Is Your Relationship Losing The Device War?

Walking in West Edmonton Mall recently, we were more acutely aware of the device war that seems to be escalating in our society. This device war is destroying intimate relationships, families, communities, businesses, and maybe the world (based on what we see and hear about our political leaders).  A new-age world war, maybe?  What do you think?

Here’s what we observed

A significant percentage of individuals were looking at the screen on their phone or talking on the phone as they were walking.

This same thing was occurring with groups of people.  It was very common to see two people (which we assumed were a couple), with one person looking around and talking, and the other with a deadpan expression on their face, looking down immersed in their screen.

In a restaurant we noticed a similar thing. At tables with two or more people, it was common to see one (or all) of the people silently and often sullenly, looking down at their devices.

We don’t know what was going on in those situations.  We sensed from what we saw that there was a lack of attention, or a distraction from the conversation. We wondered how this affects the in-time human interaction – the in-the-moment experience of being together in a relationship.

Here’s what we hear

We hear about this device war from couples with whom we coach.  There is a perception from one person that the partner spends way too much time on a device, and not enough time in focussed conversation and human interaction – the in-the-moment experience of being together in a relationship.

We hear about this device war from business leaders with whom we coach, or where we are facilitating Communication Excellence programs. They describe an increasing lack of focus and productivity from employees who are distracted by their device.  Sometimes, this distraction occurs while interacting with colleagues or customers – the in-the-moment experience of being together in a relationship.

Here’s the impact

I invite you to ponder the underlying message given when one person changes their focus from an in-person interaction to a notification on their device.  This could be accepting a call, responding to a text or email, or simply yanking the device out of a pocket and glancing at the screen.

The underlying message is, “I don’t respect and care enough about you to focus on our in-the-moment experience of being together in a relationship.”

Ouch – not the intention, but that’s the message.

When this happens over and over, trust is depleted, respect is strained, effective communication falters, and the relationship struggles for survival – maybe dies.  Just like war, both parties lose.

Are we experiencing a device war?

War is an event that indicates attack and counter attack, or manipulation of thoughts and behaviour where one party must lose.  Can our devices do that?

I’m not saying our devices are evil – they are inanimate pieces of plastic.  I appreciate having them and what the technology allows me to do.  I am suggesting that you and I choose to use the technology as an effective life-enhancing tool.  If we don’t, we are choosing to let the tool be our dictator in this war.  A choice.

Rather than having a device war, let’s explore alternatives that enhance relationships, conversations, and support love, yes even in the workplace.  Honest, effective communication is critical, with self and your partner.  It’s about choosing to commit to small habit changes, which create huge beneficial results.

Possible alternatives to ponder and apply

  1. In my examples above, I “get” that sometimes there is an expected call or needed piece of information that may be required in-the-moment. Accepting a call or text is totally fine, when it has been communicated and agreed to upfront.  For example, “I’m expecting a return call from my accountant.  If she calls, are you OK with me accepting that?”  Or, “Are you OK with me taking two minutes (specific amount of time) to check my phone?”
  2. The devices have an “Off” button. I invite you to turn it off when you are in a meeting or dialogue with another person, especially your partner – “Off,” not vibrate mode which is a distraction.
  3. Some couples (and families) agree to “no phone zones.”


  • The kitchen is often chosen, with a device basket on the counter. Simple choice.
  • Many people are choosing to make meal times great bonding and communication opportunities. Rather than each person grabbing food and heading off to be with their device, mealtimes become focussed time together, without technology. Conversations about best parts of the day, celebration of accomplishments, and inspiring future goals make this time valuable and desired.  Simple choice.
  • Many couples take their phones into the bedroom. Some use them as alarms.  Unfortunately, this can lead to ineffective sleep patterns when notifications occur through the night.  Notifications surely affect the quality of a sexual experience.  Devices in the bedroom may lead to a “need” to check emails and messages immediately upon waking.  Perhaps a $5.00 alarm clock is an easy solution.  Simple choice.

In closing, I’m curious to know how the device war is affecting you, in your relationship at home, and in your work environment.

More importantly, I’m curious to know what you are doing, or going to do now, so you use the technology as a life-enhancing tool, rather than an excuse for doing the hard, yet extremely satisfying work of building loving relationships.

I’m honoured to have a conversation about this with you.  I invite you to call me at 780-785-9479 or comment below.

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