The power of technology to interfere in marriages has grown dramatically in recent decades. Previously, spouses only had to contend with the TV and radio, and the few channels that could be picked up by an antenna. Cable and satellite channels added additional interference. Researchers of a study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture report that interference from technology now comes in this order: computers, smartphones television, then tablets.
Technology offers opportunities for couples to connect when they’re apart through applications like texting and email. But many couples experience technological interference when they’re together from what these researchers call “technoference.” Many individuals struggle to disconnect from their devices when they’re at home. Computers, internet and smartphones, and telecommuting make it easier than ever before to blur the boundaries between work and home.
Many spouses fail to resist reacting to notifications from their devices. Time that couples could spend together is interrupted and consumed by intrusions from outsiders. This happens at the expense of meaningful communication between husband and wife. The researchers also found that conflict over technology predicted that spouses would have more depressive symptoms, and lower satisfaction with life and their relationship.
By agreeing on some simple rules of etiquette that work for both spouses, married couples can stop technology from interfering in their marriage, reinforce their lines of communication, and prevent conflict. Consider following these recommendations as you discuss the best rules for your marriage:
1) Make a short list of when it’s acceptable to use technology when you’re together.
Discuss acceptable use of devices like computers, TV, smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Draft this list together and only leave on it the points on which you can both agree. Revise it as circumstances and expectations change in your relationship and your world.
2) Communicate your rules to others, as needed.
Other family members or friends may benefit from understanding your boundaries. For example, if you have a mother who calls repeatedly until you pick up, she may benefit from knowing that you have designated specific times for technology use when you and your spouse are together. Assure her that when she leaves a message during those times you’ll return her call as soon as possible. You might even choose to specify what times you return calls on your voicemail.
3) Allow flexibility.
Issues may come up with family members, work or other commitments that call for occasional exceptions to your agreed-upon rules. Communicate with each other as far in advance as possible when these situations come up. Let your spouse know you’re expecting an interruption, may receive an urgent message you need to respond to, or have a commitment you need to deliver on. That enables your spouse to make contingency plans, so he or she can have something else to do while you’re busy.
4) Put your relationship first.
Rules can’t account for every circumstance. There may be situations where one of you needs the other’s attention immediately. If he or she asks you to put your phone down, turn away from the computer, or turn off any device, do it without complaining. Give the same respect and attention to your spouse that you would want if you were in their shoes.