With Earth Hour approaching once again, technology and its affect on our relationships is in the spotlight. Twenty to thirty years ago, the only few things interfering in being intimate with one another were kids, pets and the occasional telephone ringing. Most people only owned 1 TV, which was in their lounge, and when we got into bed at night it was generally to sleep, read or have sex. Nowadays, however, technology has crept in between couples being intimate and more often in between couples having sex as well.
Recent studies have revealed that a nearly whopping 20% of people check their phones during sex, whether that’s to answer a call, reply to a text or check an email! That’s 1 in 5 people! These days, our smartphones come everywhere with us – from the bed to the shower, to the office and to the gym (and even into the bathroom). We have developed more of an attachment to our smartphones than some people do to their partners! In particular, it has been found that intimate conversations are most affected by technology, and technology inhibits us from developing a relationship with a partner by limiting our ability to connect. Other areas of concern include feeling distant, impaired trust and disrupted intimacy. It’s no wonder then, that many people feel that technology infringes on their relationships.
When I see clients who are struggling with intimacy in their relationships, I always get them to draw up a “barriers to intimacy” list. This list details anything that stops you as a couple from being intimate (a barrier). The lists often include feeling tired, kids, pets, and yes, you guessed it, cell phones! Whether it’s paying attention to your phone more than you do your partner, or it’s checking your phone when you could be sharing an intimate moment, smartphones are disengaging us from being present in our relationships. We completely disengage from our partners when we could be strengthening the relationship.
So how do we change some of our bad habits?
- Agree to turn off your phones at the same time every night, at least an hour before you go to bed.
- If you’re worried someone might need you, most smartphones have a fantastic function such as ‘do not disturb’, which stops all incoming calls etc. except from specific people (family, close friends etc.)
- Leave your phones to charge by a plug that it not within reach of the bed
- When you’re sharing a meal, whether at home or out, cellphones go on silent and get put away (or left in another room during dinner at home) and sit down at a table (if you can) and not in front of your favourite TV show.
- Again, if you’re worried someone might need you, like the babysitter, use the ‘do not disturb’ function on the phone or leave 1 phone on loud and ask the sitter to only call in an emergency – ignore everything else!
- If you’re on a date, this is definitely where the cellphone has no place. Leave it alone until after the date, or even better, save your battery to call your friends after and turn it on to flight mode or off completely.
- If you’re hooked to the latest episode of House of Cards, wait until you’ve had a meal together and can catch up on the day. Then only sit down to watch together, and get some good quality cuddle time in too!
- Do not reach for your phone first thing in the morning, unless it’s to turn off an alarm or push snooze.
- Do not befriend your ex on Facebook, Twitter or follow them on Instagram if you still have any feelings for them or it makes your current partner uncomfortable. If it was a messy breakup or toxic relationship, trust me, unfriend them and cut all contact – it will help you heal!
- Do not advertise EVERY detail of your relationship on social media. This is particularly relevant when you’re angry or hurt (as you’re bound to say something you regret). If your partner has done something to upset you, you should be telling them… not the world! Don’t cheapen the emotional intimacy and connection in a relationship by advertising your entire relationship with all 768 of your friends on Facebook. Keep some things a mystery, it’s sexy!
- Try to leave work at work, at least more days than not. Alternatively, stay at the office 1 hour extra so that when you get home, there’s uninterrupted time for you to share together. If there’s no way work is taking a back seat, set aside an hour each night to spend together, uninterrupted by technology! We all have to eat don’t we?
- Use technology to enhance your relationship by sending each other sexy texts or emails during the day when you’re at work, or using it to plan your weekend or holiday together. Then when you’re finally together at the end of the day, put the phones away and turn the laptops off.
- Agree on ‘technology rules’ that you’re both comfortable with and stick to them! Trust me, no one likes that person who is glued to their phone while you’re in their company, rather than actually engaging with them.
Durex recently ran a great campaign, Turn Off to Turn On. Hopefully this video makes you want to at least try to not be like these couples (especially the bride and groom). Earth Hour is taking place on the 28th March between 20.30-21.30pm.
There are, of course, a few advantages to using technology in a relationship, such as development of new relationships, enriching the relationship through communication and relationship management, looking up sex positions (yes please!) and sexting. But let’s be totally honest, we managed just fine in those areas pre-smartphones and iPads did we not? Hand-written love letter anyone?
Listen to my interview on Talk Radio 702 with Aubrey Masango here: