When you read the latest headlines, you’d think technology is the worst thing to happen to couples since… well, ever. After all, it takes our attention away from our partners, right?
Not so fast. It’s not all bad news. Marla Mattenson has a different perspective, and it’s quite empowering.
Technology and Relationships: Better Together?
Marla is an accomplished relationship & intimacy expert who specializes in coaching entrepreneurs.
With her background in neuroscience, she uses pattern recognition to reveal the negative habitual responses couples experience and how to change them.
In her work with busy, tech-dependent professionals (and through personal experience), she began to see how technology, when used intentionally, can be a powerful tool to resolve conflict, build intimacy, and add a playful element to relationships.
Marla’s exciting insights about technology and relationships were the focus of her conversation with Robert Plotkin on the Technology for Mindfulness podcast.
Here are four practical tips from Marla on how to transform both your relationship and your business by using technology mindfully.
Four Ways to Improve Your Relationship Using Technology
1. Send supportive messages throughout the day (but at the right time)
The hustle of building a business often means long days at the office and frequent travel.
Technology is the perfect way to stay in touch. But for most of us, our daily messages are more practical than loving.
“What time are you getting home?” and “Did you thaw the chicken?” aren’t what Marla has in mind.
Instead, she recommends adding some playfulness and support to let your partner know you’re thinking of them.
- Tell them they’re gonna rock that big meeting with investors
- Send a funny meme if they’re low on energy and need a laugh
- Record a ten-second video message to tell your partner how awesome they are and that you miss them
- Or simply send a sweet emoji
Marla adds one crucial caveat: send your messages at the right time. Share your calendars so you can see when your partner has downtime. After all, sending a high-five emoji for their big investor meeting isn’t as helpful when their phone pings right in the middle of it!
Knowing each other’s calendars helps you stay in sync with their daily challenges and offer thoughtful support at just the right time.
2. Keep track of meaningful conversations – and act on them!
Another way to stay in tune with your partner is to take note of important things they say.
Whether it takes place within an everyday chat or a deep, soul-searching conversation, they’re sharing their interests, hopes, and dreams. It might be:
- People they miss and want to see
- Places they want to go
- Items they would love
- Experiences they want to have
Marla suggests keeping track of these on your smartphone as they happen.
Your partner may already be on to their next project, wishing they could make time, but you can set things in motion and surprise them!
For example, perhaps you’re driving by a restaurant, and they mention how much they’d like to expand their horizons when it comes to food.
You could hop on Yelp right then and make a reservation for somewhere you’ve never gone.
Feeling heard is tremendously powerful in a relationship. Technology can help you remember these little details, so you can show them you’re always listening.
3. Use technology to diffuse emotionally charged moments
Despite your best efforts, you won’t always be in sync with your partner.
When conflicts happen, typical relationship advice is to stay away from technology. After all, your partner might misunderstand.
A famous study by UCLA researcher Albert Mehrabian showed that we overwhelmingly react to others not by the actual words spoken, but by their body language and tone of voice.
This might seem like a valid reason not to use technology when you have a conflict. But Marla takes a different approach.
She and her partner Julian decided in advance that during an argument, they can only send connecting, positive messages. Nothing mean or insulting that they’ll regret later – or that will add fuel to the fire.
There are two benefits to this:
- Staying connected – You’re not completely blocking communication. For many couples, closing off contact altogether triggers feelings of abandonment, making them feel worse.
- Committing to kindness and love – Even though you may not like the person at that moment, you’re remembering that you do love them, and you’ll get through this difficulty.
Marla also added an insightful tip: When you’re angry and not ready to talk, just send an emoji. Something as simple as a heart will show your partner that you love them, but you need space.
By intentionally choosing how you’ll use technology during a conflict, you can avoid saying (or texting) hurtful words in the heat of the moment.
4. Bonus for brave couples – reflect negative statements back to your partner
Speaking of hurtful words, Marla also shared a practice couples may want to use if something negative slips out, whether or not you’re in the midst of an argument.
She cautioned that it requires a lot of trust and vulnerability, but the rewards can be significant.
If you say something that impacts your partner in a negative way, give them permission to text it back to you. This is a form of reflection.
However, by using technology, it’s especially powerful because the words are devoid of all body language and tone of voice.
When you read it, you can perceive how harsh or unpleasant it was for your partner to hear.
Naturally, this requires a bit of bravery. Your partner must avoid “taking the bait” and responding negatively. You need to be open to seeing an ugly part of yourself. And vice versa.
To see if you’re ready, have a loving conversation about how you can both dedicate yourselves to the truth, no matter how difficult, rather than feeling comfortable. For many entrepreneur couples, personal growth is a common goal. Practices like these bring you closer to your partner and help you both grow into your best selves.
Use technology to improve your relationship
When you’re intentional about both, technology and relationships don’t have to be competing priorities.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Marla welcomes questions and comments!
- Listen to the full podcast episode with Marla Mattenson
- Check out her book Relationship Redo
- Read the Dear Marla column on Entrepreneur.com
- Follow Marla on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn