The sound of military ops and bigger than life HD graphics grated on Carrie’s nerves as her husband spent the evening strategizing with a global community of gamers and their avatars.
She asked him, again, to come to the table to eat.
“Just bring it in here, babe,” he said.
“Fine, whatever,” she thought as she walked to the bedroom, laptop in hand, “might as well answer some of those emails for work.”
Brandon tapped his fingers impatiently on the restaurant table, waiting for his girlfriend to stop posting selfies of the Oakland skyline and pics of the wine bottle she wasn’t really taking time to enjoy. Her post, “Dinner out with my sweetie,” hardly felt true as her eyes were constantly drawn back to the smartphone screen.
“Good thing there are TVs in this restaurant,” he thought, as he signaled for the waitress and tuned in to the game.
Sound kind of familiar? A lot of couples are finding that screens are really starting to get in the way. This may be a sign that something is out of balance.
It’s no surprise really, screens are everywhere, from the palm of your hand to your living room wall, pulling you in… and away from each other.
Don’t think it’s that bad?
Here are a few other things to consider:
According to a Pew research study titled ”Couples, the Internet, and Social Media,” digital distraction spoils many couples’ quality time in the following ways:
- 25% of cell phone owners in a relationship reported that their partner “was distracted by their cell phone when they were together.”
- 8% of internet users in committed relationships actually argue with significant others about time spent online.
- 4% of internet users have also gotten upset about something they became aware their partner was doing online.
In an excerpt from her book Love Sense, renowned psychologist and couples expert, Sue Johnson commented that, “technology reflects a profound lack of awareness about our need for intimate emotional connection. In a good love relationship, if we can turn off the screen, we can learn to say what really matters to us in ways that build connection.”
Johnson also notes that couples too often downplay engagement, having grown used to simplified, surface relating. They are often surprised by the decline of emotional intimacy as they unwittingly favor easy online connection over more complex interaction with each other.
Now you see the problems with all those screens: Lack of focus. Intimacy interference. Impaired trust. Misinterpreted motivations.
Since screens can be hypnotic, mesmerizing, and incredibly distancing, it is vital to live an intentional, joint life. How?
Try these 7 tips to fix what’s gone wrong in your relationship:
1. Notice. Observe your relationship. Mindfully pay attention to your interactions, what bothers you and makes you feel good. Looking closely at the moments between you that seem to drive you toward the distraction of a TV, computer, tablet, or cellphone is vital to understanding how technology worms its way between you.
2. Evaluate the extent of your disconnect. Now that you’re aware of the screen problem, assess how screen usage is interfering with your communication and interactions. Is your couple time together interrupted by technology that is uncontested, required, or mutual? Or is it primarily recreational or social?
3. Allow that some technology is okay. After all, many of our jobs, schedules, and obligations are tied to some form of screen activity.
4. Agree on screen time expectations. Talk to each other about ways to be more responsive to the obligations and responsibilities of your life together. Even more essential, discuss how you will reduce intrusions in your relationship.
5. Create tech free zones. It is wise to keep areas and times as tech free as possible to minimize temptation and keep time together engaged and focused on being present. Make your bedroom and dinner table tech free and person-focused.
6. Designate screen “on” periods. As important as it is to set boundaries for no screen time, scheduling periods where you accept usage for recreation and non-essential use make the necessary restrictions a bit more palatable.
7. Use screen time to enhance your union. Make your screen time count. Send your lover mobile pics of your next date night. Text each other throughout the day. Purchase a romantic Netflix movie to accompany a foot massage at the end of a long day. Use your imagination.
If you must use a screen, use it to make your partner feel more noticed, loved, and cared for.