Our young adult son is in a blue funk. He and his flatmates have been unable to get the internet connected to their new place for over 4 weeks. They’ve all maxed out their mobile phone plans and to hear them talk you would think it was a major offence against their human rights.
We sincerely sympathise. We also get pretty worked up when our internet connection fails. Some nights, there are more devices going in our household than there are humans …after all, who uses one device at a time?
Being connected is of high value in our culture. As parents we bemoan our children’s loss of simple pleasures like neighbourhood cricket or backyard cubby houses – when we were kids, we connected face-to-face over a rugby ball or in the shared imaginary world that we created together. We all feel uneasy about how much dependency our children have on internet based connectivity, but the truth is, it’s invaded all our lives and we’re not sure it’s likely to change.
To be sure, there are lots of benefits to the 24/7 connectivity with which we now live. In theory, it should make it easy for husbands and wives to remain meaningfully connected, but in practice, all too often it doesn’t. For many of us, work now routinely extends beyond normal working hours and into our personal time. Checking emails late at night, taking work phone calls at dinner time, or spending endless hours on ‘Wastebook’ or other social media is a routine for many of us.
So here are a few tips for taming the connectivity beast.
- Sacred time. You probably can’t contain your job to 9-5, but you do need to protect your marriage and family from the perpetual onslaught of the outside world. Make dinner time a no phone time. Put the phone on silent and out of reach. For a minimum 30 minutes a day, give your full attention to your family. If you’re on a date with your spouse, it’s even more important. Nothing chills the romantic atmosphere faster than one of you feeling like your presence is second rate to the job or the client.
- Ready availability. If your boss called you while you were in a meeting, you’d no doubt excuse yourself and take the call. Your spouse is infinitely more important than your boss, even if he or she is only calling to say ‘hi’. When your spouse calls – if at all possible, take it. If you absolutely can’t take the call, endeavour to call back as soon as possible.
- Marriage apps. If you’re going be connected, put it to work for your marriage. Search for some marriage apps, listen to some podcasts by marriage educators, text each other love messages (and set an alarm to remind you) and set reminders in your diary so that you never miss a birthday or anniversary. A simple internet search will turn up lots of suggestions.
Technology in all forms has enhanced our world and our lives. While we all know that the trick is always to ensure it works for our benefits and not be enslaved by it, we seem to forget this when it comes to our marriages.