Technology has radically changed the way we work and communicate. It’s now possible to converse via our computers or our phones. Social media can be used for emotional support, social connections, or the promotion of a business, or managing your home. Even classrooms have moved online.
Email, electronic chats, and social media have given us tools that we can use to get closer to the people we care about—or even locate estranged family members. In fact, a 2019 study by Michael Rosenfield (a Stanford sociologist) found that about 39% of heterosexual couples met their current partner via the Internet. That’s up from 22% in 2009. What effect does this technology have on relationships? Is there a way to approach technology so that it doesn’t harm the intimacy a couple needs to thrive?
When used properly, technology can strengthen the relationship between a husband and wife. For example, it can help a couple stay in touch throughout the day but you have to consider your expectations and set boundaries. How much time do both of you want to spend using a keyboard and staring at a screen? Technology provides relationship advantages, but its disadvantages can cause some marriages to derail. Messaging as well as voice capabilities can help keep families in touch during the day. Busy parents can check in with the kids or their teacher. If you are stuck in traffic, you can let your spouse know you’ll be late. Likewise, live streaming and video chat can give military families a way to connect across the miles. The Internet is a wonderful resource. Couples can search online for parenting advice or look up local events for a date night.
But technology can also drive a wedge between you. It can rob you of time together, allow you to bring home work, or create distrust. Some people are compelled to check their social media repeatedly and must check their phones even during family dinners and events. They may also spend a considerable amount of time playing computer games or watching videos. When a spouse spends too much time in these pursuits, a relationship can falter. And if vices can be indulged online, such as sports, gambling, or pornography, addictive behaviors can flourish. The internet can also be used to create a false persona, to have a fantasy affair. A marriage is in serious trouble when technology becomes a compulsion that diverts time and money away from your goals as a couple. Do you know when to switch it off?
Here are some suggestions for creating more togetherness without the distraction of technology.
Have at least one meal together and do not allow electronic devices
Create agreed-upon periods of time to unplug from your devices
Schedule a date night or other special time together and limit smartphone use
Keep your devices off at night, away from where you sleep
Set aside 15 minutes a day to talk to each other, without devices nearby
Intimacy is best when you can relate face-to-face. Have you started to feel like you both are using technology to avoid talking directly to each other? Are there things that need to be discussed, but you’re losing the ability to do so when offline? Recognize this communication problem and start to get back to focusing on the real world instead of the virtual one. Do you use your laptop or phone in bed checking Facebook instead of using that time to chat with, kiss, or make love to your partner? If that sounds familiar, it’s time to turn the laptop off or put the phone on the nightstand. Pay more attention to your partner.
Like all things in life, you need to set boundaries for technology to play a healthy role in your marriage. It’s important to draw a clear line between our online and offline lives, which means switching off your phone and ignoring your evening emails. Technology has its good uses, but it is crucial not to lose your ability to speak from the heart because time in real life is short and love is still a hands-on affair.