Screen Time + Your Relationship

How does screen time fit in your relationship?

Screens are everywhere around us. They are in our pockets, calling out with a sweet little chirp or vibration all day long, letting us know when there is an opportunity for connection, validation, communication, or entertainment. This is a powerful pull.

Screens are so much a part of your life that they’ve already entered your relationship. They’ve impacted the way you and your partner connect and interact. They have impacted an argument already, made you feel ignored, and left you and your partner disconnected and irritable.

Screens aren’t inherently bad. I see the value in them. I see a lot of power in social media, entertainment value in the TV, and the learning components of YouTube. There is a lot we have access to, and that is really amazing. I also think that it is IMPERATIVE in a relationship to have some guidelines around screen time. These guidelines are things that both partners can agree to, hold themselves and each other accountable to, and create some limits around how much the screen is going to pull time away from the relationship. This is part of practicing conscious use and awareness of the use of screens. It is something that we have the power to do as an aware generation of people. The best way to approach this with your partner is with a formal conversation about what you want your guidelines and limits to be around screen usage.

Here are a few tips on having this conversation:

  1. First it’s important to understand what role screens play in your life and your partners life. Are you mainly using Netflix or Amazon at the end of the day to watch shows and unwind? Are you on Instagram all day looking to connect with others? Are you using your phone to read news articles to stay involved in the world? We all have different needs and priorities. Screen time can actually meet some of these needs. So start here. What purpose is screen time serving for you personally?

  2. Next, both people need to acknowledge that the relationship has a need for both people to spend some time present, connected, and engaged. Also, each individual person in the relationship ALSO has their own needs for connection and engagement with heir partner. Sometimes these needs don’t match perfectly, and that’s ok. The partner with higher need for connection deserves acknowledgement from the partner with lower need for connection that the screen can sometimes get in the way of their time together.

  3. Spend some time CALMLY discussing ways that you might be able to honor BOTH your time together as a couple connecting, AND your time blowing off steam using screen time. How can you try to allow space for each partner to find the fun, low stress, low effort time they are seeking with screens? Everyone needs some time to disconnect, without expectation. That feels really good sometimes. Are there ways to incorporate space for downtime AND time to connect as a couple without screens?

  4. Now come to some conclusions about how to move forward. Maybe you’ve decided to spend some time apart on your screens with a timer to remind you when it’s time to put them away and come back together. Maybe you designate a few screen-free zones in the house (such at the bedroom and dinner table). Maybe you find time to connect after everyone is home for the day, allowing space to come together and talk before retreating to your separate activities (screens) in the later evening. There is no one magic solution, but you and your partner can find some kind of balance that works here.

The key points here are that in order to come to change a behavior, we first have to understand the MEANING of that behavior. We need to know what purpose it serves. If you want to adjust you and your partner’s overuse of screen time, you first have to understand what the personal benefit of using the screen is. Once you know that, then you can move forward in deciding what to do about it, how to set limits, and how to prioritize human connection over disconnection.