I think the greatest compliment I ever got was from a female friend who said: “I want what you have”. She was speaking of my marriage and the relationship I have with my wife. I was really proud of that because it made me feel like I have done my job as a husband. My wife and I do have a great relationship, and at this time, we have been married for 12 years. I get asked both personally and professionally what makes a successful marriage? I don’t know if I have all the answers, but in today’s age, I’d say “put the phone down”.
A Healthy Relationship Requires That You Put The Phone Down
Working in mental health for the past 30 years, I have done my share of working with relationships. Some things will always ring true, but today so many people let their phones interfere, and in some cases, destroy their relationship. Let me give you a few examples.
In this day and age, people are slowly losing their interpersonal skills as they replace it with their phones. I was truly shocked when I looked up this statistic. The average person looks at their cell phone 110 a day, and in the evenings we check out phones every 6 seconds. That can’t be! So I did a little more research. It turns out, I was quoting one of the lower numbers. Everyone jokes about a zombie apocalypse. Don’t laugh. It’s here. So I’ll say it again. If you want your relationship to survive, “Put the damn phone down”!
A few years back I received 2 pieces of really good advice. I was in a board of directors meeting and we were discussing a sensitive subject. The president said something that has stayed with me to this day. He said: “If you’re going to put something in writing, be it letter, text or email, you have to assume that it is going end up on the front page of the New York Times.” Wow! I never thought of it in those terms. But he was right. The minute we text, email or put pen to paper, we no longer own or are in control of what happens next. So, from a professional standpoint, it better be correct. I have since applied that principal to my relationship.
The other piece of advice I got was never to say anything to a member of the opposite sex that you wouldn’t say in front of your spouse. Brilliant! Sometimes in these environments over the course of years we get close to a coworker. We have all heard terms like work-wife or work-husband. And while many times these conversations are harmless, it’s good to check-in with yourself and your spouse to make sure you’re not creating a problem. I think most of us are guilty of it. So start with being honest with yourself and your motives before causing any issues.
“If you’re going to put something in writing, be it letter, text or email, you have to assume that it is going end up on the front page of the New York Times.”
Getting back to the zombie apocalypse. I cannot tell you the amount of clients I have worked with while running EAP (employee assistance programs) about problems they cause in their relationship because they got caught up sending inappropriate messages to someone other than their spouse. Remember that whatever you write and send out to others, you no longer own. Believe me, the rate of return is pretty high. In other words, it could and most likely will come back to bite you. I’m not talking about innocent flirting. I’m talking about specific language that can be damaging to your relationship. I go back to never say (or write) anything to another that you would not be comfortable saying in front of your spouse. It’s a betrayal of trust and intimacy if you do.
It’s funny because in these situations when I confront a client about doing such actions, I inevitably hear something like its just fun, no one knows. Or, I’ll never follow through with it. Two things to consider. First, then why do it at all? And secondly, how would you feel if you knew your spouse was doing that to you? More often than not, the person will answer: “I wouldn’t care”. Well if you really don’t care that both you and your wife are giving away intimacy, freely, maybe it’s time to reexamine the relationship. But I think the first step is to have this conversation in front of your spouse. Be honest. Be intimate.
The last point I would like to make in securing a healthy relationship concerning mobile devices is courtesy. When you’re with your partner eating dinner, on a date or trying to have a conversation, put the phone down. It’s impossible to connect in a meaningful way if you’re staring at your phone. Remember when you were first dating and you didn’t check your phone every 5 minutes and didn’t answer every text/email? Do that! You can’t build a relationship when you’re mentally disconnected from the conversation.
So while there are many things you can do to strengthen or build a relationship, start here. Put the phone down. Know your worth. Know the worth of your relationship. Intimacy starts by being connected. And you cannot connect with your significant other when you’re on the phone.