Technology is everywhere: cell phones, iPods, computers, televisions, DVRs filled with recorded shows, and video games all clamor for our time and attention. But at what price to your relationship with your partner? How does having all these gadgets contribute to an anxious household?
We have become slaves to the very products that are supposed to make our lives easier. Theoretically, our phones, laptops, and other devices make it easier to connect with others. That’s true, except that like Pavlov’s dog, who was trained to salivate at the ringing of a bell, we have been conditioned to jump at the sound of a phone ringing or an email landing in our inbox. Many people feel they have no choice but to instantly respond to the phone call, the voicemail, the text message, the post on the Facebook wall, or the tweet on Twitter. Our intentions are good, but technology has stripped our relationships of intimacy.
What would it be like to turn off all technology products in your home for one evening? Does the thought sound wonderful or anxiety provoking? Are you worried you and your partner would be bored? Are you already thinking, “Well, we’ll just go out that night!”?
Reducing technology usage can go a long way in helping both you and your partner to relax and reconnect. Here are some ideas for how to cut back on technology in your home and relationship:
- Turn off the phone and the television during dinner: We are in a bad habit of doing other things besides eating while eating. Besides contributing to poor eating habits and missing out on the meal itself, we are also missing out on connecting with those who are at the table with us. A better idea is to ask your partner about her day, and tell her about yours. Save the upsetting or frustrating details for after dinner—try to make dinner a positive experience.
- Create technology time-outs: Designate a 1-to-2 hour window every day when no technology is used. This might be before or after dinner, or if you and your partner are home together during the day, at another specified time.
- Designate a technology power-down time: Decide as a couple when the devices will be shut off for the night. (That includes the television, which should not be in your bedroom anyway!)
- Limit computer usage: It’s likely that you and your partner use computers for your jobs anyway, so set a policy about how much time is acceptable to be on the computer at home.
- Utilize voicemail: You are paying for this “personal secretary” to take your messages anyway—use it!
- Have technology-free weekends: For the ultimate challenge, try putting everything away for a weekend. Could you and your partner survive without the phone, computer, tv, and iPod? You may want to read The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart for inspiration—she managed to (largely) keep her three teenaged children technology-free for six months! There are also dozens of websites online that describe people’s attempts to go technology-free for a week, so if you need ideas, Google it.