Monday, July 4, 2016

You, Your Partner and Technology: A Modern-Day Love Triangle?

There is no arguing that our lives have been impacted by technology. Technological advances over the past several decades have progressed our society and culture way beyond what our ancestors could have ever dreamed. Professionals in the Psychological community, such as Kay Byers, Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S), have been closely monitoring the expanding computer-and-human association since the 1990s, because of how technology virtually touches every aspect of our lives. Recent leaps forward in technology have forever changed how we interact and communicate, conduct business, gather and disseminate information, shop for things we need, entertain ourselves, and more. 

Digital discoveries in education, business, healthcare, emergency response, commerce, law enforcement, social connection, science, and more have shaped society and the human race in ways we are not even fully aware of yet. However, counseling mental health professionals like Kay Byers, LPC-S, are studying the effects technology is having on social interaction and relationships in order to help patients deal with — and protect themselves against — fallout caused by overly-intrusive and interruptive technology.

For instance, in her practice providing individual counseling and couples counseling, Kay Byers and her counseling associates have begun to get a glimpse of what long-term effects technology has on the way people communicate with each other. In an age where texting, snap-chatting, tweeting, and instant-messaging is the norm, those who remember pre-internet human interaction wax nostalgic over the lost art of the conversation, and enjoying romantic relationships without the aid — or intrusion — of technology.

Kay Byers, and other members of the pychological community, are dealing with this new phenomenon in individual and couples counseling. For instance, the term “technoference” was coined by Penn State University’s Brandon T. McDaniel, who specializes in the studies of human development and families. The term reflects the disconnect some couples are experiencing due to people being “addicted” to their mobile devices and technology, to which they are always connected. As a result, they are always “on”, and consequently, distracted from their partner.

As Kay Byers has discovered during some of her couples counseling sessions, the sometimes-obsessive tendency to always be checking devices, smartphones — even watching TV — can drive a real wedge between romantic partners. Time spent making meaningful connections with each other by enjoying activities, eating and even talking, is often interrupted by these forms of technology. This leaves the other partner feeling dissatisfied with the relationship, frustrated and isolated at times - even if the technoference is not done on purpose. Smartphones in particular appear to cause the most interference because people can do everything on them - view and post on social media sites, check email, take pictures, check news and sports scores, and more. In fact, it has been reported that among women, approximately 70% of them believe their romantic relationships are being meddled with by these modern marvels.

Whether intentional or not, someone constantly being drawn away from their significant other — and into the lure of technology — sends the message to their partner that they are not really important to them. That can cause real problems to the couple, and to the individual. Along with stunting the intimacy of the relationship, this can even bring on angry and negative feelings about a person’s own worth, life in general, and contribute to depression and other mental disorders. This is not to say that smartphones are always damaging to romantic relationships. In fact, when used properly, the time saved taking care of things on your smartphone can give people more time to spend with their partner.

Through her couples counseling and anger management counseling services, Kay Byers, LPC-S, advises the following tips to set boundaries and keep technology from ruining romantic relationships.

#1 – Let’s Get a Few Things Straight
Come up with a few agreed-upon rules about when technology will be off-limits. Probably the first hour home with your partner, or dinnertime, are good times to put your device away, so you can devote that time fully to each other to share the day’s events. Shut your device off, or silence it, so you don’t hear alarms and dings that will beckon you to it.

#2 – Don’t Go There
One of the things Kay Byers stresses to her patients in individual counseling and couples counseling is to establish places that will be device-free. This may be challenging at first, since people are used to having their devices with them everywhere. The importance of disconnecting from the world to focus entirely on your partner should be honored in certain areas of your home — such as the bedroom — to ensure boundaries are being set and the relationship is being protected from outside intrusion.

#3 – The Buddy System
Couples in counseling to help their intimacy issues (and generally improve their relationship) should learn how to give each other slack when someone falters, and gently get them back on the right track. Old habits die hard; it’s important to be gentle which each other and find loving ways to remind each other of the rules you’ve agreed upon. Using humor is always a good way to remind your partner without coming across as judgmental or angry. Just make sure that the humor is not sarcastic!

#4 – Cut the Cord
If there are certain sites, apps, games, etc. that are just too addictive to a person, Kay Byers, LPC-S, will suggest removing them. If the relationship is worth making a priority, this might be the best decision to make for someone who just can’t seem to limit himself or herself. After all, these sites can be accessed from a computer or laptop, but are not as immediately accessible as they are on a smartphone that is always at the person’s side.

Kay Byers and her associates have seen the progression of technology in society as a growing strain on relationships in many of the couples they treat. She encourages couples to assess their attachment to their devices, and make appropriate usage adjustments to avoid making them into a third “partner”.

If you need help with your relationship, please contact the office at 214 546 4514 now.


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