Technology and relationships

Technology can impact your relationship in more ways than you think. Here's how to handle the fallout.

Relationship counsellor Mary Ovenstone explains that the media and technology we consume have an impact on our brains. If your partner is an avid watcher of violent movies, for example, that may make him more aggressive and influence the way he relates to you. In terms of technology, social media also adds a new dimension to relationships. We examine these relationship issues.

TV and relationships
"We are constantly bombarded by technology and things that stimulate the brain in different ways," says Ovenstone. Once you're repeatedly exposed to the same message, this can cause changes in the brain. However, the act of consuming media, in itself, is not necessarily a problem.
"When men come home from work, they often feel the need to offload their brains so they often sit down in front of the TV for about an hour as a way of doing this," explains Ovenstone. "If your brain is exhausted when you come home, you're not as emotionally aware." With this knowledge, it becomes easier to know when to broach important topics with your man. "Women have less of a need to offload in this way," she continues. "Yet if consuming media becomes a way for either of you to avoid conversation, family or your relationship, or if it colours your perceptions of one another, then it points to a deeper problem."

Social media
"Social media is time consuming and can open doors for you or your partner to get involved in cyberspace relationships, which can eventually manifest in real physical relationships," says Ovenstone. This risk obviously depends on the couple and the strength of their relationship.
Spying on your partner and demanding their passwords is not a solution, but rather points to a lack of trust. "There are boundaries that we shouldn't cross to monitor our partner's behaviour, there should be a level of trust," Overstone says. "If you're worried, rather observe the effects of time spent online by your partner. Ask yourself how much time he spends with you and monitor the quality of time you spend together. The minute your partner shows that they are untrustworthy, go to a counsellor."

Establishing boundaries
If you and your partner establish boundaries right from the beginning of your relationship, a lot of future turmoil can be avoided. "Both of you should agree on boundaries in the relationship. These should be tailored to the individuals involved," explains Ovenstone. "Determine how many hours you'll each spend on social media, watching TV, BBMing and so on. Be mindful of the rules you've both created and check in with each other with regards to this."  Also determine what kind of online conversations are appropriate.

Stay connected with your partner
Only you and your partner can determine if technology and modern-day distractions are creating relationship problems. "Keep perspective," says Ovenstone. "We need to do things that enhance our mindfulness and self-awareness. You and your partner need to be careful that you're not falling into online or television habits that mesmerise you and take you away from reality," says Ovenstone. "Measure this according to the time you're spending on activies that provide an escape and how much time you spend being in an aware and awake relationship." Do this for yourself and each other and make sure you're both willing to listen to one another's concerns.