Tech Talk: Analyzing the Negotiations and Rules Around Technology Use in Intimate Relationships


technology, social media, relationships, communication, boundaries


Technology use has become pervasive, and its use in relationships can either be helpful or harmful. While a growing body of research is exploring relationship-based outcomes related to tech use, little is known about how couples communicate about expectations around social media, video games, or other online activities. This study explored how couples communicate about and monitor rules and boundaries related to use of technology in their relationship. Constructivist grounded theory methods were used to analyze semi-structured interviews with 25 couples in committed relationships. The analysis resulted in the construction of a theoretical model explaining the communication process couples engage in concerning use of technology in their committed relationships. Results revealed that some couples have developed explicit rules about technology use, but many couples relied on implicit rules or had not communicated about technology-related issues. Clinical implications and future research recommendations are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Pickens, J.C., Whiting, J.B. Tech Talk: Analyzing the Negotiations and Rules Around Technology Use in Intimate Relationships. Contemporary Family Therapy 42, 175–189 (2020).

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Contemporary Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor