Are busy-ness and distraction ruining your relationship? Ready to learn how to stop the damage before it’s too late? Click play on the video above or click here to view Maegan’s segment on the KATU Afternoon Live website!
The Epidemic That May Be Killing Your Relationship
I see it in my therapy office everyday… loving, committed couples who are struggling with all the normal things (communication, sex, parenting, etc.) and who genuinely want to improve their relationships… but who seemed trapped in a cycle of busy-ness that prevents them from dedicating any time to actually working to improve their relationship! They arrive to session saying the same thing – “Oh man, the past two weeks flew by, and we didn’t have any time to work on the things we talked about in our last session”.
REALLY? You had ZERO time to work on your relationship in the 336 hours that passed since you were in my office last? I don’t buy it!
Okay, actually, I do buy it. Because I’m living my life in the same busyness trap that my clients are caught in. And it is a huge problem.
On the surface it doesn’t seem so bad. We are super busy but our lives are filled with mostly things that are important. Work, school, soccer games, music lessons, happy hour with friends, working out, cooking, cleaning, sleeping. What can you cross off that list? It’s not an easy question.
When we’re not busy, we’re driven to distraction by the many fancy electronic devices in our lives. Our phones are chiming constantly (thanks, group texts), FaceBook is singing her siren song, luring you into the depths of her endless (and pointless) feed of pictures and political debate, we’re three episodes behind on the new Netflix series everyone is watching, our watches remind us that we have emails we need to respond to… it is crazy-making madness!
Here’s the truth… the most dangerous and pervasive threat to our relationships is busyness. Our busy lifestyles prevent us from slowing down and being present with our partners. It may seem subtle, but the damage created from chronic disconnection and stress can lead to bigger problems that often end in divorce.
Relationships take time and effort. I commend my clients for prioritizing time to attend couples therapy! It really is an incredible act of love and sacrifice for their relationship. I wish more than anything that 2-4 hours of therapy a month could solve all of your relationship problems and safeguard your connection against future threats. But I can’t tout myself as a miracle worker. The real work of couples therapy happens between sessions, when you’re at home living your normal life!
If you can identify with this conversation then please, heed my warning: the busyness epidemic is slowly but surely killing your relationship. You may not notice it today but you will wake up tomorrow, a year from now, ten years from now, and realize that your relationship is dying on the vine.
But don’t panic! There are a few simple things we can do to inoculate our relationships against the harmful effects of busyness and distraction.
It’s unrealistic to assume that we can escape all of our busyness and distraction right away. That requires a drastic lifestyle change that cannot be achieved overnight. Or as my mom would put it, “It took you longer than a day to get into this mess, it’s going to take you longer than a day to get out of it”.
I believe that it’s easier to tackle the disease of distraction before we touch the epidemic of busyness.
Why? Busyness is complicated and often involves commitments and expectations that involve other people. It’s tricky to back out of social obligations, to tell the kids you’re cutting one of their extracurriculars, to outsource time-consuming tasks like house cleaning. (Spoiler alert – we’re going to work our way up to these more daunting tasks! I have no doubt they will positively change your life.)
It is much easier (but still complicated) to tackle our relationship with distraction. Distraction doesn’t usually involve other people, distraction is a symptom of our own dysfunctional and codependent relationship with our electronic devices.
If your response to this is “But people expect me to respond to their emails and texts messages right away!” then I want you to look yourself in the mirror and say, “That is ridiculous. I need to set some boundaries around my personal time.” (I might be speaking from personal experience here).
To begin, we need to find small, meaningful ways to increase connection and presence with our partners. Over time, we can work our way up to more life-altering changes that will create the peace, calm, and connection we all deserve.
Here is where I’d recommend you begin:
Commit 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to put away all distractions and focus on your partner. You can share a quick check-in about how you’re doing, or you can be silent and enjoy some loving shoulder rubs. You’ll be surprised how much more connected you feel after committing to this ritual!
Schedule one evening each week with no distractions! Put away your phones, smart watches, laptops… and any other device that creates distraction at home. Plan to make dinner together, eat at the table, and play a game after your meal. It can be Throwback Thursday to the olden days when people didn’t have anything else to do but entertain each other!
Commit to turning off your email and social media notifications… permanently. This is a tough one for many people (myself included!). We are so accustomed to looking at our phones every five minutes to see our notifications. Stop it! You don’t need to see your emails at night! You don’t need to see every social media notification you receive every second of the day. If you don’t have anything calling you to look at your phone, maybe it’ll be a bit easier to focus on spending time with your partner.
Choose one time-consuming task to outsource. Now we’re moving from challenging distraction to altering busyness. How many hours a week do you spend cleaning your house? Could you use those hours instead to spend an uninterrupted evening with your partner? Hire it out! Yes, you’ll have to budget it into your finances, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Finally, it’s time to start cutting back on your commitments. Can you and your partner identify one thing you can eliminate from your schedule? It’s not going to be easy. The only way to create more time for your relationship is to… well, create it! And that requires saying no to something else. Remember, this is a sacrifice you’re making to protect and preserve your relationship. Just make sure you actually use the extra time to do something together and don’t fill it up with other to-dos on the list.
Sit back and enjoy your new and improved, well-balanced, calm, peaceful life together! Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement… things are probably still pretty chaotic. But seriously, if you commit to making these changes, I believe you will notice a drastic difference in the quality of your relationship.
I know overcoming busyness and distraction is challenging. I also know that neglected relationships often end in divorce. Challenge yourselves to prioritize your relationship so that you can reap the rewards of a stable, long-lasting, loving relationship. It is so worth it.