Dr. Jess on Sex: How one Toronto couple’s perfect marriage was threatened by technology

Local couple Cal and Maria* have been married for 27 years. They have two kids, three grandkids and enjoy a comfortable retirement. When they arrived at my Power Couples’ Retreat last month, they insisted they never fight. And as the group of 22 worked their way through the activities designed to take their relationships from good to great, it was evident their marriage is a model to which most would aspire. That is, until the topic of technology arose on day two.

“How many hours can you spend playing Candy Crush?” says Cal.

“No more than you spend watching TV,” responds Maria.

“She takes a picture of every meal! Even porridge,” he says.

“He sleeps with his phone!”

They struggle with the role of technology in their relationship and immediately acknowledge they are in need of some ground rules.

1. Download apps that you’ll use together to highlight technology’s positive role in your relationship. Check out Between, which creates a private online space for two, or Kindu, which facilitates sexual communication.

2. Establish a tech-free hour at the end of each day. Unless you’re surfing couples’ porn together or reading stories on Literotica, you can do without your devices at the dinner table and in bed.

3. Have a conversation about privacy. Do you share passwords? If not, are you hiding something or do you simply value a little privacy? Why do you want their password? If you’re tempted to snoop, resist the urge. Instead talk to your partner about your curiosities.

4. Buy an alarm clock. Many of my clients use the “my phone is my alarm” excuse for taking their phones to bed, but this can lead to “technoference,” that is associated with increased conflict and lower relationship satisfaction. One study found that the mere presence of a phone nearby is connected with feelings of distrust and lower perceptions of empathy in a partner.

5. Use emoticons. Research suggests people who use emoticons have more sex!

6. Don’t take calls during meals. If you have to break a rule to take a call, step away from the table.

7. Include your partner in your social media presence where appropriate so that your online friends are familiar with him or her.

8. Ask and answer questions about social media use. Social media posts can be alluring and sexy, so if your partner’s “like” on an ex’s beach pic makes you uncomfortable, say so! Admit to your (negative) feelings and make sure you provide reassurance whenever your partner feels vulnerable.

*Please note that names have been changed and relationship details have been shared with permission from all parties referenced.

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