Jill: One of the things I love about being an author is having the opportunity to start a conversation on a topic, fully knowing that those who read the book or hear you speak will keep broadening your grasp of the subject.
Mark: In our No More Perfect Marriages book, blog series, and seminars, we talk about the seven slow fades that negatively affect our marriage and unintentionally pull our hearts apart. These fades happen so slowly you don’t even recognize the damage they’re doing.
Jill: Over the past year those who have read the book or attended our seminars have added to the list of slow fades. So today, we’re going to explore one of those: the slow fade of distractions.
Mark: Distractions are those things in our life that pull us away from giving our spouse our full attention. They cause us to pseudo-listen or not listen at all. Many distractions send an unintentional message that projects are more important than people. They pull our focus away from seeing the needs of those we love.
Jill: Most of the things that distract us are important parts of life. We can’t just do them. The key is being intentional about making room for relationships while you’re tackling the real stuff of life. With that in mind, here are some common distractions and practical tips to stop them from robbing intimacy and connection in your marriage.
Our phones can keep us connected to each other when we’re apart if we’re intentional about using them that way (we especially love using the Bitmoji app for that). At the same time, our phones can also keep us connected to work, social media, email, and other people who shouldn’t be taking priority over our spouse.
TIP: Make meals—both at home and at restaurants—phone-free times. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and ask each other these three questions: 1) What’s one thing you’d like to get done this week? 2) What’s weighing heavy on your heart today? 3) How can I pray for you today?
Social media keeps us connected to others in ways like never before. At the same time, it can foster comparison and become addicting if we don’t manage it well.
TIP: Keep your phone, tablet, and computer out of the bedroom. Read a marriage book together and talk about what you’re reading. Snuggle, dream, and pray together as you bring your day to a close.
Just like the phone, the computer has now become our strategy for shopping, staying connected with extended family, and managing money. However, it also keeps us connected to work, social media, games, and email distracting us from being fully present with the ones we love.
TIP: Practice Stop, Look, and Listen when you’re on the computer and a family member comes in to talk to you. STOP what you’re doing. If you’re on a laptop, close the screen, and if you’re on a desktop, turn away from the computer to fully address the person. LOOK at them and LISTEN with your ears and your eyes giving them your full attention.
Our remote control habits often define our downtime. This puts us side by side more often than face to face. A television in the bedroom can reduce conversation further. This is how a slow fade happens: we get into habits night after night that keeps us from talking and connecting. The routine becomes predictable and intimacy fades.
TIP: When you’re watching television together, snuggle on the couch rather than sitting in separate chairs. A couple of nights a week, choose to play a game, take a walk, sort through pictures, or if you’re a No More Perfect Date Night Member, watch the weekly video together and talk through the questions.
Talk about a major distraction…stress keeps us worried, fretting, and on edge! We become preoccupied with our problems and easily irritated by the people around us. If we tend to avoid emotion, we’re likely keeping it all buttoned up on the inside rather than letting our spouse into what’s going on in our head and our heart.
TIP: So often our thoughts get consumed with unrealistic expectations, idealistic thinking, or fears. Make sure you are working to “take your thoughts captive” and push them towards truth. Talk to your spouse about what is weighing heavy on your heart. If your spouse tends to be a fixer, let them know right up front that you just need someone to listen and encourage you.
Hobbies and Interests
We all need recreation in our lives, but we have to make sure recreation doesn’t take over our lives. If your spouse feels that golf, exercise, sports, hunting, video games, shopping, or games on your phone are more important than he or she is, you may need to see that as a clue that the slow fade of distractions is pulling your hearts apart.
TIP: If you’re brave enough, ask your spouse, “Is there anything in my life that you feel is more important than you?” Be ready to absorb the answer and resist the urge to be hurt or defend. We all need feedback in our relationships.
Dr. John Rosemond says that some of us act as if we took a wedding vow that said, “I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife, until children do us part.” It’s tempting to become kid-focused because they have so many needs. Too often we’re tempted to think that we’ll take time for our marriage after the kids are gone. If you do that though, you’ll likely not have much marriage left after twenty-some years of parenting. Marriage before minors. Your kids NEED to see you invest in your marriage. It provides security for your kids to know that mom and dad love each other. You’re also being a role model for your kids on how to intentionally invest in your marriage.
TIP: Set a regular date time on your calendar…weekly or monthly. Then plan for it, protect it, and enjoy it. Set up a regular sitter—grandparents, trading with another couple, hiring a sitter—for your regular date nights.
It’s never been easier to stay connected to work, thanks to technology. However, it’s important to rest and recoup so you’re even more effective at work. When you’re home, your family deserves your best energy, attention, and focus.
TIP: Shut everything down in the evenings and on the weekend. No work email. No taking phone calls. Put a message on your voicemail that tells callers that they are important to you but if they’re calling in the evening or on the weekend, you’re giving your family your best and you’ll return their call on the next workday. Most customers and employees will respect you even more.
Sometimes we get so focused on doing what needs to be done that we miss out on connecting with who we’re doing these chores for. If you’re a type A task-oriented person this is one place where the slow fade of distractions can really creep in. When you’re distracted by chores, loved ones can feel like they’re in your way.
TIP: See interruptions in your chores as a God-appointment with your spouse (or your kids). Invite them to join you washing the dishes or folding the laundry so you can talk. If that doesn’t work, stop, look, and listen to let them know they’re more important than the task you’re doing.
Life is busy for all of us. It’s easy to get distracted by our everyday routines and not realize that it’s causing distance in our marriage. Stop the slow fade of distraction today…it’s a gift you will give your marriage, yourself, and your family.
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