As you know by now, I work in the field of helping people -especially couples- stay connected in their intimate relationships. Needless to say, most of us would agree that relationships require giving and receiving attention in order to feel fulfilled. Deep down inside we know this. In today’s busy world, however, with its myriad commitments, roles and responsibilities, we also know that distractions and competing interests abound and interrupt our attention all the time. Consequently, we often feel overwhelmed just by the sheer lack of time, making staying “relationally connected” even a bigger challenge.
Added to this mix of attention erosion is digital distraction.
Since the emergence of internet and cell phones, (and especially the convergence of the two) we now automatically gravitate to connect in a different way. Smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, texting, email, blogs (btw thanks for reading:-), Facebook, Skype, Twitter, IM and Instagram are very popular forms of socializing these days. Today we swim in an overwhelming online ocean of information and what seems even more pervasive is that we cannot seem to do much or go anywhere without somehow being tethered to our gadgets. We‘re like plugged in 24/7! Not that I am taking up a personal crusade against the usefulness of all the modern electronic connections available to us today (after all I am blogging here); I am, however, seriously questioning whether the way we are living today -amidst the technology- is ultimately eroding our capacity for deep, genuine and sustained connection. For at the end of the day, “love” requires face-to-face attention (and not just Facebook:-).
Download-Overload: A Love-Hate Relationship
The paradox in all of this is that as technology allows information and connection to become more abundant, we, as humans, seem to be less able- and maybe even less willing- to communicate and really connect with each other. On the one hand, we can leave home, be away from our spouse, and still remain connected thanks to modern technology. We can see and hear each other at the push of a single click and sometimes we can take care of our daily business together, even when we’re miles apart. Even the fire of romance with one’s partner can be kept burning while away from home. But sometimes we’re totally unaware how negatively seductive the trap of technology can be. For many of us, knowing when to switch off becomes an issue and a habit difficult to break: we can’t really get involved in a conversation if an email beckons our attention instead. We don’t really eat dinner together if it means our telephones also sit by our sides. We’re not out on a “date night” if the most stimulating experience and conversation comes from a hand-held shiny screen. This is where we can become more married to distraction than to each other. When technology begins to crowd out the intimacy of our most important relationships, we then begin to truly lose our connection.
Maybe our attention spans for realationships are rapidly shrinking. More and more these days I am meeting up with couples who feel disenchanted in their own relationships because they no longer engage in deep conversations and reflection with one another. Well, maybe given the speeded-up world in which we live in, focus is hard to come by, let alone sustain? Maybe we have no patience for mindfulness anymore? Maybe without meaning to, we hastily and habitually process information about each other rather than take the time to rediscover one another in a more personable way? Maybe we are losing the ability to discern the human emotions etched on each other’s faces- eroding our capacity for emotional connection and in turn, the most vital part of how to be in communion with others. In other words, maybe, without noticing it, we have somehow trained our brains to not compute meaningful connection and learned to take each other for granted.
For better and for worse…
Whether we like it or not, the cyber-centric culture in which we live in is here to stay. The technology is embedded in how we maintain our relationships. And the only way around this modern-day conundrum of being “married to distraction” is to set some boundaries and to consciously reconnect the old-fashioned way: offline. To live, laugh and play. Together. There is no magic formula other than communication for connection. But this commands attention. When we command the attention of our loved ones, anything we share with them is received in a far more engaging way. Command, however, does not mean demand or criticism or even worse- contempt. (I’ll be blogging about this communication killer next time). Rather, it means turning toward each other with compassion and respect. Commanding brings you closer to what you desire while demanding pushes it further away.
The following questions are offered here as food for thought: Ask yourself whether your daily usage of the internet and social networking sites has increased…if so, by how much?
Does your partner regularly comment or complain about the time you spend checking your phone or surfing online?
Ask yourself if you are happy today as you were a couple of years ago or if you are feeling more stressed out than you did then? Or even more importantly, are you feeling more lonely?
Your honest answers to the above questions may prove to be a turning point in your life. Moreover, taking your answers to your partner may prove to be the most important
thing for your marriage: true connection.
Happy belated New Year to you all, wishing you much love in your relationships and thanks for using your devices to read my blog:-)