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Are Our Devices Affecting Our Relationships?
With an app for everything and devices designed for our laps, our hands, and now even our wrists, people are more connected than ever before. But, what does “connected” really mean? Many of us anxiously await work emails, status updates from people we barely know, and hang on the next push notification telling us the score at halftime in our favorite team’s game, but is that what we mean by “connected”? Is that what it should mean?
Do You Ignore Your Spouse’s Bids for Attention?
Many psychologists argue that this type of connectedness does many family relationships more harm than good. John Gottman, PhD, an expert on marital stability and analyzing relationships, has popularized the concept of “bids” for attention in family relationships – and has identified three main types of responses to these bids. A bid is a simple attempt to engage with one’s spouse, something like, “It was a tough day at work today,” or, “What a beautiful day outside.” The three types of responses are:
- Turning towards – accepting the bid and engaging in a meaningful discussion with your spouse
- Turning against – reacting negatively to your spouse’s bid for attention
- Turning away – ignoring your spouse’s bid for attention or giving a brief response without actually engaging
In one study, Dr. Gottman found that couples that got divorced after six years “turned towards” each other’s bids just 33 percent of the time, while couples that remained together after six years turned towards each other 86 percent of the time.
Connecting with Your Spouse Instead of Your Devices
Other psychologists have applied Dr. Gottman’s bid concept to study the ways that devices interfere with spousal relations and relationships between parents and their children. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
- Checking emails or reading the news on your phone or tablet at the dinner table
- Immediately turning to your phone when you get in bed for the evening
- Watching streaming sports or checking in on social media while your kids play at the playground
These are all opportunities for engagement where many people who feel more connected when using their devices end up turning away from their family.
Leave Your Phones at the Door
If you and your spouse are struggling to connect, some experts suggest instituting a policy of leaving your phones at the door. When you put away your keys, put away your phone, too. Remember, we’ve only had Smartphones for less than a decade, and Facebook wasn’t invented until 2004. If you are concerned that you might be heading toward a divorce, this might be one way to try to re-establish a meaningful connection.
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