Smartphone Boundaries for Relationship Success

Phone Boundaries | Uncommon Love Poly Counseling in Portland

I found this short film on Facebook today and was saddened by how true this depiction of cell use has become in our society.  

It is so easy to distance ourselves from uncomfortable moments and our phones have become a barrier even in happy times (watch the happy birthday scene).

Smart phones are wonderful for so many reasons.  I admit I have fallen into the trap of disconnection from time to time and have watched many friends fall into smart phone addiction.  "This candy's not gonna crush itself" a friend of mine told me on vacation while driving through the National Bison Range in beautiful Big Sky Montana.

Yeah, that's right, beautiful nature vs Candy Crush and the sacred buffalo were losing out.

Even though playing games amid the beautiful scenery was a big distraction, the phone also was very useful in finding us a pharmacy when someone needed medication in the middle of nowhere a few hours later.

So how do we set clear boundaries on smartphone use so they aren't in the way at the wrong time?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Don't text or talk while driving.

I know this has been said with regards to safety- and it is completely true.  BUT in addition to all the safety hazards, putting your phone away can actually decrease the stress you feel on that morning commute.  Seriously, it's not that far away and dates are already stressful without adding distraction.

If you need to use your phone for navigation set it for maps only and leave it in the car.  Nobody wants to date a stressball, or drive with one.

2.  Don't take your phone into nature.

When you set time to take a walk, hike, or go camping leave your phone behind.  Enjoy the scenery and tell campfire stories.  Turn down Candy Crush for games with your friends (or bison-filled views).  You really don't need a phone when walking the dog.  Enjoy the connections you can make  with your pets and with the land instead.

3.  Don't date your phone.

Here is the big one: when you are out put your phone away.  Don't leave it on the table, don't check it mid-conversation: be present with your date.  It is rude, and it creates disconnection in your communication and relationship.

If you are a big picture-taker or use your phone to take pictures designate one person as your photographer for the night and make sure you are all connected on social media.  This will help you stay connected and be more present with the group and your date!

4.  Sleep phone-free.

One of the best "rules" we made in our house this year was no phones in the bedroom.  We realized both of us were checking email right up until we turned the lights off and immediately after we woke up.  This left us feeling frazzled at bedtime and starting the day anxious.  

Set a no-phone space in your home and stick to it allows for greater presence and better sleep.

Of course smartphones are useful and helpful in hundreds of ways, using them within reason is great, but come up with guidelines so you can avoid the kind of distance in the film and be closely connected to those you love when you're on dates, parties or events.

What rules do you use to keep present and set aside your smartphone?  


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

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