Here’s a dismal (and all too familiar) scene: husband and wife sit side by side on the couch, TV on, not saying a word. The wife thumbs through an article on her smartphone, occasionally glancing up at the television, and all the while the husband plays a game on his iPad. The couple is “together,” but at this moment, they couldn’t be further apart.
This is an unfortunately common problem in today’s relationships. The ability to be constantly connected to the cyber universe has allowed many people to become disconnected from the real people around them – namely the people they spend the most time with, like spouses.
It happens with both work and entertainment, and is not restricted to one particular type of technological device. Whether it’s a laptop or a tablet, playing a video game or checking work emails, our reliance on screens is having a negative affect on how we spend time together.
This doesn’t mean that technology is bad, or that being connected to our jobs or long-distance friends is detrimental to relationships – it’s all in the way we use the technology we have.
The first thing we need to do is re-prioritize – we need to remember that the physical world, the here and now, is more important than the digital world (especially if it’s entertainment). An email can wait if you’re in the middle of a conversation with your spouse.
Getting to the next level on your game is FAR less important than whatever your husband or wife has to say – even if it’s just small talk. Again, there’s nothing wrong with technology or internet usage, but when your eyes are fixed on your iPhone, it’s easy to miss what’s going on in the real world.
Establish Ground Rules
Some couples overcome these challenges by establishing ground rules: no phones at dinner, for example, or setting aside an entire day where tech-toys are off limits. While this may be a productive method for some couples, it still neglects to address the real issue – placing the vast and endless digital interactions at your fingertips over the tangible, real-world interactions with the person you love.
So what do we do about it?
- For starters, shut off the TV when you eat dinner together.
- Talk to one another!
- Turn off your phone’s Facebook and email notifications to reduce the temptation to constantly check it.
- Find games to play together (even if they are technology-based) instead of playing against machines or players in remote locations.
- You can wean yourself away from screen-dependence. Remember, the real world is full of stimulating experience and conversation – not everything needs to happen on the screen.
- Also, be vocal about feeling neglected and be mindful of not neglecting – if you feel like you or your partner is being “sucked in” to the screen, speak up and break the trance!
These technologies are designed to be highly engaging, to be immersive, but you can’t let yourself become so engaged that you cuts you off from the world around you.
If you’ve ever felt like you were competing with technology for your spouse’s attention (or if you’ve been guilty of giving a gadget priority), you’re experiencing a dangerous and unintended consequence of modern, 21st century living.
To keep your marriage in good shape, take a step back and evaluate how much you’re using your smartphone/tablet/computer, and more importantly, evaluate when and where you’re using it, and who you might be ignoring in the process.