Do you have an internet addiction? Do you spend so much time on devices that your marriage is suffering?
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I received this question from a male reader a little while ago:
I love your blog an have been a follower for a couple years. Even have your books!!(Awwww, I love readers like that!)
Anyway, I have a problem. My wife is addicted to the internet! It hurts my feelings every night when instead of putting her head on my pillow and giving us a chance to reflect, pray, plan, etc., she plugs her phone in, turns on her side with her back to me (because “the cord is so short”) and plays a game or gets on Facebook or Pinterest. Most nights I fall asleep without a “good night” or a little kiss or even holding her hand. It really makes me feel neglected and not important.
I know she is tired and has taken care of our kids all day but I work hard all day, too. When I bring it up, she is defensive and it might change for a few days, but then right back. Now the kids are even saying they can’t get her to do anything with them because she is always checking email or pinning something.
Could your spouse have said that you have an internet addiction?
But we all can get far too embroiled in the internet. If you are routinely turning to the internet to pass the time, instead of to your spouse, you have a problem.
I really struggle with this because my job is completely tied in to the internet. Pretty much everything I do is online. I’m not actually using the internet to relax. I just always feel like I have to check comments or check my stats or something, and it’s silly. The internet will always be there, yet my family won’t.
Today’s parents are growing up in a whole new world. When I used to take my kids on outings when they were small, we would talk. In fact, we would talk so much that they often let me have some free time at home. We’d have these special bonding times on outings, when they had my full attention, and it meant that at home they’d play more quietly and I’d feel more at peace.
But so often today I see parents with strollers walking their kids while texting. The babies and toddlers aren’t getting their attention!
Rebecca’s made it a point that when she takes Alex out, the phone stays away. And Rebecca and Connor have decided that they won’t be on screens when their son is in the room–which I think is brilliant.
Maybe we need to take similar attitudes with our marriages. Too often couples go out for dinner and they get on their own phones (back in the days when we could go to restaurants!). And often this is primarily one person’s fault. When my husband turns to his phone, I turn to mine, and vice versa. If one of us didn’t start, the other wouldn’t follow. We’re losing out on real, face-to-face communication, when people know that we’re sharing hearts.
So here are some thoughts on cutting down technology use. It’s not about eliminating the internet entirely. The internet is my go-to place for recipes, printables, ideas, even phone numbers! It’s how I keep in touch with friends. I want to be plugged in. I just don’t want it to take over my life.
1. Set Technology Free Times
Make sure that everyday, both with your kids and with your spouse, you have technology free times. Maybe it’s the two hours after dinner when you do something as a family, like play board games. Maybe you take a walk. But turn those devices off–or at least turn notifications off and set them to silent.
This is especially important for kids, too. As much as we may suffer from internet addiction, they’re prone to it even more because they’re growing up with it. Teach them to limit it, and to turn to other things, like books, or they could end up having difficulty connecting with others in real life in the future.
(If you say “no devices after 7 pm”, kids are way more likely to read books again! And so are you, by the way).
2. Limit Technology in Your Bedroom–it Feeds an Internet Addiction
This man was saying that at night, when he wanted to cuddle and pray, his wife would be on her phone. I’ve been convicted recently that I need to stop bringing my computer into the bedroom. When my husband’s on call and not home at night, I often do work in bed at night to pass the time. But then that habit continues when he is home. So now I tell myself: I can work in the kitchen and the study, but never in the bedroom, even if Keith’s not home. The computer is not for the bedroom. The bedroom needs to be inviting for us as a couple!
Another tip that has worked for many people is to turn the wifi off at a certain time every night: say 10:00 or 10:30. This helps teens get to bed earlier, and it helps reduce temptation teens may feel towards pornography, too.
If you get one of those central charging docks for all your devices, like phones and tablets and iPads, then you can all, as a family, put them to rest at night in the living room or kitchen and leave them there. That can even be a family rule! Yes, the kids will complain. Yes, it may be hard for you. But you need your sleep, and using technology before bed hurts the quality of your sleep, and the quality of your marriage.
3. Go to Bed at the Same Time
It’s so easy to get carried away with social media or work or games and suddenly hours have gone by. Instead, consider that time right before you go to sleep as sacred space, when you’re going to connect with your husband, read, pray, even make love! So set a bedtime and stick to it. Then the technology won’t own you–you’ll own the technology.
4. Replace Your Internet Use With Something Else
Do you get antsy if you haven’t checked Facebook in a while? Do your fingers twitch if you haven’t instagrammed something or texted someone? It’s hard to quit something cold turkey, and I’m not saying you should.
When we eat badly, we don’t say that the solution is to never eat. We say that the solution is to find ways to eat the right amount of the right stuff. We just change our eating patterns, and that’s what we have to do with technology, too. It’s not a matter of going completely without, as much as it is about figuring out how to incorporate technology in a healthy way into your life.
And I find that’s easiest if we take a positive spin on it. Instead of saying, “I have to quit the internet!”, we say, “I want to knit more,” or “I want to walk with my husband more,” or “I want to take up a new sport with my hubby.” It’s harder to surf the internet if you’re actively engaged in something–a hobby, a sport, even a volunteer activity. Or start playing two player board games together at night!
So talk to your husband about what you could do instead of technology that will feed your soul, because you don’t want the internet taking over everything!
5. Apologize for Your Internet Use
If you’ve suffered from internet addiction, and you’ve hurt your spouse and kids, you need to get real with them. Apologize. Admit where you’ve been wrong. Ask for help. Tell them that they’re allowed to hold you accountable. Say to the kids, “I want to stay off of my phone and computer from 7-9 every night, and if you see me checking my phone, you have permission to call me on it.”
And give your husband a heart-felt apology, too. The man who wrote this letter feels so neglected and so sad. No guy deserves that. If you’ve hurt your man, don’t tell him, “I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m so stressed with the kids that I needed to unwind.” Just say, “I’m sorry I hurt you and neglected you.” No excuses. No explanations. You were wrong, and admit it. And then tell him you want to move forward, and build a much more intimate marriage–one that is better for both of you!
And here’s a big one: I think we need to get real with God. Think about what we pray when we say the Lord’s prayer: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
That doesn’t just mean, “God, I’m going to sit back and wait for your to do Your will.” That means that we need to be active participants, allowing God to use us to bring His kingdom to earth. And how can He use us if we’re wasting so much time?
When technology has such a hold on us that we start neglecting the things that God wants to do in our lives, and neglecting the people around us, that’s a problem. And we need to own up to God about it.
There’s another benefit to this: addictions are very hard to break. You can’t do it in your own strength. But God can help you fill that compulsion with something else. And the way that He starts working is when you are humble before Him and admit, “I messed up.” So confess before God, and ask Him to give you His strength to put first things first, and to help do His will. That way you’ll be operating in His strength, and not just your own!
6. Use the Internet to Grow Your Marriage, not Shrink it
Finally, a super fun one!
The internet itself is not bad; it’s a tool, just like anything else, that can be used either for something bad or for something good. If your devices have been pulling you away from each other, then why not use them to pull you together again?
Take ballroom dancing lessons online! Listen to some audiobooks or some amazing sermons and then talk about them.
Or let’s turn up the heat!
Last week I talked about the amazing app Intimately Us, a fun and sexy app with lots of games to spice up your marriage, help you discover what you each like, and help you have more fun! And what I love about it especially are all of the actiivities that prompt you to talk more about what you like–and what you don’t like. You’re able to open up about things you want to try, or things that do feel good and you want to do more of. The Sexplorations page comes with a bunch of questions you can run through, and have productive conversations, so that maybe he’ll realize that you don’t find groping a turn on, for instance!
Head to bed together at the same time, and then talk through three of the Sexploration questions. They come in multiple categories, and then for each question you can say yes, no, or maybe–and even leave a note to explain! It’s a great conversation starter to help you understand each other better.
And then take a moment to play a game, like “Talk Me Into It!”
Let your devices be something that bring you together, not put a wedge between you.
Technology should bring us together. But too often internet addictions push us apart.
It’s easy to turn to devices when you’re bored, or out of habit. But that’s no way to live our lives. If relationships matter to you, then make sure the way you handle technology honors your relationships!
Do you spend too much time on devices? Has this been a problem in your family? How have you handled it? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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