I recently published a post which listed six tips to help make your marriage better. I asked for additional feedback from my readers and got some good responses—in fact one response was so good I couldn’t believe I had neglected to put it on my original list. The marriage tip: put down your phone!
Our electronic devices have grown to be such an integral part of our lives, an extension of our selves, that we don’t realize how insidious they have become. For a long time, I held out against technology. I got a smart phone long after many of my friends and when I finally did get one, I tried to leave it in my purse as much as possible, especially when I was with other people. But as time went on, I began to take it out more and more, as did my husband. It started infiltrating our lives. And our marriage. Here’s an example: When my husband and I go out to dinner, we generally start off device free. But then…my husband will remember he needs to shoot off a quick work e-mail. He will apologize and say, “This will just take a second.” Or we start chatting about something and he grabs his phone so he can Google the topic to get more information, like the name of an actor we can’t recall. Of course, I leave my phone on the table as well in case one of my children text or phone me. Mind you, I have three male children, two of whom are grown, so I am unlikely to hear from them, but on occasion they have tried to contact me during the ninety minutes or so we are dining. As a mother, I think, “How can I not instantly answer their texts or calls (despite the fact that they have no problem ignoring me when they are busy)?” And if I’m being honest, since the phone is sitting right there, next to my plate, I sometimes give in to the urge to sneak a quick peak at it; to check Facebook, e-mail or read those seemingly alarming news alerts which flash across the screen. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
Although I can remember a time BCP (Before Cell Phones), I have become as dependent on them as younger people who have grown up with the technology. So why do I continue to allow my phone to distract me? I’m not a psychologist but I think it’s largely become an addiction. Plus, we have all gotten used to a more immediate level of interaction; we just can’t wait for things anymore
I will admit I’m not the greatest at breaking bad habits (as noted by my constant resolve to lose ten pounds). But I know I can do better. The next time we go out to dinner, I will leave my phone in my bag and encourage my husband to do the same. The e-mails, news alerts, and Google questions can wait. And our kids can manage without us for a short while as well. (To my sons–If you are reading this and dad and I don’t answer the phone while we are at dinner, please forgive us and try back later.) And perhaps, even when we are not on a date, we can try to unplug and focus on one another, at least for a bit (note: I’m not proposing eliminating devices, just being more mindful of their usage). We’ve gotten to the point that even while we are watching television together or just hanging out, we are on our devices, missing things that are going on around us and our conversations with each other. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life tethered to a device. My husband, as well as the other people around me, are as deserving of my attention as anything on my phone.
I am grateful to my reader who pointed out this obvious tip to improve a marriage and I vow to do better. I will let you know how it goes—but not during one of my new device free periods!