Tag Archives: marriage

How to use technology and stay happily married

Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone.

― Dan Brown, Angels & Demons

There is no getting around it—we live in a technological age. Everywhere we look we see some kind of screen: on the wall, on the dresser, on the desk, on the table, at our work, in our homes, in our hands. Many incredible advances and opportunities come with this age. More information is at our fingertips than ever before. Connecting with our loved ones—even when they are on the other side of the world—has never been easier. We can capture our own experiences and share them in seconds with the people who matter most to us. At the same time, we have to be careful. Being more “connected” than ever has its drawbacks. Suddenly, as we fiddle with our phones and surf the waves of social media, we are more disconnected than ever to the people we love the most—maybe even the person sitting right next to us. Thus, with great technology comes great responsibility. So how do we use technology to strengthen our marriage while avoiding the drawbacks that can cause so much damage? 

The Good

My husband, Scott, works a lot. Not as much as he used to as a lawyer, but still. He leaves the house most days before 8 a.m. and doesn’t get home until just before 7. Then, because of church responsibilities, he is away two or three evenings a week and most of the day on Sunday serving our neighborhood. He is engaged in wonderful things, and I am happy to support him. What makes it easier is our ability to connect through technology, even though we are apart. Cell phones and email are awesome tools–and we use them to our advantage. We generally try to talk for a few minutes at some point during the day simply to share how the day is going. During our conversations, I might share with him something I did with the kids, or about a writing project I’m working on, or a funny thing that happened while I was volunteering at the school. Sometimes we send pictures to each other that capture something interesting or beautiful we saw or we’ll send a video clip sure to crack the other up. Or, I might text him to say, “Hey honey, I hope you are having a great day. Thanks for all you do.” I know it doesn’t sound like much, but he says that means a lot to him. That little gesture shows that I am thinking about him. I know I feel the same when he sends me a little digital love note.

It doesn’t take long to make the connection. Use technology to connect with your spouse during the day and to share your love. Whether through a phone call, an email, a text, sending a photo, leaving a voice message, or having a FaceTime chat when you are apart, take the opportunity to love your spouse digitally. Watching a television show or playing video games together can also boost the loving feelings in your relationship, provided you are both excited about the prospect. Researchers at Brigham Young University recently surveyed married couples and found that when both people were excited about playing, 76 percent said that gaming has a positive effect on their marital relationship. The number of hours of play time didn’t necessarily make a difference. The important factor to consider is “whether or not it creates conflict and quarreling over the game,” Recreation Management Professor Neil Lundberg of the study. For Scott and me, watching an episode of Frasier, Friends, or Modern Family at the end of the day is a fun way for us to relax and laugh together. Do what works for you.

There are plenty of ways to use your digital savvy to bless your relationship. If you find a way to use technology to make your spouse smile, to feel closer, or to simply help your spouse know that he or she is on your mind, then go for it. The trouble comes when you use that same technology to connect with the oh-so-many others who are available and waiting for your attention.

The Bad

Using technology to connect with our spouse in positive ways can strengthen marriage. However, connecting with our Facebook friends or posting pictures on Instagram needs moderation if we’re going to keep our number one feeling like number one. This modern-era addiction is becoming increasingly difficult to drop. In fact, according to a recent study reported by The New York Times, women now spend 12 hours more per week on their smartphones than with their partner! (http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/10/14/women-spend-more-time-on-their-smartphones-than-with-their-partners-research-shows/). Sure, social media sites are a fun way to share and connect. The trick is to make sure we aren’t doing it so much that we are sacrificing time with our most important person. As marriage therapist Dr. Kent Griffiths put it, “Young couples, in particular, have so little time with one another with the demands of children, career, and maintaining home and lifestyle. To spend scarce free time on social media removes precious opportunity when they could otherwise be connecting. Social media is our way of joining with the world, but needs be managed in terms of its time and importance.”

Especially at night, screens are simply bad company. Dr. Alicia Clark, a Washington DC psychologist, reported to The Huffington Post that being on a screen at night surfing social media can be damaging to your relationship for many reasons. “Not only are you on your computer screen when your partner might be interested in relationship-enhancing conversation, physical intimacy, or a cuddle, you are likely tinkering with your natural sleep cues that could leave you sleep deprived,” she said. “As I’ve told clients, avoid social media (and screens) at least one hour before bed in order to help you get the best sleep possible and so you can engage with your partner instead. Keep the bedroom a screen-free zone” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-ways-facebook-can-ruin-your-relationship_us_56706867e4b0e292150f80b6).

Don’t let your gadgets interfere with your ability to have a happy and fulfilling partnership with the person right there next to you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Am I spending more time posting on social media than I am spending with my spouse? Am I on my phone or computer at night or in bed when I otherwise might be meaningfully engaged with my partner? Has my partner expressed frustration with the amount of time I spend on social media sites? Am I more concerned about what is happening on Facebook than about what my spouse is doing right next to me? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then it’s time to make a change.

The Ugly

Connecting through technology can move beyond being a simple distraction and become a serious threat to the happiness of your marriage. This is the dark side of technology, home to two of the worst culprits of emotional infidelity: social media sites and pornography. 

As of January 2014, 74 percent of adults had a Facebook account (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/). According to Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher with Pew Internet and American Life Project at Pew Research Center, while 89 percent of adults said they used their online profiles to “stay in touch with friends,” 20 percent said they used it “to flirt.” If you think that seems innocent enough, consider that one-third of divorce cases cited social-media as part of the problem (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/21/facebook-cited-in-a-third-of-all-divorce-cases-its/).

Flirting of any kind, old flame or new friend, can be potentially harmful to your marriage. What starts innocently enough can all too easily become something it was never meant to be. According to Psychologist John Grohol, the CEO and founder of Psych Central, “Readily available communication on Facebook leads people to pursue temptation or engage in risky behaviors. Facebook makes it easy to engage in less inhibited communication — which can lead to taking risks we wouldn’t ordinarily take in our everyday life.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-ways-facebook-can-ruin-your-relationship_us_56706867e4b0e292150f80b6).

One couple, marriage educators K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, authors of The Social Media Couple, gained personal experience when Kelli started catching up via Facebook with her first love. She was having a rush of happy memories and emotions, while her husband started feeling pangs of anxiety and jealousy. The couple started talking about what was happening and reversed course before any more damage was done. “We came to the conclusion that having Facebook friendships with exes wasn’t good for our marriage,” says Jason.

Keep in mind that you can be emotionally unfaithful to your spouse just as much as you can be physically unfaithful. Even becoming emotionally involved with someone of the opposite sex puts a hurtful wedge between you and your spouse. Talk to your spouse about what you are both comfortable with and consider ruling out connecting with old flames.

Beyond connecting on social media, the Internet also provides access to the other ugly technological weapon that is destroying marriages by the minute: pornography. Husbands and wives alike can be drastically hurt by the effects of pornography. One 2004 study found that its use is so rampant that 56 percent of divorce cases involved one party being obsessed with pornographic websites (Manning J., Senate Testimony 2004, referencing: Dedmon, J., “Is the Internet bad for your marriage? Online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces,” 2002, press release from The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.). In another study, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, polled 350 divorce attorneys in 2003 and found that two-thirds of them reported that the Internet played a significant role in the divorces, with interest in online pornography contributing to more than half of the cases.

According to Dr. Peter Kleponis, a licensed cinical therapist in Conshohocken, PA, the use of pornography is a violation of marital trust to love and honor each other. He explains, “Viewing pornography is akin to breaking these vows because they are in no way a sign of a man’s love, honor and respect for his wife. For these women, the men they married all of a sudden seem like strangers. Many feel like a fool for ever having trusted their husbands. For some women, the violation of trust is so deep that they question if they can go on with their marriage. . . . Pornography invading the home can also lead a wife to feel old, unattractive and sexually undesirable.”

To avoid the kind of serious damage that can come along with pornography, the simplest, safest plan of action is to avoid it all together. Consider using Internet filtering methods to limit the kinds of images that can come into your home and keep an open dialogue with each other about how you will safeguard your marriage.

What to Do

Absolutely use technology in your marriage! But use it to connect when you are apart, to share moments from your day, and even to enjoy a good show or video game together. In other words, use technology to enrich and strengthen your relationship.

But be aware of how you are using technology, and consider whether you are distracted by it. Are you spending more time connecting with others through your gadgets than with the person sitting right next to you? Remind yourself how important this person is to you, and be sure to invest in that relationship first and foremost.

For the health of your marriage, avoid using technology in any way that will damage the trust between you or cause feelings of jealousy, irritation, lack of respect, or unfaithfulness. Have an open discussion about who you will connect with online and agree on reasonable amounts of screen time. Above all, remember that the person you love is right there waiting for, and needing, your attention. Don’t let the little screen take anything away from you.

Easy action steps:

  • Think about how you use technology in positive ways to connect with your spouse. How do you regularly reach out with phone calls, emails, and texts when you are apart? The next time your spouse has been away for more than an hour, send a photo or a message that communicates your love.
  • Think about how much you use technology in the evening when your spouse is home. Are you spending more time on your phone than you are interacting with your partner? Tonight, make a goal to have your bedroom be technology-free.
  • Consider whether you have ever used a social media site to flirt with an old flame or used the Internet to view something that would make your spouse uncomfortable. Make a date to talk to your spouse about rules for using the Internet and commit to only doing what will benefit your marriage.

Falling and staying in love

Below is an excerpt from The Two-Minute Marriage Project, a book I wrote about staying in love over the long haul. It’s a topic I’ve thought a lot about in order to find the secret of a lasting, fulfilling marriage. Here’s what I found it comes down to, from social scientists, personal experience, and interviews with happily married couples: the little things. Over the next few weeks I’d like to include excerpts here on what I found. For today, a bit of background on love:

Right now in the United States there are 60 million married couples. We still love and believe in marriage. We love marriage so much that we fight over how to define it and exactly who can do it. But marriage today, by most accounts, is not thriving. Experts calculate that only about 40 to 50 percent of married couples stay together. People quit their marriages every day, and here’s the sad thing: The majority of people who quit simply fell out of love. As author Pamela Haag reports in the book Marriage Confidential, more than half the couples who divorce had a relationship that was “amiable but listless.” Basically, they just didn’t thrive. According to studies on couples who divorce, the vast majority of people who end their relationship report that they simply lost a sense of closeness and did not feel loved or appreciated (as reported in Gottman, 2000 The Timing of Divorce). 

Even many couples who stay together aren’t fulfilled in their marriages. Of the couples who do stay married, according to a group of marriage researchers at the University of Denver, only half are actually happy. (Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/10238.html).

What is going on? Most people, at least in the western world, marry because they are in love. But that wasn’t always the case. For thousands of years, marriage wasn’t about love or personal satisfaction. Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz reports in her book Marriage, a History, that marrying for love didn’t come about until the late 18th century with the Enlightenment focus on individual rights. Before then, most marriages were arranged by outside influences who would be positively affected by the union. Something as important as marriage couldn’t be based on “something as unreasoning and transitory as love” (p. 5). Yet during the Enlightenment, a marriage revolution began to occur. We started seeing marriage as what it could be–a private relationship with the potential to provide great happiness for the couple, regardless of family wealth or political alliances (New York: Viking, 2005).

Staying in love

So we came along way as a society. We decided that it should be in our control as individuals to choose who we marry, and that we should do it primarily for our own happiness and not for the betterment of our relatives. We decided that marriage could be our greatest human relationship and the source of our deepest satisfaction in life. Yet, as Coontz reports, “the very features that promised to make marriage such a unique and treasured personal relationship opened the way for it to become an optional and fragile one.” (p. 5). Marriages are breaking apart because people are falling out of love. We aren’t staying in the same state we were in before, and that scares people. As George Bernard Shaw humorously pointed out, marriage brings together two people “under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausromanceting condition continuously until death do them part.” (Quoted in John Jacobs, All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriage, New York: HarperCollins, 2004 p. 9).

We “fall” in love–suggesting something outside of our control. Our brain is malfunctioning, to a degree. Staying in love–now that’s something we have some control over. It isn’t easy. Over the years, as a culture, we have lost some of the glue that helped couples stick together. As John Jacobs, professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, has written, some of the martial glue that helped keep couples together from the past is now largely irrelevant. The glue of women’s financial dependency, the belief that happiness is rare or unnecessary, prevailing religious dogma, and legal constraints are all gone. The only glue holding couples together now “is the glue created by the two of you–the glue of mutual satisfaction, gratification, appreciation, and respect. The glue of mature love.” (All You Need Is Love and other lies about marriage.)

We simply cannot forget to show love and affection to our spouse every day. As Dr. Jacobs declares, one of the greatest threats to a marriage relationship is complacency.  “If you want your marriage to survive,” Jacobs writes, “you must actively cherish your spouse and protect your relationship” (Jacobs, 234). Staying in love isn’t as easy or effortless as falling in love. It takes time, attention, and deliberate effort. But if we do it right, our marriage relationship can provide the same tingles and excitement as it did when we first came together as partners, soul mates, and best friends. Indeed, if we do it right, and if we do it consistently, staying in love can be the happiest, most fulfilling part of our lives. The trick is to do that even while living in a chaotic modern world. 

More to come…

15 years together!

On August 18th Scott and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary (yes, I’m a little behind!). I can’t believe how fast, and how wonderful, the time has been. I can’t believe how much I didn’t know then about life and marriage and parenting and careers and bills and compromise . . . and I can’t believe it has been as rich and rewarding as it has been. I am so grateful for the man I married and all the potential that was in him that I didn’t even know. I didn’t know what a wonderful husband he would be–how he would take care of me, and make me laugh, and listen to me, and bring me flowers, and tell me jokes, and rub my shoulders when they are sore, and take me out on date night every single weekend, and change baby’s diapers, and be my biggest fan, and bring me Ben and Jerry’s for no reason at all. I didn’t know that he would be the kind of Dad who studies scriptures with his kids, and wrestles with them, and takes them out on dates, and coaches their soccer teams, and snuggles them on the couch during movies, and laughs and plays and takes them on adventures. I didn’t know he would be more than just a good student but that he would be great at his career–and love it too. I didn’t know he would be a devoted church member and Priesthood holder and home teacher and spiritual leader in our family.  I hoped all these things. But 15 years later, I can look back and say I didn’t know for sure then, but I know now. What a blessing it is to have chosen the right guy–to have found the best friend to spend all my days with–the first time around. My kids sometimes ask me about my parents and how they got divorced, and why. I just say to them, “Sometimes two people get it right the first try, and sometimes they get it right the second try, and sometimes they don’t even get it right then. Mommy and daddy nailed it the first try.” IMG_0301

To celebrate, Scott planned a backpacking trip to the Tetons. I had never been backpacking, but I’m all about new experiences and I like being out in nature. So I figured, why not? Lucky for me, it was beautiful and sunny the whole time. We hiked up Paintbrush Canyon and came down Cascade Canyon. It was an incredible experience to be in such a beautiful place in our country, away from modern distractions, for three days. We slept in a tiny backpackers tent, and with the top flap open, we woke up to a pink sky the first morning (well, I woke up to it briefly and went back to sleep. Scott stayed up to enjoy.). We discovered it was freezing to sleep like that, so we woke up to the closed tent flap the second morning. Besides the beautiful scenery of trees, lakes, waterfalls, streams, and wildlife, I also loved simply spending time with my husband to talk about our experiences, thoughts, dreams, things we’ve read, things we hope for, or just to be quiet together. It was an experience I will never forget. Thank you Scott for being who you are, for planning this adventure, and for being my best friend for 15 years and counting.  IMG_1625

Daisies

When my husband and I were first dating, for my birthday, Scott surprised me with a dozen white roses. Boy did I love those roses. And I was falling hard for that boy. He got me a dozen roses on our honeymoon and another dozen on our first anniversary. He’s a “go big or go home” kind of guy. I think he thought that was the only way that giving flowers should be done.

As time went on, as the story often goes, life happened. We got busy with school and jobs and kids and cars and mortgages and everything life throws. I didn’t receive the beautiful bouquets for some time. Which was fine–because for so many of those early years we were poor students with no extra spending money.

A few months ago, Scott was having lunch with a client (we weren’t students anymore) who asked him, “When’s the last time you brought your wife flowers?” Scott hummed and hawed a bit and then said, “It’s been a while.” The man replied, “Go get her some.”

Scott followed his orders and came home with a lovely bouquet. I was surprised and touched by the gesture. Almost every week since then, he’s brought home flowers. They haven’t been the big, expensive bunch of roses. Instead, he’s often come home with a simple group of colorful lilies or daisies. Just this weekend he came home from getting a haircut with a little bunch of daisies for me. It costs him less than $3 for those daisies. (I know because I do the finances.) But oh how well spent that $3 is! In that simple gesture, I know that my husband is thinking of me, wanting to make me smile.

Sometimes we think that only the grand, sweeping gestures matter when, really, the little things mean just as much, or more. I always loved the roses. But it’s amazing how much a simple bundle of daisies, given for no reason on a rainy Saturday afternoon, can communicate about love.

What have you done to love your spouse today?

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Escape

Recently Scott and I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I loved the story of a man who finally decides to start living his life outside his own head. As I sat in the theater, Scott and I listened to the theme song “Escape,” sung by Jack Johnson. I knew the tune, but it was the first time I’d ever really listened to the lyrics.

The song is about a man who is lying in bed one night looking at the personal ads, when he reads one from a woman who is looking for someone who likes pina coladas and dancing in the rain. The man considers for a moment his long-term relationship and the fact that he and his gal have slumped into the “same old, old routine.” So he answers the ad. He wants to escape too, just like she does.

As he walks into the bar to meet this exotic new lady, the man finds her and realizes “It was his own lovely lady.” They laugh and say, “I never knew . . .”

Sometimes the thing we are yearning for is sitting there right there in front of us. We think we need to escape our situation to feel better, to feel alive, when really, we might just need to mix things up a little.

For spring break this year, Scott and I are taking our little family beach camping. This is new for me. I love the ocean, so I figure that with a little, sand, water, and sunshine we have the perfect cocktail for a fun family getaway. I hope. As long as the dirt, wetness, and far-from-pillowtop sleeping arrangements don’t get in the way. If nothing else, we are stepping outside our old, old routines and trying something new. That should be enough for one family escape, with or without the pina coladas.

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He shoots, he scores

Monday night we got free tickets to take our family to the Jazz game. Our girls had never been before, and we were all excited for a night out. We sat down at the top of the arena and looked down on the players. They were so small, and the giant screen in front of us was so . . . giant. I don’t think the girls were paying as much attention to the actual game as they were to the dancers, the gift-giving blimp, and the little bags of popcorn I brought in my purse.

Third quarter got ugly. Our players weren’t shooting well. We were fouling left and right. We were even missing our free throw shots. I told Scott “This isn’t looking good.” He smiled as the girls were climbing all over him, clamoring for turns to be tickled. He offered to take them for a quick walk around. Zach and I stayed to watch, since he was into the game. He was cheering out “D-fence,” as the jumbo-tron encouraged, but we gradually fell further and further behind. I was looking at the clock, feeling like maybe this hadn’t been the best idea to keep our kids up so late. Especially if we were going to lose. (I know–terrible attitude, right?).

A few minutes later Scott came back with the girls. In their hands was a giant bowl of ice cream. Cookie dough and Moosetracks–my favorite. I had to smile as everyone huddled around and dug in to the bowl with their own personal plastic spoon. Scott doesn’t even eat dessert (hasn’t for years) but he seemed to get as much joy out of watching us as we got consuming it. The night had been redeemed.

We didn’t win that game–not really even close. But as we were walking home I asked Ellie how she like her first Jazz game. She smiled at me and said “I didn’t even want to leave!” She didn’t care at all that our team was shooting terribly that night. She had her family, and a fun outing, and part of a big bowl of ice cream. Who really needs anything more?

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