Are Electronics Interfering with the Connection to Your Partner?
Do any of these scenes sound familiar?
It’s the evening, dinner is finished, the kids are in bed, and you can finally sit down on the couch to relax. You and your spouse are in the same room, the tv is on, and you’re both on different electronic devices. Barely a word is uttered between the two of you as you’re each scrolling in your own worlds.
You and your partner are lying in bed and you’re both on your phones or iPads. Maybe even laying with your backs to each other.
You really want to talk with your partner either about something important or just engage in conversation and they keep picking up their phone to text with someone or look on social media.
You and your partner are out to dinner and one or both of you are on your phones.
You have an internal dialogue with yourself about how much you despise your partner’s phone.
Or you notice yourself picking up your phone at any given opportunity to escape, to find entertainment, distraction and even have conversation with others.
The message this sends to your partner is “I’d rather be on my phone than spending time with you.” Or “what is on my phone is more entertaining and important than you.”
Nurturing your relationship and putting in effort to stay connected with one another is challenging enough with the responsibilities of work, children, the house …. All of our technological distractions make it even more difficult if we are not careful about our relationship with technology itself and have an awareness of how it impacts us (both individually and the relationship).
I work with many couples who have been married a number of years and a common complaint is feeling disconnected. They have emotionally disengaged with one another. Or they feel as though their connection has shifted and it is not what it once was. When we begin to explore how much time they are spending together, people describe scenarios above where they are physically present in the same room, but each in their individual world with technology. There is little to no quality interaction. A recent study that found young professional couples calculated the average amount of time they actually engaged in conversation was thirty-five minutes a week! And most of this was related to task-oriented topics and the children.
At the beginning of a relationship, we want to talk with the other person as much as possible. There is so much to learn! We want to get to know them, their ideas and beliefs, hear what they have to say on topics, and it is exciting to discover who this person is. This discovery fuels desire for each other. As time passes, we feel like we knowthat person and there is little left to discover. Or as our relationships lengthen in time and we add more responsibilities and stressors (a house to take care of, getting established in careers, children to raise, aging parents to care for), then we turn most of our attention towards accomplishing our responsibilities, seeking stress relief, and forget to tune-in with our partner. It is crucial to not lose the adult relationship and interaction with one another and continue to have quality dialogue. This is an ingredient to maintaining relationship, connection, intimacy, and the attachment/bond between you and your partner. The connection level in your romantic relationship is highly correlated with one’s overall happiness and satisfaction.
So how do you do this?
Start by discussing the role of electronics in your relationship and setting limits/boundaries to how often and where they are present.
No electronics at the dinner table – at home or out at restaurants.
No electronics in the bedroom – or maybe you discuss what type of electronics are allowed in the bedroom. There is a difference between reading a novel on a Kindle and scrolling mindlessly on your phone.
Spending at least 10-15 minutes per evening having conversation with one another while electronics are put away.
Setting boundaries around when you check work email.
Discussing what is and what is not shared on social media.
Unplugging on the weekends or minimizing screen time in order to be fully present with your spouse and family.
After you’ve decided to prioritize and protect the space around your relationship and have time for each other, how do you get back to quality time?
There are many activities you and your spouse can do together to foster conversation, engagement, and a sense of togetherness while you’re at home:
1. Playing board games or card games.
2. Reading a book out loud to each other.
3. Cook together.
4. Play video games together. It can be fun to have competition!
5. Indoor exercise together.
6. Do home improvement projects.
7. Host social events.
8. Make a list of date night activities you’d like to do – new restaurants you’d like to try, research upcoming events in your area.
9. Make a list of weekend activities you’d like to do and start putting them on the calendar.
10. Watch a movie together.
11. Watch funny things on the internet together. Laughter is a great stress reliever.
12. Share an article or something interesting you’ve read that day and discuss.
13. Create a photo book together.
14. Do a puzzle together.
15. Do crosswords together.
16. Take a bubble bath together.
17. Spend an afternoon reading magazines or novels.
18. Do art together.
19. Listen to music together and maybe even dance together.
20. Listen to a podcast together.
What other ideas do you have?
There are also conversation starters you can use. It can difficult to come up with new topics to discuss so use your resources to stimulate ideas. Gottman has a Card Deck that you can purchase or download their app which has more than 1,000 conversation starters. You can also Google conversation starters for couples and there are many lists to explore.
Ask each other the 36 Questions that Lead to Love.