritant for one member of the relationship. Because it quite simply means you are not talking at a time when you can make your most significant gains as a couple i.e. in bed before lights out or on the couch at the end of the day. My advice has always been to agree that for 30 minutes at the end of the day, you both commit to putting down anything electronic and simply talk. Talk about anything, it doesn’t have to be important but just talk. This means you connect as a couple at the end of the day, and you connect in the real world. The more you talk about anything, the easier it is to talk when more challenging situations come up.
Trust issues. Interestingly, a lot of women I speak to, view with suspicion their partners who do use mobile devices but only when they are alone. What are they hiding? Who are they talking to? So whilst many may see being on your phone as a barrier to connecting with your SO, just as many are concerned if their partner is NOT doing it! My partner would always get his phone out when I left the room or went out for the night but would very rarely be active on it when I was around. When I asked him, he simply said he felt rude staring at a screen when we were in each other’s company and that made sense. So, whilst being aware of how your use of tablets and phones may create a breakdown in quality time with your partner, it is still very important to still acknowledge your use of them so that any sense of paranoia that someone may be hiding something can be addressed.
Stay logged in? This is an interesting one. One couple I helped brought up the subject of logging-out of accounts before shutting down the device. It made him feel like she was hiding something, she just thought it was good common sense. However they were on private Wi-Fi, nobody else used the device except the two of them and there had been question marks in the past over who she spoke to on-line. Snooping gets a bad press and shouldn’t be encouraged, but if it’s going to end a sense of paranoia it may well just be worth it. So if you do log out of social media or chance the user profile on a tablet, be sure to explain why you are doing it first!