I got my first smartphone in 2012, and I felt really behind the times. But I remember not really seeing the need for a phone that was more high tech than my own. It had data capabilities and could browse the internet if I needed to, but I never really saw the point. Now, I can't see myself ever going back to a regular cell phone because my smart phone has made my life more convenient on so many levels. I use the GPS to get me anywhere and everywhere, I can quickly Google a restaurant or store and see what time they open/close, their menu, any discounts, etc. When I was in school, being able to check my e-mail anywhere was convenient because I got last minute alerts for classes that were cancelled or if the teacher needed us to bring something with us that day.
Smartphones have made a lot of things in our lives more convenient, but they can also be a nuisance and can quickly get in the way of life if we let them. Long distance couples rely on video calls and social media to communicate and feel more involved in each other's lives while they're apart. Throughout the day, couples communicate the little things with each other via text and I know many a wife/mom who keeps her husband involved through her Snapchat story or by sending him private snaps of the things that she and the kids are up to while he's at work. Our smartphones have become our camera, video camera, address book and journal. They have so many great uses, but without a few boundaries, they can quickly take over our lives and our relationships.
Set technology free times throughout the day
Determine what the most important times of the day are for your relationship and put your phones away during those times. Some couples leave their phone in the other room or in their pocket on silent during dinner. Some families won't answer the house phone if it rings during a meal, no matter what, and the same rule could be applied to our smartphones. Don't answer them, don't touch them, don't look at notifications. Your outside world can wait half an hour for you to respond while you spend quality time with the most important people in your life.
Making your bedroom a technology free zone or turning off all electronics at a certain time every night might be good boundaries to set as well. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for your marriage, free of any outside distractions. I promise, it won't offend anyone if you choose to turn your phone off or put it on silent at night. If you are on social media, responding to texts or answer phone calls at any hour on a regular basis, people will come to expect that you are available at that time and may try to contact you then because of that.
I like to go on walks with Joe because it's difficult to walk and talk, so neither of us is tempted to pull out our phone and look at it unless we get a phone call. It's great time to talk together without social media or texts interrupting us.
Listen to what your spouse is saying
First and obviously of all, when your significant other is talking to you, listen and hear what they are saying. Don't pick up your phone to look at a notification, don't browse social media, give them your full attention. If you are in the middle of something on your phone and they want to talk, stop what you are doing to pay attention to them or ask them to wait just a minute while you finish what you are doing and then set your phone aside and let them know that you are ready to hear what they have to say.
My second tip with this point is to hear your spouse if they let you know that they feel like you spend more time with your phone than with them. Have a conversation about what both of your expectations are. Maybe browsing social media at the end of the day is your way of unwinding and relaxing but your spouse wants some technology free alone time at the end of the day and feels like they take the backseat to your phone. Some couples compromise and spend an allotted amount of uninterrupted time together before the phone comes out, or like I mentioned above, might set a curfew for phones so that both spouses know that after a certain time each night, phones are away and the focus is on each other.
Most importantly, if your spouse vocalizes in any way that they wish you would spend more time with them or less time with your phone, hear them out. You may feel like you are rarely on your phone throughout the day, but if the time that you have together is limited and your phone is out for the majority of that time, you can guess who is going to start to feel unimportant. If your marriage is your first priority, your phone needs to be an obvious second, third or fourth.
Turn off unnecessary notifications
One of the best tips that I ever got, from a fellow blogger a few years back, was to turn off all of the push notifications on my phone. Whenever I download a new app, the first thing I do is go in and change my push notification settings. For most apps, I turn them off altogether, but there are a select few that I do still get important notifications from. I recently even turned off notifications for my e-mail because I no longer needed to be aware of last minute school or internship communications.
If you're like me, the notification tone, buzz of my phone or seeing that little blue light light up in the corner is distracting. I almost can't help but pick my phone up and look to see what is going on. Whenever I would post an Instagram photo, I felt like I spent the next 20 minutes picking my phone up, putting it back down, picking it back up again, and putting it back down because it would go off any time anyone liked my post. Friend requests, new follows, messages, comments, likes, favorites, e-mails, etc. are all things that I know can wait until I have time for social media and can look at them. Push notifications were not only wasting precious minutes of my day, but they were a distraction when I was trying to spend time with Joe, other family members or friends.
Don't text each other about everything
On a more superficial level, if you share all of the details of your day through text, you won't have as much to talk about at the end of the day. Sometimes I will send Joe a text that says, "Remind me to tell you about such and such" so that he'll be intrigued and ask me about it later. I've also been known to make a note on my phone of all of the things that I need to talk to Joe about or ask him when I get a chance. This usually happens on the days when I am gone all day long or when he's doing work for his lawn care company after his day job and I'm not sure what time he'll be home at night.
The more important reason for this boundary is to make sure that you are communicating the important things face to face or over the phone. Don't text each other about a disagreement, that's not a good way to solve anything. Don't have discussions regarding big decisions like budget, which family you're spending the holidays with, etc. If it's a discussion that can be had in person, wait until you can sit down together and talk, or at least video chat or talk on the phone. No matter how well you know each other and think you can convey your tone of voice through text using emoticons or whatever else, texting is not the place for the serious conversations of life.
Technology makes it easier for people to communicate and connect with one another, but if we aren't wise with the way that we use it, the opposite will happen in our relationships. Be aware of how often you are on your smartphone or other technological devices. Set boundaries for yourself and in your marriage that will help keep your relationship strong and allow you to continue to enjoy the benefits of technology without hurting the connection that you have with your spouse and other people around you.
What boundaries have you set for technology in your marriage?