When does being obsessed with technology compromise your love life?

We all are pretty tied to our phones, computers and tablets, but when does being technologically connected affect our love lives? When you’re sitting at the dinner table and your significant other pulls out his/her phone to check texts or post a clever Facebook status, studies show that this could make that intimate connection feel […]

We all are pretty tied to our phones, computers and tablets, but when does being technologically connected affect our love lives?

When you’re sitting at the dinner table and your significant other pulls out his/her phone to check texts or post a clever Facebook status, studies show that this could make that intimate connection feel strained.

A study published last month in the International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy found that when one person in a relationship gets absorbed in some forms of technology more than the other, the other person could end up feeling insecure or ignored.  In other words, abandonment issues come into play. In reality this doesn’t seem to be far fetched, but are we really doing anything to change this behavior?

“Engaging in technology separate to a partner while in the presence of them encourages a disconnection rather than a connection,” said Christina Leggett, a senior researcher at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia, who wrote the study with Pieter J. Rossouw, a professor there. “Disconnection in relationships tends to lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and comprises an individual’s sense of safety, attachment and control.”

This isn’t the only research on the subject.

Pew Research found that 25 percent of cellphone users in a relationship believed that their partner was distracted by that person’s cellphone when they were together. Eight percent said they had argued about how much time one party spends online.

In 2013, a study by Brigham Young University researchers concluded that texting too much within a relationship could leave partners very dissatisfied with their overall communication. (Saying “sorry” over text in an argument only made things worse, the same study found.) And in 2012, researchers at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business found that paying too much attention to a cellphone could ruin relationships with loved ones and friends.

These studies seem to show that it’s going to take some extra effort to put your phone to the side and not feel entirely obligated to photograph your most recent meal – maybe just enjoy your meal with that special someone. In addition to that, it could be worth while to declare certain areas of your life gadget-free zones, like the bedroom.

At the same time, when used properly, technology can keep us closer and actually make relationships stronger.

“Being able to stay in touch with loved ones when they are not physically present is a benefit that ought not be underestimated,” said Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University. He wrote a breakthrough paper in 2012 about technology and relationships. “I don’t disagree that technology can distract us away from the people who are most physically proximate, but I see no evidence that our relationships are diminished by technology.”

There are two sides of the coin, but if technology is making your relationship more complicated or difficult, it might be worth setting up some ground rules and explore alternatives to the digital addiction.

[Photo by Ed Yourdon]