Distracted Love

Five Ways to Reconnect with Each Other

Posted Nov 26, 2018

Source: iStockPhotos

The evening was golden, the view of the sunset from the open-air beachside restaurant in Maui was breathtaking and wonderfully romantic. 

All around us, the honeymoon couples, the more mature couples there for a special anniversary, the families uniting for a memorable vacation together were transfixed – by their cell phones. Very few were noticing the glorious sunset, let alone each other.

A scene from the Thorton Wilder play “Our Town” came immediately to mind: when Emily, newly deceased in young adulthood, is allowed to return in spirit to her twelfth birthday. As she stands in her childhood kitchen, in that moment in time with her family, she experiences not the joy she expected, but devastation at how casually and carelessly her beloved family members treat each other. She pleads with them, soundlessly, to look at and really see each other, to savor their time together “every, every minute.”

We seem more connected than ever these days with emails and texts, tweets and Facebook posts. With cell phone photos and selfies, our lives have never been more documented. And yet, we seem to be seeing each other less. Our real connections have become more tenuous as we stare at our cell phones and ignore each other.

What did we do before cell phones and tablets commandeered our attention? We talked. We watched sunsets. We listened. We connected. 

How can we begin to reconnect with those we love most?

1.    Realize that you may have an addiction to electronics.  It could be an addiction to your cell phone or to the computer where you spend evenings browsing through Facebook and Instagram. While using cell phones and social media isn’t invariably a problem, of course, it can be if you spend hours a day staring at the screen while ignoring the people around you.

A scene that stays with me is of a friend I visited not long ago. She spent hours on her computer looking at cat pictures and kitten videos while her own two cats rubbed against her legs, meowing for attention.

In another instance, a young mother I know was so hooked on watching soap operas on her cell phone that she failed to notice that her young son, running wild in the backyard and shouting for her attention, was engaged in some risky behaviors, as he jumped on top of his sister’s playhouse and walked along the edge of its roof in flip-flops. But he didn’t capture her attention until he fell off and broke his leg, his mother finally looking up when she heard his screams. If you find that you’re spending hours staring at a screen rather than seeing your family, you could be a tech addict. It may be time to taper off or go cold turkey in favor of more immediate connection.

2. Talk with those you love about the need for change. It’s best, at least initially, if you frame the conversation around your own need to change. While allowing that our new technology can be a wonder, it is best used to enhance rather than to limit our connections to each other. Ask for help or offer help in reminding each other that talking, eye contact and shared experiences are crucial elements of intimate relationships. Discuss and agree on strategies to enjoy each other and communicate in all ways, both tactile and electronic. 

3. Set limits. Remember when you were growing up and your parents may have forbidden you to watch television during dinner? Maybe this limit could be updated to include cell phones and tablets. You might choose to create a no-electronics zone at the dinner table or when you’re dining out. You might designate certain times for family adventures – a hike, an evening walk, a day at the beach – with tablets left behind and cell phones turned off and tucked into a pocket.

4. Rediscover and enjoy old ways of connecting. It’s not a matter of never texting or wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. It’s a matter of reaching out to others in a greater variety of ways. Write a note to someone dear expressing your love. Call a friend occasionally for a live conversation as well as keeping in touch by email and text. Hearing a dear friend’s voice can be a special joy after years of electronic connection. Send snail mail cards as well as e-cards. Ask Alexa to conjure up favorite songs from the past with your partner and ask her to dance. Or simply cuddle up and listen. Play games with your partner that you both once enjoyed. Look into each other's eyes, talk, listen, hold hands.

5. Set a loving example for your kids. Our kids are tech-wizards, fearless and adept. They’ve been electronically connected from toddlerhood. But you may have noticed that there are times when they seem to be leading virtual lives.

“I realized this with my nine-year-old daughter and six-year-old son when I proposed heading for the beach on a beautiful summer day and they didn’t even look up from their iPads,” a friend confided not long ago. “They both said ‘Nah…we’d rather stay home.’ What??? It was then that I realized we needed to make some changes – and that the changes had to start with me and my wife. We needed to rebuild our real lives as a family.”

Managing technology in new ways can free you to rediscover the pleasure of looking into the eyes of someone you love, of saying and hearing words that strengthen your bond and soothe your spirit. It can also allow you to teach your children the joy of experiences shared, of truly seeing wondrous sunsets and each other, of savoring each moment shared, treasuring each other, every, every minute.