How often are you checking your email, text messages, Twitter or Facebook account on your phone throughout the day? Do you feel disconnected if your phone is not by your side, chirping with every new update? While there is the increased convenience and connectivity our cell phones and computers can bring us, it can also distract us from the personal, face-to-face time with the people we love the most. Nothing can replace the kind of communication you can engage in when the screens are away and you are looking into the eyes of your loved one. In our increasingly digital lifestyle, however, it can be difficult to set appropriate boundaries around the use of our devices. Here are 7 ground rules you and your partner can use to put social media and digital devices in their proper place within your relationship.

  • Agree to screen-free time. Make it a firm rule that you and your partner will set the phones or computers aside for at least 20 minutes a day so that you can talk to one another without interruptions.
  • No phones at meal times. Calls, messages, or updates can wait while you share a meal with your partner or family. Do not set the phone on the table. Put it away with the sound off.
  • No text message arguments. If a fight begins while you are text messaging, agree that you will both stop text messaging and wait to either speak over the phone or talk in person.
  • Make a rule about sharing personal information via social media. If you do not want your personal information (a family death, a job loss or gain, etc.) being shared on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media outlet, let your partner know. We all have different levels of comfort when it comes to this, so be open and honest about your needs.
  • Make a rule about calling or checking in. Do not assume that your partner will call on his way home or check in with you throughout the day. Make rules about this that are sensible for you both. Perhaps you will each send the other a message on your way home from work, but not throughout the day unless there is an issue.
  • No screens within an hour of bed time. Not only does research suggest that screens before bedtime can inhibit the amount and quality of sleep we get, but it can distract you from spending quality time with your partner. Rather than answer emails or browse Facebook, put the screens away and cuddle, read a book, or talk with your partner.
  • No secrets. Secrets of any kind can breed distrust and disconnection within a relationship, and this applies to our online lives as much as in any other facet of our lives. Be honest and forthcoming with your partner about how you use your phone and computer.

Contributed by Staff Therapist, Rachel Goldsmith