Are we Married to Distraction?

By Lydia Waruszynski, MEd

As you know by now, I work in the field of helping people -especially couples- stay connected in their intimate relationships. Needless to say, most of us would agree that relationships require giving and receiving attention in order to feel fulfilled. Deep down inside most of us know this. In today’s busy world, however, with its myriad commitments, roles and responsibilities, we also know that distractions and competing interests abound and interrupt our attention all the time. Consequently, we often feel overwhelmed just by the sheer lack of time, making staying “relationally connected” even a bigger challenge.

Added to this mix of attention erosion is digital distraction.

Since the emergence of internet and cell phones, (and especially the convergence of the two) we now seem to gravitate to connect in a different way. Smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, texting, email, blogs (btw thanks for reading:-), Facebook, Skype, Twitter, IM and Instagram are very popular forms of socializing these days. Today we swim in an overwhelming online ocean of information and even worse, we oftentimes cannot seem to do much or go anywhere without somehow being tethered to our gadgets. We‘re plugged in 24/7! Not that I am taking up a personal crusade against the usefulness of the modern electronic connections available to us today (after all I am blogging here); I am, however, questioning whether the way we are living today -amidst the technology- is eroding our capacity for deep, genuine and sustained connection. For at the end of the day, Love requires face-to-face attention (and not Facebook:-).

Download-Overload: A Love-Hate Relationship

The paradox in all of this is that as technology allows information and connection to become more abundant, we, as humans, seem to be less able- and maybe even less willing- to communicate and really connect with each other. On the one hand, we can leave home, be away from our spouse, and still remain connected thanks to modern technology. We can see and hear each other at the push of a button, and sometimes we can take care of our daily business together, even when we’re miles apart. Even the fire of romance with one’s partner can be kept burning while away from home. But sometimes we’re totally unaware how negatively seductive the trap of technology can be. For many of us, knowing when to switch off becomes an issue and a habit difficult to break: we can’t really get involved in a conversation if an email beckons our attention instead. We don’t really eat dinner together if it means our telephones also sit by our sides. We’re not out on a “date night” if the most stimulating experience and conversation comes from a shiny screen. This is where we can become more married to distraction than to each other. When technology begins to crowd out the intimacy of our most important relationships, we can then begin to truly lose our connection.

Maybe our attention spans are rapidly shrinking. More and more these days I am meeting up with couples who feel disenchanted in their own relationships because they no longer engage in taking time for deep conversations and reflection with one another. Why bother?…many seem to ask. Well, maybe given the speeded-up world in which we live in, focus is hard to come by, let alone sustain? Maybe we have no patience for mindfulness anymore? Maybe without meaning to, we habitually process information about each other rather than take the time to rediscover one another in a more personable way? Maybe we no longer are able to discern the human emotions etched on our faces hence losing the ability for distinction of emotional connection and the vital part of how to be in communion with others. In other words, maybe we have learned to take each other for granted.

For better and for worse…

Whether we like it or not, the cyber-centric culture in which we live in is here to stay. And the only way around this modern-day conundrum of being married to distraction is to reconnect the old-fashioned way: to consciously choose to connect with one another. There is no magic formula other than communication for connection. But this commands attention. When we command the attention of our loved ones, anything we share with them is received in a far more engaging way. Command, however, does not mean demand or criticism or even worse- contempt. (I’ll be blogging about this communication killer next time). Rather, it means turning toward each other with compassion and respect. Commanding brings you closer to what you desire while demanding pushes it further away.

The following questions are offered here as food for thought: Ask yourself whether your daily usage of the internet and social networking sites has increased…if so, by how much?Has your partner commented or complained about the time you spend surfing online?
Ask yourself if you are happy today as you were a couple of years ago or if you are feeling more stressed out than you did then? Or even more importantly, are you feeling more lonely?

Your honest answers to the above questions may prove to be a turning point in your life. Moreover, taking your answers to your partner may prove to be the most important thing in your life.

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