We are all really busy with life. It looks different for each of us depending on what stage of life we are in. Some of us are taking care of little kids, others are taking care of aging parents. Some of us are consumed with school, others work. We also know it’s often a challenge to find the time to focus on your marriage. So, we want to help you with that. We’ll post articles, videos, and audio here to help you strengthen your marriage.
by Wayne Grant, M.D.
Unsolicited flashing lights and incessant beeps of the smartphone signaling another not so urgent message. Our devices of every kind surround us demanding our attention. We catch ourselves rushing from one “urgent” to another. In the middle of our rush, our smartphone pings—alerting us to an instant message. Later we look at our phone to check the time (yes, we don’t need a watch anymore) and we see a Facebook post we subconsciously know that we should check out. More and more, the distractions pile on one after the other. We can hardly resist the tug to look or listen—even in the middle of a meal or significant conversation with our spouse. Getting noticed, or noticing others, in today’s distracted world is an unrelenting challenge. We are more and more becoming prisoners of the ever-present distractions. This is vitally true for the intimate relationships we experience in marriage. One of the essential functions of marriage is to provide a time and place where the need for attention can be honestly expressed and shared.
Yet, to be noticed is a deep hunger we all share. Attention is such a valuable gift because all of us hunger for real, uncompromising contact with other human beings. Affirmation that comes with human contact is the moisture of the soul. Its presence nurtures growth of the whole human creature just as water nurtures the growth of the plants in the garden. Without moisture, the plants shrivel up, lose their color, and produce pitiful fruit. The same is true for us. Affirmation nurtures us. Its absence deforms the sprit into a caricature of its intended design. One of the key benefits of marriage is the sharing of such affirming, focused attention.
We can give our spouse no greater gift that kind of undivided attention which the couple shared with each other during courtship. In a world of growing and unrelenting distractions, your personal attention to your spouse is immensely affirming and encouraging.
Our gadgets are marvelous tools. And, indeed, they are here to stay. The challenge is to master our technology rather than allowing it to master us by dictating the tempo of our lives.
Bernadette Noll in her book, Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy, makes some key suggestions:
- Deciding to be done. In home life, as in any area of life, there is never a time when everything gets done. So, set priorities. Do the important. Realize that some things are less important than others and give priority to those things that count. Some things can just wait. Do we need to know the latest push notification from the newswire? Does every instant messaged need a response instantly? Set aside time for true intimacy with each other.
- Making eye contact. The simple act of a gentle touch, deliberate eye contact, a quiet “Thank you,” or words of encouragement such as “How is your day?” signals to the other their worth.
- Get outside and play. A little fresh air and time outside pulls us away from the many distractions inside. Fresh air and nature have a way of isolating the distractions. And while we are at it, maybe leave the smartphone inside for a while.
- Just ignore the distractions for a while. No texting under the dinner table. No checking email at night or while in a meeting. No instant message when we can talk in person. And maybe no TV during meals except on special occasions.
- “Will it matter a year from now?” This is the ultimate test. Yes, some things will matter a year from now. But many will not. When reaching for the cell phone or I-pad or remote, ask, “What really counts?”
Over and over in the Gospels, we read of Jesus giving focused attention to persons he meets in his normal daily activities. The Scripture repeats often, the words, “Jesus looked at him, (or her) and said…”
One of the most moving scenes in the Bible is recorded in the first chapter of Mark. Jesus was confronted by a leper begging for help. “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” the leper cried. Jesus responded in a most telling way. Mark simply says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” (Mark 1:40-41). But he chose to do so. In doing so Jesus modeled for us what God has been doing from the beginning of time. God has been reaching out and touching us. He gives us focused, unbroken attention day by day. We are most like the Heavenly Father when we, stop, look another in the eye and say, “Now, tell me about your day.”
Regardless of whether you’ve been married for less than one year or over 50 years, there is one constant challenge facing every couple—to connect. MarriedPeople Monthly is a monthly, mush-free email full of ideas and insights that spark great conversation and help you laugh. You’ll find plenty of go-and-do’s that you can actually go and do. You will be encouraged, we promise.