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Putting people before phones

Smart phones are impacting on relationships.

Opinion

Putting people before phones

Suzanne Loubris looks at the impact social media and technology can have on relationships and offers some advice if it’s becoming a problem.

You know when you have been with someone for a long time, you just don’t want to hear them tell that boring story again? Or you know exactly what they are going to say in a situation, because they say it everrrrry time?

How wonderful that we can put some headphones on and enjoy the cat videos on Facebook instead of listening. I am quite sure this saves lives, as well as relationships.

But what about when it isn’t working? Have you noticed how some people allow social media and technology to take over their lives? They have become obsessed with responding to every ping on their phone.

When does being phone obsessed become a problem in a relationship? This is up for debate. Your partner might be grateful you are so engaged with your technology, because then they can be too. Or maybe you are a little boring and/or you talk incessantly, so they are happy you have another interest that keeps you occupied. Technology might be saving your relationship and maintaining your partner’s sanity.

However, there are times when this isn’t going to be the case. Maybe one of you is feeling left out, separated, disengaged, irritated and generally wondering if you are still in a relationship.

How do you decide how much tech time is enough? It’s about negotiation. What are you prepared to accept? How much interaction do you want? If you have to find out what your partner’s opinion on a topic is or whether they’re going to an event through Facebook, you probably won’t be happy about it.

Some relationships are very open and people like to go their own way. This is fine if it suits both people, but what about when it doesn’t?  When do we draw the line and set boundaries about what is acceptable?

I would suggest that the relationship decides. What works for both of you is what works. Here’s how you might go about starting that conversation: “Hey, you probably don’t realise this but I am getting a bit annoyed about the amount of time you are on your phone or responding to texts. Can I ask that you limit the amount of time you spend doing that when we are together?”

Or you might say: “I notice you are on your phone when we are in bed together, I would much rather you paid attention to me or spent some time cuddling.”

With everything in a relationship, its about balance and negotiating those boundaries.

Suzanne Loubris is a relationships and organisational psychologist who works with individuals, couples and corporations to resolve conflict. Visit behaviourthatworks.com.

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