Phones, social media and devices are a common frustration or complaint that regularly comes up when working with couples and can often be a symptom of underlying issues in the relationship.

So when is a cell phone likely to ruin a relationship?

If one partner is constantly on their phone and not giving the same amount of focus or attention to their partner and relationship, it can cause problems. This can be a sign of other things happening in the relationship such as lack of connection and growing apart or distant from each other, not spending time together or making each other and the relationship a priority. It could also spell trouble in that there may be something else going on.

Should your partner have your phone password and vice versa?

It depends entirely on the couple and type of relationship they have. Some couples prefer to have access to each other’s phones, devices and platforms and sharing everything with each other. It can reinforce the trust factor and provide a sense of openness and transparency with each other. Other couples prefer to respect each other’s privacy and space and don’t have a need to know everything.  This does not mean they don’t care about their partner or trust them, they do.

If you don’t know your partner’s phone password and they don’t know yours, does it mean you both have something to hide?

No not necessarily. Some couples are completely comfortable with their partner and in their relationship and believe that their partner would not do something to harm them or jeopardise their relationship. They have established their relationship boundaries and are living their relationship values every day. If you or your partner is behaving in a secretive way, spending more time than usual on their phone, or their behavior has changed recently – these could be signs that something is up and it’s important to have a conversation about it before it spirals out of control.

Does secrecy with phones cause damage or underlying issues in relationships?

Research shows that it can take up to two years to rebuild trust once trust is broken in a relationship. Secrecy can cause a lot of hurt and pain in the long run which can ultimately end up destroying relationships. Some couples can come back from a situation like this stronger than before whilst for others it is a deal breaker.

What should you do if you are constantly having arguments, going through each other’s phones or accusing each other for spending way too much time on your phone?

Discuss what boundaries you have with each other when it comes to each other’s privacy and how you will manage that in your relationship. Establish the ground rules so you know where you stand with each other at all times. Look to make ‘device free’ times or spaces in the home to give attention to each other and your relationship (e.g. no phones at the dinner table etc).

Lastly, if you are doing something behind your partners back that you would not like if your partner was doing it to you – then don’t do it. Period.

A version of this article also appeared in Drum Magazine here

Paula Quinsee: Relationship and Life Coach, Tedx speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula works with individuals and companies to have better and healthier human interactions in both their personal and workplace relationships. More info: www.paulaquinsee.com.


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