Vail Relationships column: Overcoming cellphone and social media obsession |

Vail Relationships column: Overcoming cellphone and social media obsession

Women using phone outdoor in summer day
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Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series. Visit to find the first column.

Often, couples want opposing things. They want a close, passionate relationship with their spouse or intimate partner — and they want the instant stimulation and feelings of connection they get from social media. And all too frequently, those two desires are in opposition to each other. That is, in order to get the rush provided by social media, texting, emails, phone calls or live streaming, people often spend too much time on their devices and thus trade off the closeness and intimacy of their relationship.

That, in a nutshell, is the dilemma facing an increasing number of couples. She wants to be with him, but he is focused on his Facebook connections. He wants to go to bed to be with her, but she wants the instant gratification she gets from her social media connections. She wants to talk, but he is streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime. He invites her for a hike, but she feels the need to frequently stop so she can check emails and the news cycle.

One of them increasingly feels that he or she is playing second fiddle to his or her partner’s device or social network. Add in the demands of work, family, children and everything else, and your partner may feel she or he simply isn’t a terribly high priority to you. And frequently your devices distract your attention from each other, so that while you are together, you are elsewhere at the same time. This leads to scattered conversation with poor eye contact and a sense of disconnection, so an increasing number of couples are dissatisfied with the intimacy in their relationship.

What you can do

Here’s what you can do in order to take back that intimacy. First, have a clear and straightforward conversation with your partner about any cyber-related rules you would like enforced. Perhaps you would you like an agreement about when to shut off your devices, or a “no restaurant, no dinner table and no bedroom” rule. This would be the time to make such agreements with each other.

Second, increase the amount of quality one-on-one talks the two of you have with each other — with all devices off. A relationship needs time, attention and focus in order to deepen and feel close. Third, go out and do things with each other: a walk in the park, a weekend getaway or a game of cards. All of those give the two of you comfortable ways to reconnect. Fourth, challenge yourself to find new things you would like the two of you to do together that would be interesting or fun.

Finally, be willing to give your partner the passwords to all of your devices. You’ll hopefully reassure him or her that your social networks are not intended to replace the relationship and that you’re not hiding any social connection that could threaten the relationship.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777, or visit

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