Quality time with your spouse is one of the best investments of time and energy you can make. In our super-connected society, we have to fiercely protect that time against leeching distractions. If left unguarded, true quality time with your spouse may be eroded and contaminated.
We’ve all experienced it: you walk into a coffee shop or lunch spot and find yourself swimming in a milieu of technology. People are on their phones, tablets, and laptops. Couples sit across from each other, sipping coffee and browsing who-knows-what on little screens in their hands.
Is this what connectedness looks like?
Update this, post that, comment on this, @reply that….it’s craziness! Likes, friends, follows, tweets, and hashtags are the cocaine of our generation. We’re addicted to online interaction, satiating our fixes with endorphin kicks we get when we see that little red number at the top of our Facebook feed.
I’ll leave social media addiction studies to the experts, but how do these distractions affect our marriage?
Selena and I went to breakfast at Panera recently, and couples were sitting down, having breakfast, and not talking – eyes buried in their phones. We, too, fight the urge to check our phones when that familiar *ding* sounds off in our pockets. “I wonder what that email was?” “Who just texted me?”
Seeing people droning through breakfast that morning made me think: we need to intentionally and aggressively guard our quality time from outside distraction.
Here are three ways we protect and improve our quality time:
1: Leave phones in the car
Each Friday morning, Selena and I have breakfast together – it’s our time to recap the week and reconnect before the busy weekend. It’s supposed to be a relaxing start to our day – our special time to be face to face. We found that though we partitioned the time off, the rest of the world didn’t. Clients still called, emails still *pinged*, and text messages still flooded in.
I found myself putting her on pause so I could answer calls and email. Though my intention was to keep clients happy (and bills paid), the message was clear: “you’re not as important as this”. She would rightfully get upset and I’d become defensive (…one sure sign of addiction…). Cue the argument. Many great Friday mornings were tarnished by these since-forgotten, “all-important” interruptions.
God showed me that I was incredibly wrong.
How dare I allow trivial distractions during quality time with my bride – my favorite person on earth and the woman I’ll spend my entire life with? I needed to make a change and be a worthy leader in our marriage.
The answer was easy really: I cut off our supplier! Now we leave phones in the car – simple. Whenever we arrive at a restaurant, park, trailhead, or other quality time spot, we always say, “phones in the car” to each other and toss them in the center console. Done and done.
Totally worth it.
Life is short, quality time is scarce. That thing that distracts you will likely be forgotten before the week ends. The quality time you spend with your spouse will bear fruit for a lifetime.
Here are some verses that I re-read to remind me of the importance of priorities: Proverbs 23:4, Mark 8:36, 1 Timothy 6:6–8
2: Switch to stealth mode, shut ‘er down, or throw it at the wall
You could say that I’m a reasonably busy person. I run a few businesses to pay the rent, which means plenty of phone notifications. Even if I switch my phone to silent it vibrates constantly with work notifications. Not only is it incredibly annoying, it’s tempting – “I should respond to that real quick…“. These notifications are great when I’m working, but they need boundaries.
My phone is a workaholic. When I’m done for the day, it’s not. When we’re having dinner or hanging out, it keeps buzzing and dinging. My sanity has been preserved by a simple trick that I call “stealth” mode. It’s different than “silent” mode in that even vibrations are muted.
It’s easy: no sound, no vibrations. You may need to tweak your settings so it’s simple to toggle on/off. If that’s not an option on your phone, turn your phone off completely. If that’s not an option, throw it at the wall because you’re an addict… And in 50 years you won’t regret it… (if you do regret it, I’ll buy you a new phone).
Still totally worth it.
3: Now, connect.
Now that you’re disconnected from the world, connect with each other. Just spend time together and interact. Here are a few things we do to connect when we get quality time:
- Dream – what is God asking us to do? How can we walk in faith more?
- Joke and laugh – we have a few running jokes that always lighten the mood.
- Ask spontaneous questions – It sounds corny, but think of spontaneous questions to ask. You’ll be surprised what you find out.
- Play a game – what?? Yes. Play a game. For us, we enjoy chess and war (the card game). It’s old school, but the interaction is priceless.
- Just sit and stare – Sounds cheesy, but remember when you were dating? When you were together, it didn’t matter what else was going on in the world. You could just sit and stare at each other and things were alright. Do that more.
- Read and talk – we often read books in bed or on the couch. When Selena reads something interesting, she will often share it with me and we can discuss it. I love those talks.
Conclusion: Protect what’s important
Quality time is essential in your marriage. Don’t let it dwindle or erode. There is a time to work and be responsive to work needs. Then there’s a time to connect with your spouse. Don’t let the urgent get in the way of the important.
In 50 years when you’re old and grey, you won’t remember the status updates you missed or emails you didn’t reply to instantly; but you’ll always cherish the quality time you spend with your spouse.
(photo by Jeff Marsh)