New Rules of Engagement

Hello, all and Happy Summer!

I hope everyone is enjoying the warm and sunny weather in Portland! I also hope you are using this summertime to do some well-deserved self care.   

I apologize for the lack in blog posts lately. I will be starting up on that again soon. In the meantime, my amazing colleague Rachel Hnizdil has written a VERY helpful blog post just for us on the affects of technology on relationships, and tips on how to improve. Enjoy! 


Client #1: Jim and Pam were driving to meet their children for dinner. As they drove, Jim says, “How’s your other husband doing? You spend more time with it than you do with me.” Without looking up from her phone, Pam replies, “I was just checking the restaurant’s menu to start deciding what I will order tonight.” 

Client #2: Jessica accuses Carlos of never wanting to talk anymore. She says that they used to have pillow talks at night but now Carlos unwinds before bed reading through Facebook. Carlos says that she should just say something if she wanted to and that he would listen, but she says it’s just not the same. 

If these examples seem like common examples, it’s because they are. I mean, what’s the harm in Pam checking out the menu and Carlos looking at pictures on Facebook? Neither action is necessarily ‘bad’ and yet they are actions that slowly erode friendship, easy connection, and intimacy, the foundation of a deep, long lasting relationship. 

John Gottman, a relationship researcher, has documented that the unstructured moments that partners spend in each other’s company, occasionally offering observations that invite conversation or laughter or some other response, hold the most potential for building closeness and a sense of connection. Each of those deceptively minor interludes is an opportunity for couples to replenish a reservoir of positive feelings that dispose them kindly to each other when they hit problems. 

But what happens when we fill those moments with technology, and miss the opportunities to connect? How can something that has been designed to be so helpful, be destructive to our relationships and actually erode a strong, healthy connection? I could write a book about this topic, but for this article I believe it is important to let you in on a few well kept secrets.

First, almost all relationships struggle with how to use technology in a balanced way that respects their relationship! It’s a common issue. So, if you are struggling with technology in your relationship, know that you are part of a large club.

Second, there is hope for change and ways that you can take back the control that technology has silently stolen from you. Here are a few questions that will help guide you and your partner as you decide what role technology needs to play in your relationship.

  • What are your expectations about tech use for you and your partner? (for example: is it okay to bring your phone to bed to surf the web before going to sleep?)
  • Do you tell your partner whom you are texting?
  • What, if any, places in the home are off-limits to electronic devices?
  • What are rules for use in the car?
  • What are your hopes for structuring tech-free time to be fully present in your relationship? (i.e. no phones at the table, tech-free vacation, tech-free weekend, no phones while on a date, phones are silenced after 7:00 pm, etc.)

Just taking the time to talk to someone you love about technology shows them that you value your relationship over your devices. This is powerful! Having the courage to put boundaries on technology is actively fighting for your relationship. And while you plan the role that you want technology to play in your lives, you are building connection. Who knew simple conversation could do so much!! 


Bio: Rachel Hnizdil MS QHMP MFT is a relationship therapist who believes that quality relationships enrich our lives and gives our life meaning. She is passionate about working with those aspiring to be Savvy Singles, Nearly Weds, and Courageous Couples to build deeper connections and life enriching relationships. Rachel offers free resources for you to start right now creating the relationships you desire. Feel free to visit Rachel’s website at, and see what resources that would be useful to you. Rachel has also created Life Courses to turn the latest research into useful skills on how to make your connections rich and long lasting. When Rachel is not knee deep in relationship training, she can be found enjoying Oregon’s amazing Farmer’s Markets, U-pick berry farms, and music in the park with friends and family.

Posted on August 2, 2016 .