This morning, I went through my normal wake up routine, which puts my cell phone in my hand within the first three steps of my feet hitting the floor.
This quick grab of the cell allows me to check my email on my way to the bathroom to handle the normal wake up stuff.
After leaving the bathroom, I head down stairs and jump back on my cell to check my favorite news sites. Once my wife and son wake up, I go back upstairs to greet my family with a kiss.
This is about the time that I begin playing with my son, as my wife now begins the routine of checking her important overnight emails and texts.
After hitting a few golf balls and kicking around the soccer ball in the hallway or crashing around Matchbox cars on imaginary trips to the ice cream store, my son will ask to see my phone.
He will begin, at daddy’s insistence, with educational math and reading games. But eventually he will move over to daddy’s golf and racing games when he thinks no one is watching.
Where’s the Quiet Time?
This detailed recollection about my daily morning routine comes on the heels of my first thoughts as I lay in bed this morning staring at the ceiling:
- Where has the quiet time in my life and marriage gone?
- Where has my time to just think to myself gone?
- What happened to the early morning quiet time I used to enjoy with my wife?
And the answer is…
My quiet time and time for inner thoughts have gone the way of the busyness of life, largely fed by my technologically “wired” dependence. I estimate that on a typical day I will spend a collective 4-5 hours texting, tweeting, listening to music, making notes, updating my to-do list, gaming and occasionally actually talking on my phone.
Let me pause here for a second. This post is not about how cell phones are ruining our lives or marriages because all of our phones have an on/off switch, and as of today they have not come up with an app that makes us involuntarily use them, against our will – as of today.
Rather, this is an examination of how cell phones and technology in general can be allowed to replace looking each other in the eye and having a meaningful conversation with our spouses – if we allow it.
It is an examination that begins within, as I am personally coming to a recognition that my wife and I spend more time engaging our smartphones than we do engaging each other.
It is a self-examination that leads me to declare it is time to make some changes. So here are some of the boundaries that I have identified to dis-engage from my cell and re-engage my wife in conversation.
How to Re-Engage with Your Spouse
Don’t Answer the Phone.
Like every family nowadays our entire family is ripping and running all day, every day. The only window of quiet time that we as a family can pretty routinely count on is Saturday morning.
To get the most of this small window of quiet time we do not accept phone calls on Saturday mornings before 10am. It is a small thing, but it gives the family at least one morning to lounge around and hang out together – uninterrupted.
No Cell Phone Zone.
We only take “necessary” calls when we are in the car together (hands-free of course). This is a little bit of a personal pet peeve. When we are in the car together, if one person is on the phone, then everyone else in the car becomes a hostage. The radio has to be turned down, the conversation that was occurring has to cease.
It is annoying – did I mention this is a pet peeve of mine. By not taking calls while we are in the car together, we gain a few minutes where we can talk about life or just enjoy the ride together.
Schedule Talk Time.
Find something to read together and block out some time to talk about it. Time may not permit you and your spouse to actually sit down and read together, but agree on what and how much you will read.
Then meet at the local coffee shop or go for a walk and talk about it. Just find a distraction free place and time to talk about what you have been reading and watch how the relationship and conversation flourishes.
Turn your cell phone on silent when you get home.
Unless you are on call, or you know an important call is coming at a specific time, try to turn your phone on silent when you leave work.
I have found that by doing this, my wife knows that regardless of whatever important things are going on, my family remains the most important. In addition, take inventory of how many of those missed calls actually did not require immediate attention anyway.
Don’t bring it to the dinner table.
As I confessed earlier, I am a heavy cell user. So I keep a charger at work and one at home. Recently, I have begun charging my phone while I eat dinner with my family or shoot hoops with my son. Not only does it recharge my phone, but it also ensures that when I spend time with my family, it remains their time and not borrowed time between phone calls.
These are just my personal parameters and suggestions.
But how about you Engaged Marriage family…how do you ensure that you remain more engaged with your spouse than with technology?
Edward C. Lee an Ordained Christian Minister, creator of the Elevate Your Marriage blog and author of Husbands, Wives, God: Introducing the Marriages of the Bible to Your Marriage.