Is your technology destroying your relationship?
The world is filled with all sorts of distracting technology, but never before have we as a human race been so completely taken over by our self centered tech. In this learning we discuss how to manage all your technological distractions that damage partnerships. We work to put you back on track.
How to manage distracting technology in your relationship.
With modern technology, it seems we are finding new and inventive ways to become more self-absorbed and more distracted each day. From annoying cellular phone use during date night to the constant barrage of misunderstandings during some ridiculous texting frenzy, which leads to nowhere right, we are all obsessed with devices which rob us of real connection with other people, especially our most sacred bond, our partner.
With the invention of the “smartphone”, humans are always connected, and completely accessible all day every day. It’s no wonder that turning off these devices during critical moments in a relationship is both difficult and frustrating. There is always “one more message,” or “the last” email that MUST be written before someone can grant the other person full focus. This behavior is leading us to relationship hell, but without the tools to climb out.
In our own marriage we have had our moments with technology that created a total time drain and wasted energy, which we could have utilized in our marriage. Now when this happens however, we quickly jump away from the distraction because we leverage the same tools from ENARI every day. These tools teach us to put the phone away and focus on each other in profound ways.
In this article and learning, we will give you the same tools we use, some simple and some extreme, to help you realize just how addicted and distracted you are around technology. We will also lay out a plan for you to disconnect at the proper time so that you can focus on what truly matters: each other.
First, let’s get to the heart of why you are most certainly addicted to your phone. Oh and if you don’t think you are addicted, take our challenge. Get yourself a “dumb phone” for two weeks and see just how addicted you are after the first day. Todd did this in 2017. He wanted to test and see if he was as distracted and addicted to his phone as he thought. Todd ordered a flip phone, transferred his contacts and for two weeks he only used the flip phone. He came to a realization; he was totally addicted to smart phone tech. This moment changed the entire paradigm for us both in that we suddenly were communicating differently, Todd was even more present than normal and more importantly he realized why we are all so addicted. The simple reason, it feels good when our brain is constantly active.
Science backs this up with study after study outlining how smart phone, social media, and even website tech are all designed for one purpose, to keep your attention by leveraging your body’s love of a chemical, dopamine. This “happy” chemical is naturally produced in your body by all sorts of experiences. From laughing at a joke, to a glass of wine, to sex, your body uses these experiences to create dopamine so you feel happier. Technology also leverages your need for this drug and each moment of a received text message, alert of email, and social media notification tells your body that something exciting is happening. Then it becomes dependent on these moments to stay hooked on dopamine. Like a crack addict, you crave the notifications and interactions.
Don’t believe us? A USA Today article on the subject in 2017 articulated, “Apple says that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times a day. Even worse, research firm Dscout found that we tap, type and swipe our smartphones more than 2,600 times a day, on average. The majority of us check in front of our kids, with our spouse, during meetings, while we eat and while we should be sleeping.”
This never-ending dopamine impact creates addiction just like any drug, and just like a drug addiction, does damage to our personal life, marriage, and all relationships. But don’t use that as a joking excuse. This addiction is real and damaging to your brain, your body, and your love. The best part, however, is that it is entirely controllable.
Breaking the Addiction
Before we can talk about how to stop letting your cellular phone use damage the loving partnership, we first need to give you our top three-pointers for how to break the phone addiction so you can move away from abusing it. Habit is difficult to kick, and the first step is always admitting you have a problem. If you are not ready to accept there is a problem you may need an intervention. All joking aside, to test your addiction level, sit quietly for one hour with ALL technology turned off including computers, tv, cellular phone, smart watch, exercise watch and any other device you have around you. One hour may not seem like a long time, but in our experience, this will drive you nuts in about ten minutes. First will come fidgeting, then restless getting up, sitting down, then inevitably walking around. In that moment you will realize that your addiction is enormous and you can start to admit the issue. Once you complete this task, start to implement our three steps to break the habit.
1. Turn off ALL notifications –Just like an alcoholic tends to not go to bars and dinner parties for the first weeks of breaking addiction, so should you remove the temptation of checking your phone. The best method we have found is to simply turn off all notifications for social media and other non-essential apps. Yes, this includes email. No single email is so important you need to have an announcement immediately. If it’s that important someone will call you.
2. Don’t put it in your pocket –This one surprised us both, but when Todd finished his “two-week phone cleanse” he all but stopped putting his phone in his pocket. This simple step slows him from checking the phone incessantly. Instead, he picks it up only when needed. When you are moving from your car to your office, just put the phone in a purse, bag or hold it in your hand. Then leave it on your desk throughout the day or in the bag. That way you are only picking it up when absolutely needed. Before you start to say, “But this is a modern era, and we need to be connected.” Really? NEED? Sounds like an addiction to us. If you think it’s not, substitute something really nasty with “cel phone” in the next statements.
- I need my cel phone at all times. - TO - I need my crack cocaine at all times.
- I must always keep my phone on me in case someone needs me. - TO - I must always keep a beer on me in case I need a drink.
- You never know when I will need to check my phone, so I always keep it in my pocket. - TO - You never know when I will need some heroine, so I always keep it in my pocket.
This awareness test may seem extreme, but you are kicking the addiction, and you need to think about the phone in this way to be free if it’s constant trap of connectivity.
3. Designate phone use time –This is one that is really fun. If you have that favorite game, or you enjoy spending a few minutes checking your social media, just set aside time to do so. Much like watching TV or a movie, designate a time to sit and enjoy the device. By targeting key times, you will be less likely to continually check the device all day long.
BONUS -Delete apps you that distract the most – This is a bonus test, but for a while, we suggest two weeks, delete all social media and non-essential apps from your phone. This technique will force you to only check these things on your computer or with your browser. By needing to work a little harder to enjoy the technology, you further break the addiction and return to a reasonable level of operation as a functioning member of society.
In the Relationship
Once you have completed the above challenges on your own, it’s time to think about the relationship. We always suggest to couples that they begin to see technology as a tool, rather than as a distraction. By treating the phone the same way you would manage any tool, like a hammer, you will only use it when needed to complete a task. Even if the function is entertainment, you will start to see the phone as merely a tool to be controlled by you. We do this in our relationship and find that, for example, if we are headed to a movie for date night, we will use a phone as a tool to buy movie tickets then put the phone either in the car or a jacket during the movie. This way our phones become useful instead of harmful for our relationship.
The below tips are ones we use each day so we hope you too find them to be useful.
1. Only text for “logistics or love” –Many couples will leverage the quick communication technology of a smart device to “talk” in text format. This is good for things like pick up times for kids, scheduling a dinner date or flirting with your partner. But, using texting for a disagreement, difficult conversation, or to get in the last word, will all lead to devastating results. We suggest only using the phone for logistics or to send loving messages. Never for arguing, debate or for frustrating conversations. And of course NEVER when driving.
2. Leave it in the car for date night –As we mentioned above, put at least one phone in the car during your date night. A phone is an excellent tool for emergencies, babysitter contacts, or in case you need to research a less packed restaurant, but put them away during your date night.
3. Charge it away from the bed –Many people report sleeping with their phones either right next to the bed or actually in the bed. There is zero reason for keeping your cellphone that close. If you insisted on always sleeping with "booze" under your pillow, someone would conduct an intervention with you followed by a stint in rehab. The device of choice is no different. We suggest you charge it far away from your bed, across the room to give your mind, body and relationship time to rest.
A final note, distraction does damage.
When your lover is attempting to talk to you, it is your attention to that conversation which can either help or damage your partnership. Often when we are talking one of us will say, “I need to chat about this, but can I have your complete attention?” This simple phrase signals that the other person needs to put their phone or device down so that they are not distracted. Communication is one of the most critical parts of a great relationship, so it deserves your FULL attention. If your love is asking for this courtesy, just put the device down so that the distraction does not create hurt feelings, which lead to resentment. Distraction in these moments will undoubtedly cause damage to future moments, so it’s your choice on how you conduct your behavior regarding devices like cellular phones.
Lastly, remember, a phone is a tool, like a hammer and like a hammer, it can be used to do all sorts of things constructively. However, like a hammer, it can also be a destructive force. The choice of how to use the tool is in the hand of the user, and that’s both of you.
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