A young couple in their early 30’s sits in front of me trying to understand why they’ve been struggling with intimacy. He describes coming home from work and how his girlfriend spends their evening with the phone, IPad and computer surrounding her, not speaking. Facebook, email and texts messages join them in the bedroom and the day draws to a close. This is an ongoing scenario and is taking a toll on their relationship.

On the surface, the issue is simple, just put down the computers and pay attention to your partner. It’s a reasonable request, but many couples struggle with keeping it going. It has become the modern day “Honey I have a headache” to avoid having sex and is becoming a common theme in couple’s therapy.

While I am not sure it’s helpful to pathologize this issue of using social media to avoid connecting to your partner; it does feel valuable to pay attention when it does happen. Becoming more conscious of when we use our computers to ‘disengage’ from our partner allows us to reconnect to our feelings of resistance. When we are able to identify these feelings, we are more likely to be able to name them to ourselves and to talk to our partners about what’s really going on.

Steps to breaking the habit of social media:
1. Make a conscious effort to finish your e-mails, look at Facebook and tweeting before coming together in the evening.
2. Interact and discuss what social media activities you have been up to with your partner.
3. Try watching entertainment together on your IPad for a more intimate experience.
4. Choose an activity that you both find enjoyable: working out, watching a film or cooking together. Why not sign up for a course or do something you may not have done before such as yoga, the opera or a massage course.
5. If you are tempted to go on Facebook or email ask yourself if you may be avoiding spending time together or being intimate with your partner. Ask yourself why this is and discuss it.
6. Be present with your partner; spend time just being together without the distraction of your computer. Talk to each other about what you’ve been reading, thinking or dreaming about? Let them know a part of you no one else does. You might find the spark with your partner that you lost before you hooked up with the virtual world.

Shirlee Kay