On your wedding day, you looked into the eyes of your spouse and made a vow to have and to hold. You never made such a vow to your smartphone. Yet if you’re honest, you’ve been having and holding your phone a whole lot more than your spouse lately.
The average person in America checks his or her phone 46 times a day. We check our phones at work, at restaurants, while waiting in line, and during leisure time. We reach out to our phone with curiosity. Has anyone texted? What’s in the news? Did anyone comment on my last post?
What if you reached out to your phone less and your spouse more? Let’s say you made it a goal to touch your spouse just 10 times a day with a hug, kiss, squeeze, pat, shoulder rub, even a high five. That physical touch would be revolutionary in most high tech marriages.
What if you became curious about your spouse instead of your social media feed or the news? Instead of wondering about your 500 friends, focus on the one person who matters the most – your spouse. What’s troubling him or her? What is he or she excited about today? What does he think is funny? What is she saving up to buy?
One husband described how phones had changed his relationship with his wife in a negative way. He said that he and his wife used to read together in bed and cuddle. Now his wife holds her phone, eyes glued to the screen, as he turns off the light. It’s a totally different dynamic. A different wife complains her husband is constantly playing video games in his free time. She feels like she has to compete for his attention.
My friend, your spouse is more interesting than your phone.
Now your phone can certainly connect you with your spouse. Studies show a loving text during the day boosts your affection for one another, particularly benefitting the sender of the message. But the phone can’t hug you, hold you, lock eyes with you, or kiss you. These physical acts of affection produce the important bonding hormone oxytocin. Spending time holding your phone close can’t produce oxytocin; only real human contact can do that.
I don’t think any of us decide, “I’m going to ruin my marriage by giving too much attention to my smartphone, tablet, TV or video game console.” No, it’s a slow slide of gradually building new habits with our screens. If you feel jealous of your spouse’s phone, tablet, or TV, say so. Don’t yell, accuse, or guilt your spouse. Simply say something like, “I am jealous for you. I feel invisible when I am around you and I don’t want to be invisible. I want to be here for you. I want to be your best friend and lover. What can we do to turn off our screens earlier and do more things together?”
Your spouse may not be aware of your feelings. Or perhaps your spouse is afraid to have this conversation with you. Remember, your spouse is more interesting than your phone (and if you don’t agree, you’re not asking your spouse the right questions). Rekindle curiosity in your relationship. Find out what your spouse likes. That’s much more important than finding out what photos your online friends like.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life and Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right. Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.