Technology and Relationships

We are living in a world increasingly embedded with technology. For many people, the day starts by reaching for their smartphone to check email and respond to texts. The rest of the day is spent on a tablet, mobile device, laptop or desktop either for professional or personal use. We’re continuously messaging, browsing, friending, tweeting, and sharing. While the convenience of technology helps us instantly connect with others, there are definite positives and negatives when it comes to the way we use it and how it effects our relationship with our partner.

The Positive Side To Technology and Relationships

With advances in technology and communication, it’s no surprise that it changes how we relate to one another. Despite the potential disadvantages, technology can provide unique opportunities for couples to connect and satisfy each other’s emotional needs. Researchers have noted that the ability to instantly share videos, music, photos, and other links can enhance the development of intimacy and a feeling of connection in a relationship. Another example is the use of text messaging, which offers couples the ability to stay in contact throughout the day and share their experiences. For couples that often travel for work, tools such as video chat provide a way to sit down together and talk about their day, bringing a sense of connection and bridging the distance. Other couples use technology to find ways to increase romance and intimacy within their relationship.

Although it feels like technology is driving us and our relationships, a February 2014 Pew Research study found that 72% of couples report the Internet has made “no real impact at all” on their relationship. And of the 27% of users who said the Internet has made an impact, 74% of them said that impact was positive.

The Downside to Technology

We’ve all witnessed the couple eating together in a restaurant, both glued to their respective devices and ignoring each other. While some couple use technology as a way to connect, others may find that it’s another distraction that prevents them from spending quality time with their partner. Maintaining all the various connections in our lives – including social media “friends,” work associates, family and neighbors – often results in small snippets of time available for our partner. Each interruption to your time alone diminishes the intensity of your connection and can make your partner feel like less of a priority. Virtual connections also can’t replace physical intimacy. Text or emails provide information, but they don’t offer one-on-one smiles, hugs, laughter, or touch. Eye-to-eye and skin-to-skin contact turns on the love hormone oxytocin, the brain chemical that enhances feelings of affection and increases the sense of bonding with your partner. This can’t be expressed over a text message, no matter how many emojis you use!

Technology may also make it easier to fight impulsively. Anger can be easily demonstrated in an email or text without taking time to calm down and consider a more tactful response. Texts can only convey so much and, without the sound of a voice to back it up, messages can be easily misinterpreted.

Social media sites have also come under fire for contributing to the demise of relationships. For some couples, excessive use of social networking and similar sites not only play a role in compensating for an unhappy relationship, but may also contribute to that unhappiness. It can lead to jealousy through seeing the perceived happiness of others or the suspicion that your partner is spending too much time communicating with someone else. The distinction between the realities of life and online life may become blurred through excessive use.

Technology isn’t going anywhere and, as it becomes more and more a part of our lives, it’s important to question how it can be a constructive, not destructive, tool within a relationship. Here are ways you can effectively use technology within a relationship.

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