Disengaging from Distractions

Smartphone_AddictionSteve and I went on a romantic getaway back in April to visit Asheville, NC. If you’ve never seen this majestic town, you really should. Asheville is nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is known for some of the most beautiful scenery around. It was our first time staying at a bed and breakfast, and it certainly won’t be our last. What an amazing experience waking up in this quaint manor home for breakfast each morning!

The first morning we were there we were like little kids who couldn’t wait to see what Santa brought them. We jogged down the grand stair case and made our way out to the expansive front porch that was already occupied with other guests sitting at small bistro tables awaiting their gourmet breakfast. Sitting at our small table for two, we marveled at the fresh cut flowers in the small crystal vase, the pleasant music piped in over the speakers, and the glorious smell of Nutella stuffed crepes. Steve and I just sat there and soaked it all in as we relished this precious time together.

As I sat there, however, I began noticing who our neighbors were at the adjacent tables. There was an older couple to our left eating and not talking. Then beyond that couple sat a younger couple, who, we figured out later, were staying in the honeymoon suite. Behind us and further up the porch sat a couple closer to our age. One thing they all had in common: they were all absorbed into their smart phones the entire breakfast. Yes, even the honeymoon couple.

That truly saddened me. Yes, I love my phone and I am on it more than I should be. But, I know what it means to truly value time with Steve and my phone isn’t part of that scenario. Well, I did pull my phone out to take photos of the food, which is cheesy, but the display on that plate was just gorgeous and worthy of a photo! Regardless, I wanted to talk to my husband, listen to my husband, and be with my husband. None of those things involve my phone – or, at least, it shouldn’t.

In today’s technology ridden society, could it be that we have lost touch with the human experience of conversation, eye contact, and true physical engagement? I hope this isn’t the case, but the more I look around me, the more I see smart phones distracting us from human contact. This can be harmful to any relationship – especially to a marriage. Since this trip I’ve made it a point to look around at restaurants and make note of who is conversing and who is on their phone. I was blown away at the number of people who spent most of their time out to dinner with someone engaged in their phone instead of engaged with the person sitting across from them.

I propose that we disengage from the distractions of the handy little device we carry around everywhere we go. Just put it down. Charge it. Put it on “do not disturb.” Whatever it takes to make us look up and engage the humans around us, especially our spouses. Make eye contact. Smile at them. Listen to them. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Our relationships can only get better if we do.

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Is it Asking Permission, Or Being Respectful?

couple-holding-hands-md2I read a great article recently by Ashley Willis about why she asks her husband’s permission before doing certain things. I related to Ashley’s article because I┬áremembered the days when I, too, had those questioning looks from girl friends and condemning comments about how “controlling” my husband must be if I have to ask his permission. My response is always, “I don’t have to ask him, but I choose to ask him.”

Basically, the article mentioned a “girls night out” and how Ashley would not accept that invitation until she had discussed it with her husband. I was nodding my head as I read that because of course you’d discuss this with your spouse, right? I guess this isn’t the case with many marriages based on the 92 comments underneath. I cringed at some who almost seemed like it was an affront to a spouse if they had to ask permission to go do something. It was almost as if some of those commenting were offended that they had to consider another person, their very own spouse, in their decision-making. Really? Ok, let’s unpack this a little . . .

I did not read Ashley’s article to state that she asked permission to do every little thing in her life. Her example was a “girls night out,” which means that this event would (a) cost money, (b) probably involve drinking and bars, and (c) take her out of the house for the evening, probably pretty late. All three of these things involve her husband because (a) the money in their household belongs to both of them, (b) all kinds of things can occur with drinking and her girlfriends (or even her personally) may not be the best to be with in that environment, and (c) especially if they have kids, both spouses need to consider the other when choosing when to be gone and when to be home. So, yea, the spouse needs to be involved in conversations prior to going “out” in many instances.

Maybe it was the use of the word “permission” that got so many hackles up. I’m not sure “permission” is the right word when I discuss plans with my husband, but I am seeking his comfort and approval of it nonetheless. Our phrase is typically, “Hey do we have anything going on Saturday?” That is usually a cue that one of us is thinking of doing something sans the other and we are making sure what we’d like to do isn’t impeding on the family’s schedule or would be upsetting at all to the other. Beyond that question comes good conversation and, most of the time, a reasonable and acceptable outcome that makes us both happy.

Steve and I were not always at this point in our relationship. I can remember many tears shed on my part when he would just decide to have drinks with co-workers after hours as I ate dinner alone with the kids. We had to get to this point together and realize that it’s not about permission – it’s about respect. I respect Steve and he respects me. This respect works both ways – (1) We respect each other enough to include them in the discussion before doing something without them and (2) We respect each other enough to back away from something that makes the other uncomfortable or upset.

So, now that this is unpacked a little, I hope it’s clear that a marriage is a partnership where there is mutual respect. This means that decisions are made together, even about things we want to do without our spouse. It’s not permission, it’s respect.