Singing legend Loretta Lynn once recorded a song titled “Wouldn’t It Be Great” and there is a line in the lyrics that says “Wouldn’t it be great if you could love me first and let the bottle wait?” This song was about a man who chose to put alcohol first and was ruining his relationship with his wife.
Today, we can easily substitute the term “phone” or any number of electronic devices for the word “bottle” and the sentiment would be the same – for both men and women. Marriages and other important relationships are falling victim to our overuse of tech. Let’s explore this situation deeper.
Ask any marriage therapist what the key to a successful marriage is and the therapist will likely tell you that, while a marriage requires many things, one of the most important elements is communication. With this thought in mind, it seems to make sense that tech would bring people together better. After all, we are so connected with tech that at any given moment our spouse is only a text or email away. We can video chat, share things we find funny or interesting or send a quick “thinking of you” note. Isn’t that a good thing? Yes, but not truly complete communication.
Effective communication is a combination of words and actions. It includes being able to read the body language and emotion that underlie the words spoken. Tech allows the words to be sent but doesn’t allow you the advantage of truly conveying feelings. Communication requires being able to listen with undivided attention. This seems to be something that isn’t happening even when in-person contact is being made.
A study of 2025 people was conducted and a full 90 percent said that in the past week a friend or relative stopped paying attention to them in order to check out something on an electronic device. What is even worse is that the party who feels disregarded often does not feel comfortable calling the offender out. This adds to the dissatisfaction and builds up, creating a large rift between the two individuals over time.
Every time a “ding” announces a new message, our attention is slightly broken. This happens even when we do not stop to see who messaged. The brain then needs several minutes to return to complete attention to its previous task. This constant interrupting when you and your spouse are enjoying rare time alone can create conflict. A romantic dinner should be between two individuals, not the couple and anyone else who has access to the internet. The same goes for night activity. Only a couple should be in their bedroom, yet we so often bring our phones or tablets into this area. This gives your partner the impression that their company is not enough. Distractions reduce the feeling of intimacy that is necessary for a healthy relationship.
Opinions, Opinions, Opinions
With the increased use of technology, individuals are spending less time making in-person friendships. In the past, you or your partner might have expressed dissatisfaction to a very close friend and gotten advice. The conversation remained basically private. Today, it is too easy to make a post on social media when we are angry or unhappy. Passive-aggressive behavior has increased considerably – and everyone has an opinion to give on what you say. All this interference creates an even greater gap between a couple. It also eliminates the important time a person needs to think calmly when angry or hurt. By having the means to respond immediately, things are often said that would never have been in the past. The flame of an argument between two people now has the potential of being fueled by rash action and fanned by opinions of those not involved. A spark becomes an inferno that turns the relationship to ashes.
Online Sticks Around
Have you been in a Whatsapp/Facebook/Texting tiff with your partner? Previously, harsh words would have been forgotten and buried away by the brain’s protection mechanisms. However, in this day and age, an online fight stays with you forever. Like a thorn that breaks off in your foot and does not fester out, words typed in anger stays with you, always remaining a barrier between yourself and your mate.
Most of you reading this wouldn’t think of having an actual affair. You love your spouse and the idea that someone might think you are cheating makes you angry. The truth is that technology has made it even more possible to engage in an emotional affair. With nearly everyone in the world able to connect to everyone else, the chances of finding an individual who seems to be on your level in every way is greater than when relationships were formed solely on face-to-face contact. The Internet makes it easier to open up emotionally and share things you feel uncomfortable sharing in person. This ease can see two people forming an emotional attachment that gradually puts a wedge between them and their spouse. When days go bad, you think first of sharing with this online person. Maybe you try to justify it by saying you don’t want to burden your spouse. However, the more you share with this person, the less you are sharing at home. You put distance between you and your spouse and they begin to look elsewhere for someone who will listen, who wants to share.
What Can I Do to Change Things?
Tech isn’t going to go away. It offers many benefits to us in our daily lives. What we need to do, however, is know where to draw the line and return to the connection that is necessary to keep our most precious relationships from disappearing. If you are seeing yourself falling into the trap of spending more time with tech than with your spouse, it is time to sit down and work out a plan to keep your relationship solid. Consider the following guidelines. They will give you a place to start.
1. Put it away.
Whether it is your cell phone, tablet or even a television, make a pact that it is not allowed at the dinner table. Leave these things out of the bedroom. The world will not fall apart if it has to wait a few hours for you to answer. In addition to meal and bedroom time, plan for a day every week or two for the two of you to spend time without electronic diversions. Get back to the day when what you saw in your partner’s eyes was the most important thing in the world.
2. Keep conflict in person.
If something needs to be discussed, refrain from doing so with text or email. Sit down together and discuss the problem in person. Take time to fully listen and ask your spouse to do the same. By being able to view body language and read the words not spoken you increase the chances of resolving things before they tear your relationship apart.
3. Finally, remember what is most important in your life.
The internet will be there regardless of how long you avoid it. Life will continue to move forward without you answering every message immediately or commenting on every post your friends make. Can you say the same for your spouse if they continue to feel ignored, unheard, and second to a piece of tech?