Digital Delirium Part 2: Wise boundaries for your marriage
by Dr Dave Currie
Unchecked digital habits are sucking the life out of too many marriages. I’m talking about all the time, energy and attention that goes to things like Facebook, texting, emailing, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, online gaming, kindles and a myriad of opportunities, attractions and apps that tend to preoccupy our lives. Digital distraction is having a growing tendency in hampering relational connection.
The following bit of news might sound crazy but it screams my point! Facebook is now appearing in courtroom records in just over 20 per cent of divorce cases in Great Britain. You know that North America is even more cellphone saturated. In some ways, the monthly explosion of new devices and apps to ‘make our lives better’ is nearing the destructive impact of a full on ‘Desert Storm’ assault on your most important relationships. So to the point, The Why and How of Wise Digital Boundaries:
Why Create Digital Boundaries for your Marriage
Face it, two’s company but three’s a crowd when the third person is your PHONE. The goal needs to be finding more “US” time as a couple – time to walk, talk, interact and connect. Time alone. Too many couples fight to carve out consistent time to date. It is hard but when both the date nights and the shorter daily interactions are cut up by the interruption of others in the form of phone calls, texts and notifications, there is less and less alone and connection time. Turn the phone off. Put it away. Leave it in the car. Why? Undivided attention screams validation. You are saying to your spouse, “You are more important than all others. I am fully here with you”.
But with the phone or other devices in play, you are never alone. You are not locked into live, face-to-face interaction. You are not content in the moment. You are not fully present. Further, another person’s text brings their presence – they are now in the room with you because they are now on your mind. You let them interrupt your time with your spouse. But to your mate, something or someone else is the priority. And with the repeated interruptions, it’s hard to settle into deeper face-to-face interactions because of the broken flow of conversation. You just don’t go as deep or as personal.
Why not use these questions to guide you: “Are we alone?” “Is someone else joining us?” “Who else is coming?” “Are you bringing someone else with us?” Pick one and make it your catch phrase as a couple to declare war on the digital distractions.
How to Set Practical Digital Boundaries to Strengthen your Marriage
You are not the only couple needing help here. I just worked through digital boundaries with another couple last week (the fourth couple in the last year or so). Many couples are finding the electronic distractions a serious challenge to their relationship. I’ll be sharing some of the ideas here that I shared with them.
Here’s a list of 12 possible digital guidelines. I suggest you read and discuss them with your spouse. Agree on the ones you will try to implement for the next three months to limit the distractions and create a better connection between you. Then evaluate and make the improvements needed.
1. No electronics including calls, texts and TV during meal times. Lock in on each other for at least 20 minutes.
2. No entertainment or social electronics until your evening work or chores related to family are done.
3. No electronics before spending quality time with family and helping with the evening routine.
4. No electronics while a family member wants to discuss a concern or problem.
5. Limit electronics on dates or try to shut them down completely.
6. No electronics in bed or any digital contact with others in the bedroom. Go to bed holding only one thing – your sweetheart.
7. Work to go to bed together at least four times each week. Late night alone on the computer or phone surfing, gaming, or browsing needs to be limited.
8. Move the TV out of the bedroom for six months and see if it makes a difference to your connection.
9. No electronics while your mate is driving. Be in the moment with your spouse trying to engage warmly.
10. Don’t let TV be your default activity together as a couple more than two nights/week.
11. If you know you are expecting an important work-related call, give notice to your spouse or the family.
12. Agree to turn your phones or other devices off for one hour every evening.
Make “US” a priority, with ample face-to-face time and great treatment of each other. May God help you put your marriage and family first. HOT TIP: Listen to our DFR Podcast #71: Technology’s Attack on Marriage – Finding Wise Digital Boundaries.
I look forward to hearing from you – not during “US” time –and tell me your frustrations and share with me your tips. You can catch up with me at www.DoingFamilyRight.com.