Powering Down to Tune In

Do you dread that moment at the start of a flight when the attendant instructs you to “please turn off all electronic devices”? Not yet, you think, I just need to check my email again to see if my meeting has been rescheduled! Or, I was about to make a brilliant play on Words with Friends!

Smartphones call to us

For a lot of us, electronic devices have become constant companions. Sometimes the thought of taking a break from texts, emails, and late-breaking news updates can actually produce anxiety.

It’s often been reported the effect all of this has on children, with video games, texting and constant use of social media robbing them of valuable time that could be spent on imaginative play, reading, and actual face time with other human beings.

Yet adults—and their relationships—are also impacted when we are constantly plugged in. I remember when a friend took his son on a Boy Scout camping trip and immediately updated his Facebook status to read, “Making s’mores with my son and our friends!” I couldn’t help but wonder how much he could be enjoying the campfire and good company if he was simultaneously engaging with his iPhone.

It’s become such a common scenario that there are even television commercials about it, with one cell phone brand promising to let a man surreptitiously watch the big game under the table during a romantic dinner while his spouse or partner is none the wiser. It’s supposed to be funny, but the “joke” is on the partner, who was hoping for an evening of intimacy. When you think of it that way, it’s not so funny after all.

Here is a question to ask yourself if you worry that your love affair with electronic media might be a threat to your real-life relationship: Do you set boundaries when you’re spending time with your partner or spouse? Just because your friends and coworkers can reach you anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean they should. But it’s not their job to figure out when it is or isn’t an appropriate time to ask you for an expense report or fill you in on the latest gossip. It’s your job to tune it out by simply turning off your cell phone, tablet or other device-of-choice. Only then can you truly communicate with your spouse or partner, discuss what’s happening in your lives and enjoy each other’s company. It’s called being in the moment.

You’ll also avoid the risk of offending your spouse or partner, who can hardly be blamed for wondering where your priorities are if you’re taking calls or checking emails when you’re out having dinner or cuddled up on the couch with a glass of wine.

On the other hand, if he/she is equally guilty of always keeping one eye on the cell phone when you’re together, that could point to more deep-seated issues in the relationship. Do you actually want to spend time together, or are you just going through the motions and using the intrusion of outside calls or emails as a way to avoid talking about difficult problems? Have you been neglecting the relationship for so long that you have little of substance to talk about? In those cases, technological distractions are a symptom rather than the cause of the problem.

This can be an invaluable wake-up call that it’s time to start tending to the relationship itself again, whether that means working through some things you’ve been brushing under the rug, finding some common interests to pursue together, or even spicing things up in the bedroom—another area that could be neglected if you’re spending too much time on the Internet.

In an age when so many people are substituting Facebook for time spent sitting on the porch to chat with the neighbors, it’s easy to see the conundrum: technology can make our lives more convenient, but it can also undermine real-life relationships. Don’t let your relationship with your spouse or partner become one of them. After all, it’s as easy as the touch of a button—the “off” button—to power down for a while so you can truly tune in to the person who’s right there in front of you.

Technology interfering with your relationship? Let us help. Call our licensed counselors at OC Relationship Center today at 949-393-8662 or book via our convenient online scheduler.

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