Technology may be revitalizing our lost connections and communications with other people – think of all the people from your high school you would never interact with if not for Facebook – but our dependency on social media is slowing killing our most intimate relationships.
Many millennials will disagree with this statement, but those of us age 35 or older can still remember when dating was more of a quality time experience. There were no distractions from phones, Internet, or social media. You went out and spent time with your partner, verbally communicating and learning about each other’s lives, interests and personalities. This was the way to connect on an intimate level, the type of intimacy necessary to sustain partnerships for years.
As a relationship therapist, I see many couples who, because of their social media connections, struggle with communication on an intimate level. In nearly all infidelity cases I see, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or even LinkedIn play a part in why and how the cheating partner strays from the relationship. Cheating site Ashley Madison provides a social network for infidelity, but do people actually need it?
According to a 2015 survey from Zephoria Internet Marketing, most Facebook users spend, on average, more than 20 minutes per visit to the site, usually two to three times per day. Did our partners get more than one hour of undivided attention from us today? Many of us can answer that question with, “Well…not exactly.”
Not only is social media taking away from your partner, it also takes time away from you. It is psychologically healthy to have solitude at times, to get in touch with your innermost private self. If you don’t know yourself intimately, how can you share those parts of you with other people?
Many times I will see that couples don’t give each other this private time. Recently, in a session with a couple, it was revealed that one person had “liked” a comment by an ex-lover that was more than a year old on social media. The couple had argued for days with both feeling frustrated and violated by the other’s actions. One partner had been obsessed with trying to find out if the other partner really loved them. And, after much digging, they found what they were seeking: an understanding of the destructive force of social media on their intimate relationship.
What if they had this time of solitude, and were more in tune with their own needs and desires, and could express that to each other? What if this couple were to spend more time effectively communicating with each other face-to-face? This may have had a much different outcome, one with a deep intimate connection.
Are you recognizing that social media has been killing your intimate relationship? Then I want to leave you with a few tips to help reconnect with your partner.
Tip #1: Limit your time on social media platforms. Be mindful of your partner and the time you spend together. Even mindless scrolling or taking a peek at your phone while with your partner can leave them feeling unimportant.
Tip #2: Be “friends” with your partner face-to-face. I am reminded of the “Pina Colada Song”, Escape, by Rupert Holmes. Millenials, you may have to search these lyrics. You may be surprised at how much you have in common and how much fun you have as you initiate more intimate conversations. I encourage couples in counseling to spend 15-20 minutes a few times each week working on communicating better with each other.
Tip #3: Allow each other to your privacy. It is not necessary for us to know every detail about the thoughts and activities of our partner. That leaves little to the mystery of each other. Try to steer away from “snooping” on your partner’s social media pages to find clues about them. When in doubt, refer to Tip #2 and ask them. In the information age, we want to know more, but it is okay for these things to come out gradually as you share your lives.
Social media has its place, and is great for connecting with all kinds of people. As tempting as it may be to stay connected, actually disconnecting can be more beneficial and keep you from slowly killing your intimate relationships.