Transforming Ordinary into Extraordinary Marriages
Marriage in the Electronic Age
Marriage in the Electronic Age
If author Charles Dickens were alive today he would probably comment that the electronic age has the potential to bring the best of times and the worst of times in marriage. On the one hand today’s equipment allows couples to communicate better and manage their lives more easily than ever before. On the other hand those same devises have a destructive potential for relationships.
Diana and Carlos are a tech savvy couple. Employees of rival tele-communications companies, they met at a professional convention and have been plugged in ever since. During their courtship, they kept in touch from different cities through the ease of cell phones. As they married and added two children to their lives they also added other electronic helpers to make their lives run more smoothly. They synced their calendars and schedules on personal digital assistants. Since the arrival of smart phones with data management, they can remotely access a spreadsheet so both can add items to a running grocery list. They text each other updates on the changes in child care and the children’s sports schedules. They occasionally text each other little love notes from boring work meetings. At home they use Skype and Facebook to keep up with out-of-state grandparents. While they used to use a GPS to guide them on vacations, they now have that capability on their smart phones. Telecommuting allows them the option of working from home when one of the children is sick.
Diana and Carlos use the best of the electronic age to make their lives flow more easily and keep in touch with each other and family. However, other couples have found this electronic age challenging their relationships in ways they wouldn’t have imagined.
Dangers of the Electronic Age
We will discuss two categories of how the new communication tools can undermine marriages:
- Behaviors that threaten the connection of the couple.
- Behaviors that threaten the faithfulness of the couple.
Too Much of a Good Thing
While the use of electronic devices can ease our lives and help us communicate with our spouses they can also threaten the intimate connection of a couple when the devices take time from communicating and enjoying one’s mate. Dr. Noelle Chesley from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that negative spillover from work to personal time rose with increased cell phone use. With the average adult in the US watching 5-7 hours of television per day, family dinners and couple conversation can be eroded by TV. Here is a check list to decide acceptable uses of electronic devices in your life and what interferes with time you want together.
- Do you phone, text, and post to social networking sites while you are interacting
with your spouse?
- Do you answer phones and texts during family dinner time?
- Do you eat dinner with the TV on every night?
- Do you disappear from the family to check email?
- Are you expected to work 24/7 from your job even though you are not a fire fighter
or brain surgeon?
- Are you able to set limits on your own usage of things with power buttons? Do ever have an electronic free day, evening, or even an hour?
Too Much of a Bad Thing
The internet offers a world library information and a world community at our finger tips. Technology has moved faster than people’s abilities to make good choices about the information and the communications coming into their home. Some of these options can be threats to the faithfulness of couples.
Sexuality explicit materials
No longer does one have to seek out such materials with a trip to a seedy part of town. Sexually explicit websites are merely a click away. Even an innocent online search for medical information can bring up links to undesired and offensive material. It is difficult to limit a search to only helpful media.
Partners often disagree on the role of such materials in their marriages. These disagreements may range from whether or not any sexually explicit media belong in their home to dealing with addictive behaviors of partners who spend all their free time searching and viewing such materials to the exclusion of time with their mates. The key is to work from a sense of individual and shared values about the role of sexually explicit media in your relationship and whether time spent with those materials is replacing time with one’s mate. We suggest that if frank conversations between partners cannot resolve these differences, couples the help of a marriage counselor to answer questions and hear suggestions how to resolve extreme differences.
Another clear and present danger to faithfulness is the ease with which casual encounters in chat rooms, social networking sites, and virtual class reunions can lead married people down a slippery slope from everyday conversations to more romantically or sexually tinged encounters. The line blurs as to exactly when flirting begins an emotional affair. By the time arrangements are made for in-person hookups with online buddies there is no such thing as “We just met to talk.” The late Dr. Shirley Glass developed three criteria (chemistry, secrecy, and intimacy) for determining when a friendship is no longer “just friends.” The following questions will help you check whether on-line temptations have the potential to cause problems to your couple connection.
- Do you or your spouse search out connections with old flames? (chemistry)
- Do you/spouse flirt with online friends? (chemistry)
- Do you/spouse share more intimately thoughts, experiences, and dreams with
your online friends than with your mates? (intimacy)
- Do you/spouse avoid each other to spend time with online friends? (intimacy)
- Do you/spouse spend more time on social network sites than with you partner? (intimacy)
- Do you/spouse complain about your partner to others on those sites or reveal
intimate or embarrassing information about your mate? (intimacy)
- Do you/spouse keep online relationships from each other? (secrecy)
- Do you/spouse keep online topics discussed, actual emails, or postings from
each other? (secrecy)
- Do you/spouse switch screens if the spouse walks into the computer room? (secrecy)
Answering “yes” to any of the above questions may mean you are on the slippery slope to eroding faithfulness by your use of social networking sites. We that couples discuss the role of male-female online relationships just as they might discuss the role of in-person relationships from work or the community.
The electronic age gives couples a chance to build or undermine couple connection. It’s a matter of knowing when to power on and when to power off.
Glass, Shirley. Not Just Friends