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I remember those first days of falling in love with my husband, James.
During one afternoon date, he looked at me intently and asked, “Do you know what I see when I look into your eyes?”
“What do you see when you look into my eyes?” I asked dreamily.
“I see the letters AV. Your contact lenses say A-V.”
I went home floating on air that day.
At the first opportunity, I popped my contact lens out. My contact really did have the letters AV stamped on it. My beloved had looked into my eyes so deeply he could actually read the tiny brand on my contact lens.
Locking eyes is one of the ways we join hearts with one another, whether it’s with your spouse or with your daughter.
More than twenty years have passed since that AV contact lens date. We didn’t own mobile phones or iPads back then. We couldn’t text or send emojis. We stared at each other for hours at a time. We talked to one another late into the night on landline phones. We wrote letters almost every day when his job took him several states away.
We built our love note to note, voice to voice, and face to face.
All these years we’ve maintained that love, not by subscribing to each other’s YouTube channels. Not by playing video games or scrolling through each other’s Facebook pages.
We’ve grown closer by a daily time of being together without screens.
This once common way of connecting is threatened by the popularity and ever presence of screens in our lives.
Research shows that pulling out a smartphone is a sure romance killer. The smartphone is so often the fifth wheel in a relationship.
In findings published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture…
…35% of respondents claimed that their partner pulls out the phone mid-conversation if a notification arrives.
25% said their partner actively texts people during the couple’s face to face conversation.
And 75% reported the phone is a problem in the relationship.
Our girls are also being affected by the uptick in device usage.
One study found that more than half of kids feel their parents check their devices too often, and one third say they feel unimportant when their parents are distracted by their smartphones.
These are troubling findings because none of us buy a smartphone to disconnect emotionally from our families. On the contrary, we want a way to be more reachable to those we love.
An important question to ask is:
Does the way I use my phone communicate “I love you” to my family? To my girl?
Or does my phone use communicate to her “I am busy and preoccupied”?
Challenge: If you need some help disconnecting with your phone so you can connect with your girl, here are three simple habits you can begin to practice:
Enjoy screen-free meal times. Meal time is a precious time to connect with your daughter, to swap stories and share life together. But when there’s background noise from the TV or family members on the phone, meal time ceases to be a source of strength for your relationship. Make the commitment to eat together without screens both at home and in restaurants. Put your phones away on a shelf, in a box, in a purse, or stacked in the middle of the table. Train her to wait for food without the amusement of a screen. If you need a phone because you have to pick someone up from practice, explain this to her and only answer the phone for this reason.
Charge your phone overnight in another room. It’s easy to check your phone last thing at night and first thing in the morning when it’s on your nightstand. But is that the most relaxing, rewarding way to begin and end a day? Take away the temptation to text during the night or check email upon waking by charging your phone in another room. Unless you are an emergency worker who needs to remain accessible, charge your phone overnight in another room. Show your girl how to enjoy sleep without digital interruptions. Encourage each other to begin your day with prayer instead of the stress of texts and to-do lists.
Ask your girl for regular feedback. Ask her, “Do you think I am on the phone too much? Is there anything I can do differently with my technology that would make you happier?” Fight the urge to be defensive if a few suggestions arise out of this conversation. If your girl thinks you are spending too much time with a device, take it as a compliment. It means she wishes she could spend more quality time with you. The more you are open to correction, the more open your girl will be too.
Maybe it’s your daughter who is spending way too much time on screens, constantly looking down at the phone. Changes you make in your life can serve as a powerful and redemptive example to her.
If you find your phone is distracting you from tending to your most important relationships, there’s good news. Getting back on track is as easy as looking your daughter in the eyes.
The more you lock eyes, the closer to one another you’ll get. Who knows? You might even get close enough to read a pair of contact lenses.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Parents Rising, 31 Days to a Happy Husband and Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life. Arlene has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene hosts The Happy Home podcast and writes regularly for Proverbs 31 Ministries and Girlfriends in God. Arlene earned her BA from Biola University and her Masters in Journalism from Regent University. Arlene lives in San Diego with her husband James and their three children Ethan, Noelle, and Lucy. To learn more, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com