How to keep social media from ruining your love life

Love is in the air, but if you are head over heels for technology, then your feelings have likely become nothing more than status updates. Nearly 40 percent of couples are spending just as much time at home online as they are interacting with their significant other, a recent survey by Intel Security indicates.

"Even having your phone in your hand or by your side on the couch ... that's already distracting you from the level of emotional intimacy that you have with your partner," said Anastacia Martinez, a couples counselor in El Paso with nearly three decades of experience.

Studies find that the mere presence of a smartphone interferes with the three C's: closeness, connection and communication.

"If one person in the relationship wants more interaction with someone during dinner or on a date," therapist Marta Gomez-Frappier said, then "if someone is always checking their phone, it distracts from being present."

Gomez-Frappier, who works at Integrative Solutions Center, stresses the importance of being mindful in a relationship.

In order to ensure the focus stays on your partner, our experts suggest setting ground rules in the relationship. Martinez recommends "no phone at the dinner table" or "after a certain hour."

For many people, smartphones have become the so-called other woman in the relationship. Martinez says the definition of cheating has expanded over the past 20 years "and unfortunately, a lot of (the means to do so) are accessible on technology."

Ensuring a healthy relationship starts with a strong foundation. Research shows us, however, that social media is one component that can destabilize that foundation. One in seven people say they have considered divorce because of their spouse's questionable behavior online, according to The Huffington Post.

Similarly, a 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 4 out of 5 attorneys used evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases, with Facebook leading the pack.

"A lot of these things that we see on social media are what people want to portray," Gomez-Frappier said.

She further states that when you compare yourself, or your significant other, to pictures of others online, "You sometimes set yourself up for unrealistic expectations." She says that will lead "to frustration or resentment in that relationship."

Experts agree that in order to bypass the insecurities, one must appreciate him/herself first. "It's not really about the pictures here. It's really about what kind of connection you all have as a couple," Martinez said.

A smartphone is like a third person in the room. It's important to disconnect occasionally in order to make sure that you are risking your real-life relationships for virtual ones. Gomez-Frappier said research shows "that the happiest couples don't post that many pictures of themselves and their lives."

Nowhere are the side effects of your digital obsession more harmful than in the sphere of modern dating. Tinder and Bumble are two of the most popular dating apps, according to Business Insider. But allowing your love life to be run by computer programmers can be detrimental; after all, when you have you ever allowed your happiness to be determined by algorithms?

Experts Gomez-Frappier and Martinez suggest a more traditional way of meeting others. Find a hobby that interests you and attend that activity or meetup in order to get to meet people in a face-to-face interaction.

They also suggest that people get off of social media in order to fully live in the moment. Martinez stresses the importance of taking more time to slow down, be present and available. By engaging in social media, the quest to connect becomes a disconnection from reality and the people in it.

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