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August 23, 2019

Technoference & Cheating

Episode 121

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How can you reduce the negative effects of technology on your relationship? And how can you move on and rebuild after you’ve cheated on your partner? Jess and Brandon share their thoughts in response to listener questions.

Oftentimes when we ask something of our partner, we need to begin with ourselves. Before you try to convince your partner to put down their phone, ask yourself if you need to do the same. Even if you allow it to interfere to a lesser degree, every time you’re on yours, they’re likely to pick up their own.

And when it comes to cheating: you can move on and have a happy relationship after an affair. Begin by taking responsibility, getting help, tracking your progress, and making space for negative feelings and interactions.

Please see some rough notes below…

How do I get my wife to put down her phone?

Great question! Oftentimes when we ask something of our partner, we need to begin with ourselves. I was working with a group of couples the other day and one group was complaining that their partners were always on their phones checking emails and working. They were really chastising them and the message was, “oh we’d have more sex if you didn’t work so much and you’d put down your phones”. This was directed specifically at entrepreneurs, because this was an entrepreneur group who brought their partners to my session. But then the entrepreneur group turned around and reminded their partners that they too are almost always on their phones — they’re scrolling through feeds, updating social media, reading articles — they may not be working in the paid sense, but they’re still allowing technoference to interfere in their connection.

So before you try to convince your wife to put down her phone, ask yourself if you need to do the same. Even if you allow it to interfere to a lesser degree, every time you’re on yours, she is likely to pick up her own.

Technoference is becoming the norm in relationship. Research shows that the mere presence of a phone detracts from concentration, presence, connection and trust. In one study, they compared interactions in three scenarios: phone on the table, phone in your pocket and phone outside of the room. The third scenario was associated with the highest levels of trust, empathy and intimacy.

And it’s not just about distraction. Blue light can interfere with sleep, which adversely affects relationships. The light emitted by phones, laptops and and tablet devices (even when set to silent mode)  is “short-wavelength-enriched”, which means that it contains high levels of blue light which interferes with the sleep-supporter hormone, melatonin. When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we’re more likely to engage in conflict with our partner, less adept at resolving these conflicts, more likely to made poor food choices and less inclined toward sex.

Minimizing technoference can be easier and more successful if you choose specific strategies and roll them out one at a time as opposed to trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle or trying to change everything at once.

I’m going to share some of the strategies that work for my clients, but you don’t have to do them all. I suggest you try one at a time.

1. Have a phone-free dinner. In the past, we didn’t have to go out of our way to take a tech-break, but leaving the phones at home (or in the car if you’re dining at home) is a simple way to ensure that you’re present and connected to your partner — instead of being connected to your 300 “best friends”.

2. Go for a walk, bike ride or drive without using your map app. Technology is grand and can help you to see more relevant places in a shorter period of time, but it can also detract from discovery and the excitement of the unknown. Once in awhile, whether you’re on vacation exploring a new city or simply wandering the streets of your own neighbourhood, opt to leave the map at home (or just keep the app closed) so you can discover new streets, cafes, parks and/or architectural features on your own. Spontaneity and unpredictability are key to lasting, passionate relationships, so the more you create opportunities for impromptu discovery, the more excitement you’ll feel in life and in love.

3. Ban electronic devices for the last two hours of the day. The light emitted by phones, laptops and tablet devices is “short-wavelength-enriched”, which means that it contains high levels of blue light which interferes with the sleep-helper hormone, melatonin. When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we’re more likely to engage in conflict with our partner, less adept at resolving these conflicts, more likely to made poor food choices and less inclined toward sex.

If two hours isn’t realistic given your work responsibilities and lifestyle, set your own time boundaries and stick to them. Slowly add a few extra minutes each week until you become accustomed to a taking a technology break each evening. I’ve always made excuses for keeping my phone on my bedside table:

I use it as my alarm! Guess what? I have a perfectly reliable alarm clock.

Reading my emails helps me to wake up. Luckily I have running water, which is just as much of a pick-me-up early in the morning.

It helps me to relax at night. I may believe that the phone offers a dose of relaxation, but the science surrounding blue light says otherwise.

Stop making excuses and leave your phone in another room tonight. It may make you uncomfortable at first, but moving the phone out of the bedroom will work wonders for your mood, sleep and sex life. It’s time to break the habit of allowing our electronic devices to be the first and last thing we look at each day.

Don’t blame technology for relationship problems when it’s your behaviour that is ultimately leading to friction, mindlessness and conflict. You’re in charge of how you use your phone, so take control and make changes today if you feel your phone habits are interfering in your relationship or life satisfaction.

I’ve heard you talk about how to get over a cheater, but I’m the one who cheated. She knows and we say we’re working on staying together but I’m so afraid I’m going to lose her.

1. The first step you have to take involves taking responsibility. Acknowledge the wrong without excuses.

Oftentimes people will ask me how they can know if a partner will betray them (e.g. cheat) again and one of the most important indicators involves their reaction to their behaviour. Do they accept responsibility or do they try to deflect blame? The former is more likely to be a good foundation for cognitive and behavioural changes that will result in a lower likelihood of repeating the same mistakes. If you’re still making excuses, you’re less likely to make change.

2. Next, listen to your partner. Give them permission and support to express how they feel and what they think — no matter how outlandish. It’s important to understand how your behaviour made them feel. What are the underlying feelings that you’ll both need to address in order to move forward. Emotional reactions are not universal. One person will respond with anger where another feels extreme sadness, so you need to make an effort to understand their feelings.

3. Get help. You may not need months or years of counselling, but a few sessions with a good counsellor can go a long way. Consider what type of counselling is right for you — Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Brief Solution-Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy — there are many approaches to consider beyond old-school psychotherapy.

Encourage them to get help too. They have a right to bring up how they feel about past behaviour when it’s bothering them; it is not helpful, however, to fling past transgressions at you during arguments about unrelated topics — a therapist or counsellor can help with this.

4. Track changes. Keep a diary (even point-form will do) of the way you’re working to change the way you think and/or behave so that you can check in and share your progress with your parter.

5. Check in with one another regularly. Plan monthly checkins so that you can talk about how you’re feeling individually and as a couple. Do not wait for tensions to rise before having important conversations.

This podcast is brought to you by Desire Resorts.

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