Unplugging in the Age of Distraction
Being in a relationship is sort of like raising children... AND nothing like it all at the same time.
Relationships- like children, go through many different stages, phases, and challenges. Relationships take work, and that means all relationships are faced with challenges that partners need to accomplish together for a relationship to grow and deepen.
In today’s modern world the rise of the Internet and Technology distractions, couples are finding that maintaining connection and intimacy are a challenge. There are huge benefits to interacting socially with the outside world. It is so much easier to connect, make like-minded friends, and for isolated parents to reach out for support. However, one of the downfalls to the Internet is that information can be accessed and people can contact you at all hours of the day or night! And that can take a toll on the intimate communication that fuels both romantic relationships, and family life.
The old cliché of the husband who hides behind the newspaper, has been replaced by a partner of either gender who is tapping out through scanning social media, texts, Clash of Clans or Candy Crush…..
Social media can lead to an addiction where distraction becomes the habit. Constantly checking tweets, Instagram, Facebook feeds, and text messages become an unconscious habit. Electronic devices have gotten us used to having our concentration and focus interrupted. Nicholas Carr documented research in his book “The Shallows: What Internet is doing to our brains.” The culture of distraction doesn’t benefit intimate relationships which require the opposite: the habit of being aware and paying attention.
If you’re reading this, maybe you stumbled upon it “laying out” where you poop… Maybe your partner directly handed you this article, either way you came across it, if your partner has been complaining that you seem more focused on your phone, computer, or game console, then your children or your relationship with them? Then that is an issue you need to take seriously, even if you disagree.
Are you missing the cues that your partner needs some connection?
Sometimes, especially if a relationship is going through a mud puddle, you may not recognize when your partner is hinting for connection because it comes out sounding negative, sad or angry. Often we react to the negativity and completely miss the hidden underlying need for connection. When one parent is distracted, and not giving much attention to their partner sometimes the partner will feel a little resentful, disconnected, and unimportant.
When children don’t get attention, they are going to try and get it from you. They don’t know if it’s positive or negative, they just want your attention! If you are busy on your phone, most likely children will misbehave, be loud and rambunctious to get your attention.
Tina says to her bf ” Mick, “I shouldn’t have to ask you to be a father! Can’t you see that I need help?! Can’t you just help me do the dishes or put the kids to bed instead of being on the phone all night!? You’re always on your phone!”
If you were Mick, you wouldn’t hear her asking for help. You would just hear her criticizing you. And then he would most likely react defensively, or even escalate the argument with anger.
If Tina sounds like you, try communicating your emotions and feelings, instead of reacting out of anger. “Mick, I’m feeling depleted and a little distant from you lately. Tonight, we need to have a technology free night and spend time with the kids.”
If you are Mick, before getting angry or feeling defensive, search for the “need for connection,” underneath your partner’s harsh words. Focus on what your partner is “really asking.”
Mick: “Oh, your right. Sorry. I didn’t even notice how distracted I can get.” And then read the kids a bedtime story. If you don’t know what your partner needs, then take a deep breath, counting to 10, and then say, “I don’t want to argue, so can you please tell me what you need from me right now? I really want to know.”
“Partners often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindfulness, not malice.”
Being distracted by today’s electronic devices resulting inattention is not deliberate or caused by marital problem. We just don’t realize how addicting devices can become!
So what are some things that we can do to find a solution for distractions?
If you are in a relationship, or have children, I recommend that you have a set of rules that work for electronic devices.
For example: “Don’t be a tommy the texter!” Most people turn off devices at a movie theater or church. That same courtesy and respect needs to be shown to our partners and children. I don’t want to scare you or be all “morbid..” and shit... But this is the only fucking life you’re going to get with your family.
I haven’t met one 90 year-old who wishes they had spent less time with their children, or spouse!
Along with rules for electronics, making rules about privacy to avoid disagreements over what information or images are appropriate to share with others, is a good idea. Talking about these kind of moral and personal values, making policies and respecting your partners views, will prevent most issues in the future.
Here is a Quiz to get a sense of whether the issues around electronic distractions could be negatively affecting your relationship and needs some extra attention.
On a separate piece of paper, answer each question with a number from 0-4.
1- At Times
1. I feel like my partner spends too much time ________(texting, on social media, playing games.)
2. Often when I want to talk, he or she is busy on their phone.
3. My partner misses cute moments or cues when our children want to play with him or her.
4. I feel like digital distractions come first.
5. I feel that my partner wants to “zone out” to TV instead of play a family game or cook with me.
6. It hurts me when I come into a room and my partner doesn’t acknowledge me or the children.
7. Games or social media tends to burn up whatever time there is for the two of us.
8. My partner is too distracted by all of the electronic options to pay attention to me.
9. I’ve found myself wishing I came first in my partner’s attention rather than his or her phone or game.
10. I feel like I do most of the chores and caretaking because my partner is busy with his or her phone, T.V. or game.
11. I feel like my partner doesn’t touch me or show me affection as much as I would like.
12. My partner is on his or her phone before turning in for the night.
Add all of points to see how you rate your family on the plugged in scale.
0-10 Being too plugged in is not a serious issue for your family, but having healthy goals is a positive step to preventing issues in the future.
10-20 You may already know your relation might benefit from some problem solving in this area. Feel free to try the tips mentioned, or book a consultation with Echo. :)
21-30 Your score suggests that there may be some excessive attention to social media. Distractions may be interfering with your relationship. Try some of the tips above! Make a specific family time limit. Some couples use diversions as a way to avoid communication or connection. If you need some help in this area, you may benefit from booking a consultation with Echo!
If you want to find unplugging solutions that best fit your family, positive ways to talk to your partner about electronic issues, or how connect without devices with your loved ones- book a call with Echo!