Marriage, Interrupted

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Marriage, Interrupted

Loving in the age of distraction

By Chan Swee Fen | 15 December 2021

Do you find it hard to get your spouse’s attention, let alone engage in a conversation?

Do you find it odd that you’re sending text messages instead of talking face-to-face when you’re both at home?

Are you frustrated when conversations are aborted because of the interruptions from your spouse’s smartphone?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.

With advancements in technology, there are a myriad of ways to stay in touch with so many people, be able to communicate quickly, and get the latest world developments.

And we find ourselves overwhelmed by our messages and trying to keep up with social media. But all these can cause tensions in our marriage and family life. If we are not careful, we may end up sacrificing our marriage on the altar of distractions.

What can we do to protect our marriage from getting interrupted?

We need to pay attention – to ourselves and our spouse.

Why should we pay attention to ourselves and our needs?

The airplane "oxygen mask" analogy may be apt here. When you travel on an airplane, the cabin crew would always remind you to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others in the event of low cabin pressure, . The simple reason being that if you help someone else put his/her mask on before you put yours on, there is a likelihood that you could both pass out from lack of oxygen. Once you care for yourself, you can then focus on helping others.

In our love life, we cannot give what we do not have. If our own emotional bank account is depleted, at best we are unable to meet important needs, at worst we become a life-draining force in the marriage.

If we are not careful, we may end up sacrificing our marriage on the altar of distractions.

Consider these benefits of solitude:

  1. Me-time helps ensure you retain your own individuality while also growing together as a couple.
  2. Having space on your own allows you to gain greater clarity about a situation before having a discussion.
  3. Practising self-care puts you in a better position to tackle challenges in life and in your marriage.

Are people uncomfortable being alone with their own thoughts?

In a University of Virginia study, researchers found that participants struggled to be alone with their own thoughts – even for 15 minutes! It drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.

While the researchers do not know the exact causes for this, a probable reason is the fear of unresolved issues or uncomfortable feelings that could come up when people sit in stillness.

It is also possible that when we enter our own space, instead of allowing our thoughts to uplift us, we send negative messages to ourselves and allow these to dishearten us.

So, what steps can we take to become better company to ourselves?

  • Actively spend time on your own

    Whether it is a solo walk in the park, an afternoon by the beach, or sipping tea at a café, learn to savour the moment with no distractions. Make an appointment with yourself to do it. You will be amazed at how rejuvenating the experience can be. You will come away with a lightness of heart, clarity in your thinking, and a sense of centredness.

  • Choose empowering thoughts over negative self-talk

    Become aware of your negative thoughts and acknowledge them. At the same time, do not indulge in them, but replace them with life-giving or empowering thoughts. For example, "My husband prefers to work instead of spending time with me" could be reframed as, "He might be busy with work now, but we can schedule some time off after his peak period."

  • Take note of unresolved issues that crop up

    Do not run from your pain or hurts. Address them by seeking counselling help if you find yourself stuck in a rut. A personal breakthrough might just be what is needed to restore your marriage and enable it to thrive.

Marriage is like a team sport. It requires both players to work in tandem to experience a win.

How can you and your spouse work together to build intimacy?

  1. Pay attention to each other

    Love cannot thrive if couples do not give each other attention.

    Tip: Schedule a day and set aside 30 minutes with each other, without any interruptions. Take turns to share the highlights and low points of the week. Do not turn the time into a griping session. The purpose for this is for your spouse to get a glimpse into your world, and vice versa.

  2. Voice your desire for personal space without making judgement

    Judgement is often the enemy of understanding. It can create a pattern of attack and defend, or attack and stonewall, leading to ongoing struggles.

    Let’s look at the following conversation:

    Wife: "I am exhausted. I need time-out. I am the one attending to all the family needs and you just chill and don’t even chip in to help with the kids."

    Husband: "You think you’re the only one feeling tired? What do you mean I just chill? Am I not helping while working from home? You can’t handle the kids without them messing up or throwing tantrums."

    Wife: “You think it is so easy managing three energetic kids? Why don’t you take over from now on?”

    Husband: (stonewalls)

    Does this sound familiar? You may not have used the exact words, but the negative vibes may ring true. In such a scenario, instead of the wife getting the me-time she needs, both spouses are negatively impacted by the heated exchange.

    What if her needs were expressed differently?

    Wife: "I feel overwhelmed by all the chores. I need some time to myself to recharge so I don’t displace all my stress on the kids. Are we able to work out a time when you take over so I can have some me-time?"

    The husband is likely to respond positively to his wife’s request. Even if he has some initial misgivings, he will likely see that he stands to benefit when his wife is happy.

  3. Stop and think

    F.O.M.O (or fear of missing out) is a very prevalent social phenomenon. Truth be told, we do not need to be in the know about every happening, respond to every incoming message, take on every work opportunity, or meet the needs of every person we know. We will stress ourselves and our marriage out when we don’t hedge ourselves from endless online chatter.

    Tip: Take some time and honestly ask yourself: How are you aligning your marriage to your deepest values?

  4. Control the use of devices

    Smartphones may facilitate our love life in some ways, and ruin them in others. I remember commenting some years back that my husband’s computer was his "mistress" as he was spending extensive time on it.

    So, unless you are a doctor working in the A&E department, unplugging from your devices is a choice you must make for your marriage.

    Tip: Put your devices out of your reach for thirty minutes during mealtimes or when you are having a conversation with your spouse.

  5. Rediscover conversation

    While it can be fun sending text messages to your partner when both of you are at home, having conversations can be enjoyable too.

    Tip: Schedule a date at a quiet spot, (put away your devices!) and engage your spouse in a purposeful conversation.

    Connect by asking each other the following questions:

    • What are your hopes and dreams?
    • What are three wishes you have for our marriage?
    • What are your fondest memories of our relationship?

Would you choose to pay attention to yourself and your spouse for the sake of your marriage?

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

 

Want to learn how to resolve conflicts and build a strong foundation in your marriage? Check out our upcoming Connect2 workshop!

Swee Fen is an ordinary woman who desires to inspire others to make an extra-ordinary impact through her family life and life skills workshops, counselling training sessions and writing.

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