Jackie A. Castro, LMFT
Not So Smart After All: 5 Mistakes Couples Make With Their Phones
Updated: May 21, 2019
It's human nature to reminisce about the past. It's easy to glorify our old boyfriends and girlfriends decades after the fact. We used to keep these thoughts to ourselves. Now there's an easy way to act on our daydreams.
Smart Phones. We love them. We take them everywhere. We bedazzle them with stylish cases. They help us pass the time while waiting. But did you know that your beloved 6 inches of plastic and programming could very well be the trigger that leads to relationship discord?
As a Marriage Family Therapist and relationship specialist, smart phones play a surprisingly huge role in relationship drama. The following are five of the most common mistakes people make with their smart phones:
1. Using Facebook and other social media when you're with your partner.
"My wife used to greet me with a kiss when I got home from work. Now she barely looks up from her phone. It seems like no matter where we are, or what we're doing, she's buried in Facebook."
Couples complain bitterly about coming home to busy thumbs rather than wiling lips. Social media, texting and electronic communications are killing intimacy.
Business transactions and communications used to be limited to the basic work week schedule. Not anymore. These days business is literally taking place 24/7. People text or email whenever a thought pops into their head. And they also seem to expect a reply as instantaneous as the communique. There's no thought that a person might be out to dinner, spending time with the family or having sex. These days, the electronic intrusion takes precedence over everything else.
We're forgetting how to be present with each other in the moment. Most couples are not even aware of the damage that phones and social media are causing. Look no further than your smart phone to see a device that ostensibly brings the world together, but tears couples apart.
Set your priorities straight. If it's something that can wait until tomorrow, make sure and do that. Friends and business acquaintances will soon get the hint and be more cognizant of when to contact you. Be proactive with your phone. Remember you control the phone, the phone doesn't control you.
2. Texting when you're with your partner.
"She's always texting. Sometimes it happens even when we're in bed watching TV.
She tells me that it has to do with business matters that can't wait. More often, she's just chatting with a friend. I try to be patient but sometimes I can't help but feel like I'm second fiddle to her phone."
It's one thing to check your calendar and it's another thing to text. A text conversation is the same as a phone conversation with one important difference. It's completely private. Would you whisper to someone else in front of your spouse? Would you have a side conversation while your partner is standing right beside you? That's what you're doing when texting. It's rude and unnecessary. And more and more it's becoming a point of contention in long-term relationships.
Keep text conversations to a minimum when spending time with your partner. Be courteous and put the phones down. If you absolutely need to have that text exchange, be sure to inform your significant other why you are sending or receiving a text. Better yet, show him your phone. That way no one is left guessing or feeling slighted.
3. Snooping on your partner's phone.
"Can you imagine? I woke up from surgery and Beverly was glaring at me.Turns out she was reading my texts the whole time I was under. Now she's seeing things that aren't true. I hate the constant distrust. This kind of snooping behavior is a real turn off."
We can't help but look. It's ever so tempting. But poring through your partner's text messages almost never ends up well. Invariably, someone is violated or busted.
Most commonly, the texts are misinterpreted. Beverly found messages to his ex-wife of 15 years. Since the divorce was amicable, some of the messages were friendly. As a result, Beverly jumped to conclusions. Her boyfriend hated the false accusations so he ended the relationship. Ironically, this is what Beverly feared most, but she literally pushed him away.
Make judgments based on real evidence, not inconclusive text messages. When you think something is off, go to the source. That's your partner. Talk and talk again. Go see a marriage counselor to learn how to communicate. Don't bicker about meaningless texts usually interpreted out of context. Resist the urge to look. You'll be happier and your relationship will be able to have the chance it deserves.
4. Trusting your cell phone to keep a secret.
"He told me that he blocked her! He told me he would never communicate with her again. But once again we're out to dinner and she's texting him. And he texted her right back. I'm tired of his excuses. I know for sure now that I can't trust him."
It is virtually impossible to lie these days. Still, many people feel that they can get away with it. And then they inevitably get caught, create mistrust, and trigger feelings of pain, anger and betrayal.
In the past, many of us were told that telling a fib keeps the peace. So we 'worked late' when we were really at the bar. We bought dresses on 'sale' when we really paid full price. We told 'white lies' and generally got away with them.
These days our phones give us away. GPS devices make us easy to track. Emails offer all kinds of receipts and hints of our whereabouts. We keep personal notes, recorded messages and automatic reminders that offer a great deal of information. We might as well be honest. Our electronic world offers no other choice!
5. Communicating secretly with an ex.
"I was shocked by the butterflies in my stomach when Bobby found me on Instagram! I didn't see the harm in communicating with an ex since he lives out of state. What I didn't figure on were my deep emotions. I'm feeling confused now. I find myself feeling more connected to him than my own husband!"
In a not so distant past, couples shared a home line. The phone would ring and somebody would answer it. The caller would identify themselves and leave a message with whomever picked up. Since the phone would be centrally located, everyone in the house would hear one side of the conversation. There was very little privacy and it worked out fine.
These days the smart phone individualizes communication. We have maximum privacy. Texting and social media provides a quiet way to converse. No one can hear what we have to say. Many couples are taking advantage of their new found freedom. And that liberty is causing problems!
It's human nature to reminisce about the past. It's easy to glorify our old boyfriends and girlfriends decades after the fact. We used to keep these thoughts to ourselves. Now there's an easy way to act on our daydreams. And while it's OK to contact friends, it's not OK to contact or encourage communication with former lovers. It never ends well.
Bobby didn't know that his ex girlfriend's husband of 13 years had lost his job 16 months prior. Or that they were having major financial and personal problems. Problems that didn't get posted. As a result, she was feeling vulnerable and latched on to Jim. And Jim himself was married with kids. It didn't take long before a big mess developed.
Take pause before contacting an ex. If you are the recipient of the contact, tell your current partner right away. Committed relationships were not designed to be secretive!
Smart phones are designed to make our lives easier and more organized, but it's up to you to use their undeniable power for good. Not deception. Enjoy all they have to offer, but be aware of the effects they could be having on your relationship. Always be mindful of who and how you communicate with others.
If you think you need to skulk around in the shadows of your phone, re-think your behavior. And if you think you need to be a detective check into your own feelings about trust.
This article was written for and appears on Ravishly.
© Copyright 2015 Jackie A Castro, Therapy With Care