Screen time is what we call anything from your phone to laptops, TV, movies, gaming systems, and social media platforms. When I say you must break up with your phone I am referring to all of these. It is estimated at the time of this writing, according to a Google search, that people spend more than two whole weeks of there life on Instagram alone, and that Netflix is actually a deterrent for sex (https://nypost.com/2018/05/06/netflix-is-killing-couples-sex-lives-study/).
The average shut off times for TV is now closer to 11:30pm, compared to 8pm in the sixties. Children aged five to sixteen spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared to three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise. It is true that technology is not going anywhere and that there are more TV’s than people in houses now. These are all stats that I pulled in a matter of minutes and they don’t even brush the subjects of desensitization and pornographic issues (more on that later).
Screens do not have to cause major issues in your marriage. You have to put it down and look at the person in front of you. You have to choose a board game night, instead of a phone night. You have to get the tv out of the bedroom. To this day, we are giddy staying at a hotel on vacation so we can lay in bed and watch a show. We never do this! You also have to eat a meal without the phone in your hand, or by your plate. We’re also training our kids in this and they will call us out if we forget!
I remember Stephen coming home from work one day when our daughter was a toddler. She was on the floor playing with some toys and I quickly pulled out my phone to check on a phone conversation that my family had sent hours earlier. Stephen had been offline the last hour due to traffic and wanted to make sure there was nothing pressing with work that needed his attention as well. I glanced up and noticed both of us on our phones.
I’ll never forget the look on Amberly’s face. She was just looking at both of us, frozen on the floor with an inquisitive and confused face. My heart sunk in that moment realizing this was not the message I wanted to send to my family. No piece of plastic and metal would come between and distract me from the ones I treasured most. There’s a time and place for work, and there’s a time a place for your marriage and family. Find the balance, don’t cross the line, ignore the distractions, and be engaged. I promise you’ll see a difference in the temperature of the relationship.
You also have to choose to go to bed together. Stephen and I always go to bed at the same time, as this can create a starting place for intimacy. This prevents someone staying up on the couch wasting valuable time on things that don’t matter. It prevents a lack of communication and connection. And for me personally, it prevents hiding from problems that need to be discussed by keeping too much in my head.
My husband and I pick multiple nights a week that we don’t do any technology. We talk, play games, read together, or have a bonfire. We know people that get in their hot tub to change up the routine to deter screen time. Other couples go out to a restaurant with no TV’s. We will often pick non traditional date nights like kayaking, indoor sky diving, or going for a run together. It’s easy to revert to technology as the go-to for relaxation after a long, hard day. We all do it. Many of us don’t have anything left in our tanks. Changing this one issue with technology can change the trajectory of your entire marriage!
When we were first married we had no money and Netflix was still sending movies to us via snail mail. Streaming was not yet available and we had highjacked the internet from the clubhouse across the street in our apartment. In order to do this we had to be on the porch steps. If it was raining you could forget it! This was really a blessings in disguise. We didn’t realize this until much later when screen time started to creep into more everyday things.
Technology was a slow adoption process for us. Because of this, we were actually very prideful in this area. Most of us have moved far past this stage with our devices and so the struggle is much greater. Truly, we have had to reevaluate, change, and shift this over time. We are now in the bracket of the masses of having to monitor our devices more strongly. I have a habit of forgetting my phone for hours but then right before bed needing to check everything. Not healthy! The point is, we still go back to the very basics and we do it often. To choose real face time over your screen. To choose the living, breathing soul waiting right in front of you. Push pause, put it down, come upstairs from the basement – it can wait. Your spouse may not.