Impacts of Technology on Your MarriageNov 12, 2021
"She never talks to me, but she posts 100 times per day."
"He's always distracted by emails or that stupid fantasy football league."
"The other day we drove 2 hours together, and you never looked up from your phone."
"My email is none of your business."
In our marriage coaching programs we always ask the question "What are the barriers to being a good listener in your relationship?" In addition to kids, crazy schedules, work, household to-dos, etc; we always hear technology related complaints...ALWAYS.
I think we are all used to the white noise and negative vibes toward "too much technology." So much so that we know it takes too much of our lives, distracts us from the people sitting beside us, and burns precious discretional time; but we still tune out the messages and keep adding more and more tech to our lives.
The resistance we feel to changing our tech habits for the health of our marriage and family is that we misinterpret these anti-tech messages as an "all or nothing" endeavor. We can't quit because we rely on google calendar (we even share them to stay on the same page); we pay bills based on business done over email; and we stay connected with friends and family over a variety of social platforms. We aren't asking you to quit; we are encouraging couples to adjust their habits and be more intentional and more balanced with the time they spend with tech vs the time they spend with each other.
Want to make some adjustments?
Here are the top 5 things that helped us overcome technology barriers to marriage success...
1. Why Would I Do That?
One of the first hurdles for us was overcoming the complacency we felt toward boundaries on tech because we didn't understand the implications of not doing so.
As mentioned earlier, technology has been or is currently a barrier in every single relationship we have ever coached. When we ask follow up questions about the things this tech barrier causes in their relationship, the answers are always some form of disconnect or resentment.
Disconnect is a toboggan on a slippery slope toward resentment at the bottom of the hill. It's a crack in our lens that causes us to see everything with a slightly distorted view. The longer we experience disconnect, the more we pour into other things (sometimes technology). The end result is becoming roommates and living parallel lives or worse, finding out that there is no way to climb back up that slippery slope and things end. The harsh truth is that in either of these end results, we have chosen technology over our spouses.
If you find yourself in a mindset of "it's not that big of a deal" or "I'll make some changes soon," you may already be choosing tech over marriage. REMINDER: You don't have to give it ALL up. Just change some habits to limit and/or combat disconnect and resentment.
2. How Was Your Day?
We make it a point to connect on each other's day. It could be on a walk after work, while making dinner together, or during dinner itself. We like to mix it up, but most often this happens over dinner for us. However, truth be told, it's easy to get caught up in a binge cycle and turn the TV on the moment we sit down to eat while hours pass without any meaningful conversations. When we notice one of these ruts, we intentionally change the scenery and fit in a walk or a coffee shop date ASAP.
If technology is a part of your morning routine (catching up on news), your entire work day, and your after work life (music, tv, social media, etc); then you are most likely moving toward disconnect and harboring some resentment toward each other. Change 1 thing about your start of day, your middle of day, or (most importantly) your end of day routine to ask "How was your day?".
Resist the urge to remove all the TVs from your house, throw Alexa out the window, or run over your phone with your car. Start with 1 night per week without or with limited technology. If you jump in the deep end on this, you will either drown or jump back out as fast as possible. Shift some small habits, eat dinner together, and talk.
3. Want To Snuggle?
One of the most common places for tech-induced disconnect and resentment is in the bedroom. Phones and TV in the bedroom are the 2 biggest barriers to connecting intimately. Most of the time the people on the TV and social media get more of our attention than the person in the same room.
Watching TV in bed on a regular basis limits conversation and eliminates all the variables that could lead to a spark. There is nothing wrong with turning in early and watching your favorite show or a movie in bed; but if the TV is never turned off in the bedroom, you can be sure that your spouse will not be turned on.
The majority of us use our phones as alarm clocks which means it is the last thing we look at each night and the first thing we look at each morning. If we are being honest, the 30 minutes to an hour before setting our alarm is consumed with scrolling, and the few minutes after turning off our alarm are met with a quick check in on emails, texts, social likes and comments, snaps, etc. If this is the case, our spouses are far from the last thing we think about before bed and the first thing we think about in the morning, unless those thoughts are filled with resentment because he or she is ALWAYS on their phone.
4. When Will You Be Home From Work?
In the most recent realities of increasing remote workers and spouses as coworkers, we have heard many new concerns with not having boundaries between work and home. Some times it's the literal lack of physical boundaries of no longer having a commute to switch on and off, and other times it's not drawing clear lines in the face of expectations that we have to be on all the time because our email is in our pocket or purse.
One of the ways we can manage tech in our relationships is having a consistent start time to your work day, ensuring you have opportunities to walk away from work here and there throughout a day for lunch and bathroom breaks, and creating a clear end of day routine that allows you to close the connectivity apps and shut down the laptop.
Today's work and family realities rarely afford us the option of only working 9-5. There are typically perks like work-hour flexibility and location autonomy that comes with remote work; but if we aren't intentional with our time, focus, and priorities, we may only have the perception of such perks. Not only that, but we the inability to disconnect from work results in a disconnect at home. Most of us would never purposefully trade one for the other; but without better defined boundaries disconnect and resentment will also become a part of the new normal.
This is another place where you don't need to trade flexibility, autonomy, or pajama work attire for a set 9-5 in order to prevent disconnect and resentment. We have benefited from a 2-3 day per week limit on after-hours work. Some times our work requires some after-hour and weekend work, but successfully balancing that with marriage health requires open communication and expectation setting, as well as, boundaries so we reap the benefit of our hard work instead of experiencing the consequences of disconnect and resentment.
5. What Are You Up To?
Today's tech-forward world has increased our connectivity inputs 10-fold so we have to take a page out of the "out of office" email settings book to filter those inputs on nights and weekends. When a friend texts "What are you up to?" or an app notification essentially elicits the same response thoughts, we have to have created some pre-determined and potentially automated response to protect ourselves from always being available to everything and everyone other than our spouse and family.
Two of the most practical tech tips we have benefited from are...
- Turn Off Notifications: Emails, social media, and other messaging apps are not things that ever need our immediate attention. It seems crazy at first glance, but turning off email and social media notifications has allowed us to accomplish more while at work, limiting the amount of work that pills into evenings and weekends. It has also reduced our FOMO (fear of missing out) triggers by not alerting us every time someone not in the room with us wants our attention. It's near impossible to determine if that thing trying to get our attention is a friend's text that can wait until tomorrow or if it's just another 10% off coupon to West Elm. This simple tip has helped us feel more in control of what things get our attention and when so we don't accidentally get hijacked by a work email in the middle of a date night or family dinner when we can't even address until Monday anyway.
- Do Not Disturb: The other life changing tech hack we utilize is the "Do Not Disturb" setting on our phones. The latest Apple update has increased this function with customizable "focus" features. Regardless of what the feature is called, the intent behind "Do Not Disturb" is not only to further limit inputs, but to alert others of why. If you're using the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" function you can replace the automated text that people receive with a custom message. I (Mark) have a list of messages in the notes app on my phone that I can copy and paste to set a custom message in place of the default "...while driving" message. If you use the "focus" function, you can set multiple options for why you need to temporarily limit inputs from the outside world. This hack essentially functions like the "out of office" feature for email but specific to texts and phone calls (the notifications that are impractical to silence permanently).
Put yourself back in the driver's seat on the path to a meaningful marriage by discussing and setting boundaries on tech in your life and inside your marriage. We all have to do a better job controlling the inputs or they will control us. This goes for all of us, not just your spouse. We are all guilty in some way shape or form. If we aren't willing to put in the effort for having the best marriage possible, then we can expect to experience disconnect and resentment. In order remove the potential of this tech conversation feeling like a personal attack in your marriage, we recommend using this blog as a conversation starter. We also recommend being willing to take the first step in trying one of these tips even if you aren't the tech junky.
Lastly, we recommend getting one of our self-led marriage coaching video courses so that you can learn to better communicate and connect on all things marriage. Our video courses are the best way to utilize tech to enhance and improve your marriage rather than letting it come between you. Click below to learn more...
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