In today’s digital world, smartphones and social media have become an essential component of our love lives. Not only can they play a vital role in starting new relationships, they also enable current ones by allowing us to communicate 24/7 with our SO. While there are definitely benefits to this connected love, a recent study suggests devices are often a cause of strain and arguments between partners.
According to the latest Kaspersky Lab research, 82% of couples stay in touch with each other online when they’re apart, and of those, 62% agree that it helps them feel closer to their partner – especially when they don’t live together. Nevertheless the study states that devices, and the way we use them, lead to fights, with over half (55%) of respondents admitting that they’ve argued with their partner over spending too much time on a phone or computer.
Being ‘always on’ means we’re switching off from real intimacy
These results suggest that most of us don’t appreciate being neglected and want our partner’s attention. Integrative psychotherapist, couples counsellor and life coach Hilda Burke says it boils down to the device user not being fully present. “Digital device 'addiction' is a pretty common issue among the couples I see, with typically one complaining that the other constantly checks their phone while they're out or spending time together,” she tells Refinery29.
“Being ‘always on’ means we’re switching off from real intimacy with our loved ones. While digital devices can serve a purpose to keep in touch when we’re apart from those we love, when we’re actually with them they often serve as a distraction. The most flattering thing in the world is to have someone’s undivided attention, however, since most of us are constantly within earshot and arm’s reach of an array of bleeping and buzzing, it’s becoming an ever rarer commodity.”
“Me and my husband have argued over my use of my smartphone in social situations a number of times, for example at family get-togethers or functions,” Manisha, 30, tells Refinery29.
“Smartphones do interfere with relationships, we rely on them so much and perhaps are sometimes too engrossed with what's going on in the online world, rather than being in the present moment. Now, I don’t check my device when I am at family events with the in-laws. However, he is on his device all of the time, and I always remind him to take some time to switch off.”
My partner and I have had a fair few ‘heated discussions’ about his smartphone use
In a study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, individuals who were more dependent on their smartphones reported feeling less certain about their relationship, while those who felt their partners were too dependent on their smartphones felt less satisfied. The study showed that it’s common for people to feel jealous of their partner’s smartphone, as if it were the “other person” in the relationship.
The frustration of being phubbed (phone snubbed) can make us feel like we’re not worth our partner’s time, or that they’re not interested in us. “My partner and I have had a fair few ‘heated discussions’ about his smartphone use, in particular his obsession with playing games,” says Ruth, 29. “He plays this one game and because it requires so much concentration, apparently, he won’t look up from it or speak to me at all while he’s playing. His eyes are glued to the damn game. What makes me feel shitty is that the way he plays excludes me and makes me feel like I need to walk on bloody eggshells. God forbid I’d interrupt.”
Before you go blaming smartphones entirely, Burke reminds us that ultimately it’s down to our behaviour. "Whether technology's effect is good or bad depends on the user. It's important that we shouldn't be slaves to technology; it should help us. The Dalai Lama is right on point here – it's not technology, smartphones, digital anything that negatively impacts relationships, it’s how we use them."
If devices are getting in the way of your relationship, Burke suggests establishing boundaries over device use. “It’s healthy to have a discussion and some consensus about when and where (bed is a good place to start) both parties agree that devices should be switched off. The main thing is that both are in agreement over appropriate use.”
More Like This...