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Is Your Smartphone Killing Your Relationship?

Mobile communication is arguably the most significant technological advancement of the 21st  century, creating the opportunity for two people situated tens of thousands of miles apart to connect instantly. But at the same time, these handheld super computers can also drive interpersonal relationships apart, creating disengagement and separation between two people sitting at the same table. In today’s high-tech world, here are three low-tech tips for maintaining a healthy, loving relationship with your intimate partner:

Put down your phones and look at each other.

Research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology has shown that eye gaze between people quite literally changes our physiology, creating meaningful links between people.

Remember that love is not an Emoji.

The mobile generation has evolved to understand emotions through emojis. But no emoji can ever do for our relationships what our actual 3D, real-time, here and now faces can do for our relationships. Make a point to tell your partner how your feel in the language you both understand—a touch, a look, a word, a gesture. Don’t rely on emojis to express what you feel.

Handle conflict face to face.

Research by the Pew Research Center (2014) indicated that 9 percent of couples have resolved a conflict via text when face-to-face proved too difficult.  My clinical experience with couples suggests that number is low! It is great to change gears when conflict gets too heated, but rather than resorting to texting, which is devoid of subtlety, non-verbals, and nuance, I suggest taking a time-out to cool off and then trying again–face-to-face–later.

Human relationships must adapt to their environments, which means most couples will continue to use their smartphones to communicate. But making the effort look your partner in the eye, tell him or her (with your voice, your face, and your touch) what you are feeling, and handle conflict face to face can go a long way to maintaining a loving and lasting relationship.