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Researchers examined technology use alone, use by one’s partner, as well as shared technology use and the potential impact that use had on feelings about time spent together, conflict during time spent together, and overall relationship quality.
“Individuals who tend to be heavier technology users or perceive their partners as being heavier technology users tend to feel less satisfied with, and experience more conflict in their couple leisure time, and feel worse about their relationship overall,” reports the study.
Interestingly, the study found that partners cut each other more slack than they did for themselves when it came to using technology during shared time.
“We give our partners a little bit of flexibility,” said Galovan. “But for ourselves … our interpretation is that even by just checking our phones for notifications, we’re not paying attention to the relationship as much, so we might not be noting our partner or feel connected, and that affects the way we feel about our time together and our relationship.”
The study also found that using technology together — say, playing a video game together or watching a TV show side-by-side — did not show the “robust relational benefit” researchers had expected. Galovan said more study is needed in that area.
Galovan suggested one lesson of the study is that couples should be mindful of their tech time, and think twice about when they use technology (right before bed is a no-no). Also, habitual scrolling of social media feeds in front of partners is probably not a good idea.
“We could be more mindful, and say ‘I need a specific reason’ instead of mindlessly viewing,” said Galovan.
He said technology users need to acknowledge their partners.
“When your partner comes into the room, do you look up and say ‘how’s it going?’ Just that small action lets them know that you’re paying attention.”