When I asked friends and fans on my facebook page what type of content my September article needed to cover, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of discussing the challenge of balancing one’s tech-savvy nature with a relationship-nurturing home environment.
While doing my research for this article, I found a ton of blog posts, online magazine articles, and even scholarly research examining the topic and offering several solutions such as “taking time to unplug”, or instituting a “no talking on the phone as your walk through the door” rule. These are fantastic suggestions.
Seriously. As soon as you finish reading this article, you should definitely go over to Disengaging from Your Cell Phone to check out some of the simple ways you can start setting healthy boundaries for technology in your families.
For my purpose today, we’re going to focus on 2 ways that technology can really screw up your relationships.
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So lets start with perhaps the most common:
1) Social Media: (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram and one I just found out about yesterday, Snap Chat)
We all know that social media is a fantastic way to keep connected to old friends. As a military spouse, I’ve lived all over the country and have friends that I love to keep in touch with from “back home”, and from the many “homes” I’ve had over the years. And with advances in technology, I can keep in touch with these people from just about anywhere via my phone, tablet, and laptop.
That being said, there’s no denying that having instant access to so many “blasts from the past” as well as complete strangers, can potentially spell trouble. For one, let’s get rid of the notion that cheating is always a “big production”.
When we’re talking about emotional cheating (what I would argue is the precursor to every other form of cheating), it often appears in little, perhaps even seemingly innocent conversations. There are too many examples to give you here.
How to Avoid Trouble: As a general rule consider the following – if you wouldn’t say it or type it with your spouse watching, it’s probably not something you should be saying or typing. If it really is as “innocent” as you keep telling yourself that it is, it wouldn’t matter who was around or reading it. This goes for coworkers, friends, past relationships and more.
And while we’re talking about it: Those passive aggressive facebook statuses– how “someone didn’t do the dishes” or how “it must be so nice to live in a house that magically gets cleaned every week”– aren’t helping your marriage either.
2) CyberSex – Pornography, Chat Rooms and the like…
Like it or not, one of the byproducts of technology on the web has been an explosion of access to sexual content. If you can think of it, and it’s sexual… the Internet already has it available for your viewing. It makes sense, if you think about it.
Our culture doesn’t like to talk about sex—it’s still taboo for most polite conversation. The web offers anonymity like we’ve never experienced before. All of a sudden, there is seemingly unlimited access with equally few consequences.
In working with clients, I have spent some time learning about sex addiction and behaviors on the Internet. What’s remarkable is near universal justification for the behavior: It’s not a real person, therefore, it’s not cheating1.
Even the spouses of people engaged in cybersexual activities often offered this same rationalization. At the same time, however, they couldn’t shake the feeling of having been “cheated” in some way.
This is usually where I introduce what I believe to be the best definition of cheating that I’ve heard to date: cheating is the investment of energy (physical, mental, emotional, financial) in outside sources for personal fulfillment that would normally be directed towards your spouse, partner or family.
Many clients, upon hearing that definition agree with it. They feel robbed of some part of their marriage. And while a full explanation of the emotional destruction that can occur in both partners is beyond the scope of this article, simply stated, both partners suffer greatly.
How to Avoid Trouble: Now this is not the article where I tell you what should or shouldn’t be going on in your marriage. That is your covenant. What I do get to tell you is that if you haven’t had the explicit discussion about personal boundaries, comfort level, acceptability, etc… regarding pornography/cybersex with your partner—it might be a good time to check in and make sure you’re both on the same page.
And please do not fall into the trap of thinking that other prudent behaviors can serve as indicators that this conversation is unnecessary.
I recently spoke with the wife of a pastor at a local parish who disclosed to me that among church leaders in our area, one of the leading concerns is how to deal with the issue of cybersex, as it seems to have greatly influenced the even some of the most seemingly devout populations.
Have the conversation. Honest communication is #1 in cultivating healthy relationships. Have the conversation.
Phew… that was a heavy one wasn’t it?
Next month, in Part 2, I promise to lighten things up when I give you several ways that technology can enhance the one-on-one work that you’re doing with your spouse to help rejuvenate your marriage!
In the mean time, let me know what you think of the issues presented above. Also, if you’re someone whose marriage has been in trouble in the past, and you’ve found a way to use technology to help it get back on track—I want to hear from you!
Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Adamr
1 – Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows. Center City, MN: Hazelden.