Spending a month apart from your favorite person in the world (hopefully that’s your partner or spouse), doesn't work for everyone, but for some of us, it’s unavoidable. (For others, it’s voluntary.)
Case in point: Me. I’m currently spending four weeks apart from my partner so I can take a writing retreat; he’s in his first year of law school and is extremely busy. (That, and I was pretty uncomfortable in an ill-chosen apartment in the new city we moved to — certainly a learning experience!)
A big part of the reason I went for the time away is because we both enjoy using Facetime on our iPhones. I will be the first to admit that there’s no substitute for the incredibly important daily touch and warm physical contact that’s part of a healthy relationship — but aside from that, and sharing a meal here and there (we are mostly on different sleeping and eating schedules), I will be talking with my partner almost as much as when we are together normally. We already text on the regular, and that's not going to change. I'll be seeing his face when we chat — and he’ll see mine, so it’s even better than a phone call, because I will literally get a more complete picture of how he is doing.
So, although I will certainly miss him, I’m looking forward to my solo writing time, knowing that technology will keep us close. Tech didn’t just make a tough decision easier, it made it happen. So score one for tech as a relationship positive.
And a recent Pew survey backs up my experience: "Couples who have been together for a decade or less — also typically younger than those who have been together for longer — are much more likely to have used dating services or the Internet to meet their partner, to use technology to help with the logistics and communication in their relationship, and to report that the Internet had an impact on their relationship." It's certainly had an impact on mine, allowing me to do something important to me without having to go cold-turkey in my partnership.
I'm not alone. Other couples use online calendars to coordinate schedules, or share social media accounts, though some of the differences between long-term and short-term groups had to do with the age of the couple, as indicated above (so keep that detail in mind as you look at specific results of the survey). But it's still interesting that: "Those who were already together as a couple at the advent of a new platform or technology were a bit more likely to jump on together, as a unit, while those who begin relationships with their own existing accounts and profiles tend to continue to use them separately as individuals."
Sometimes our technology can reveal changes in our relationships rather than the other way around. For instance, have you noticed how your text messaging has changed over the course of your partnership? One woman has.
Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic about how Alice Zhao's texts have morphed over the years, from the heady early days of her first dates with her now-husband to the current communications. Zhao downloaded and analyzed all her texts from the beginning of her relationship to the present.
"Our conversations changed from 'hey, what’s up?' to 'ok, sounds good,'" Garber quotes Zhao as writing. "We stopped saying each other’s names in our text messages. We don’t say in 'love' as much anymore." While this sounds kind of negative, it was also the result of the couple seeing each other face-to-face more often — they went from using texting to build up the strength of the relationship to using it as more of a logistical tool. After all, they could say how much they loved one another in person — texting became useful for other things, like managing schedules and planning meals.
The full results of one couple's texting analysis are fascinating, and it's also worth noting what doesn't change. "What didn't much change in frequency were references to two things that are constant no matter your relationship status: 'home' and 'dinner.' For the couple, those terms simply appeared in different contexts in year six than they had in year one. 'Home' became a reference to the couple's shared home. 'Dinner' became less a matter of if and more one of when and how," writes Garber.
Has technology had a positive — or negative — impact on your relationship?
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