If you’re a good listener, you already know that listening is all about giving someone your full attention. In a world with internet on tap, there are a million ways that attention can be stolen. And when technology overrides the attention we need, our relationships lose out. There’s even a name for this – it’s called “technoference”.
One study found that “technoference”, where computers, phones, tablets, or TVs interrupt couples’ everyday interactions, occurred in around 70% of relationships. In another study, 38% of partners said they had even sent texts or emails during conversations with their partners.
“iPads and computers have breached the boundary between the home and the bedroom”, according to Professor Wellings of the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Technology, while useful for keeping in touch, can be an intrusion, particularly when people check their messages and updates at bedtime.
Because habits die hard, it might be an idea to agree on some rules, like turning off mobiles after 9 pm, or no mobiles and tablets in the bedroom. This might help you both to disconnect from the world, and make space to connect with each other. You may also find that your sleep improves.
If you’ve come through the hidden issues program, you’ll already be quite aware that some issues lie deeper beneath the surface. For example, if you were regularly ignored by your parents as a child, it can make you sensitive to being ignored in your romantic relationships. Even if it’s unintentional, your partner’s distraction may be affecting you far more than they realise. . If you can let your partner know how much it affects you, they may be more inclined to make a conscious effort to turn away from their distractions, and turn towards you.
Be honest and keep the language more along the lines of “this is how I feel”, rather than “this is how you make me feel”. It’s a slight shift in language, but it’s helpful to eliminate accusation wherever possible.
If you’re aware of your own distractions and want to bring it under more control, it might help to put some boundaries in place. For example, make the active decision not to respond to emails, check messages, or even watch television during meal times. This simple shift in attention – even for just an allocated block of time – will gradually become habit, and could start to improve your day-to-day interactions.
There’s also the option of removing the notifications, or even taking the big leap of deleting apps that are unnecessary distractions.
Often, putting the television on ends up becoming just another habit that blocks the conversation and engagement you might otherwise have. Try leaving the television off until there’s something specific that you want to watch together. Whether it’s the news, a film, or a series, what matters is that it’s an active joint decision.