24/7 Marriage: Disconnect to Reconnect

by JAVIER & SHANNAN LABRADOR, The Marriage Flippers

We live in the most connected, yet disconnected society in history.

How much do you love your smartphone? I hope not as much as a California man who married his phone in a Las Vegas wedding chapel during the summer of 2016!

Yes, he married his phone to make a point about how our phones have become the “other person” in our relationship. It sounds ridiculous to marry your phone, yet we cannot deny how our phones have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. The average smartphone owner will click, tap or swipe their phone 2,617 times daily. Some studies show that we pick up our phones every five and a half minutes, or roughly 160 times a day! While writing this article, my phone has been screaming for my attention. And yes, I gave in, picking it up over ten times- only 150 more pickups to go! 

The smartphone, which is making us dumber, is a jealous lover. Think about this, all day long, your phone demands your attention through calls, texts, Instagram, Facebook, music, news, TikTok, YouTube, and games. It calls out to you, so we coddle it, we carry it around clasped in our hands or safely resting in a pocket. We place it right next to us at night, and it receives our first attention when we wake up. I am guilty of this. My alarm goes off, and I grab it, walk to the bathroom and check the weather, my Bible app., and text all before brushing my teeth.

We take our phones more places than we take our spouse and feed it – with our attention, robbing the relationships around us- of us. I often tell people our smartphone is like an adult pacifier- it soothes and lulls us to sleepwalk through life. We are becoming increasingly disconnected from the people begging for our attention on the other side of the screen.

For all the harmful and addictive qualities of our phones, there is some good when it comes to staying connected with your spouse, friends, and family. I often use it to send my wife a quick hello and tell her I’m thinking about her. And she responds with, “Love you too. Can you pick up some lettuce on the way home?” Super romantic! Our phones are a necessary evil and helpful often, yet we should control it, not it control us!

We have worked with many couples where smartphone usage and their spouse’s constant use have led to marital struggles and disconnection. We often hear how spouses feel they are competing for their spouse’s attention. We have lost our ability to connect – we are victims of “phubbing” in our marriage. 

I recently read that “phubbing” was originally coined by an Australian advertising agency and reflects a blend of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” When it comes to your marriage, phubbing means your spouse feels invisible or snubbed because you are distracted by a smartphone and not fully present. We all have done this when we pick our phone up at dinner to read a text, check the football score, or Instagram while on a date. I was “phubbing” my wife the other day as we watched a movie. While her head was on my lap, I checked Instagram and emails. I essentially am telling her, “My phone and what’s on it is more important than you.” At our recent marriage boot camp, a spouse described how their spouse’s excessive phone use has felt like they are having an affair. It has bred disconnection, inattentiveness, and a feeling of competing to be seen and heard. 

For a marriage to thrive, it requires our full attention, especially during moments of connection and communication. How can we stay connected with our spouse and those around us and grow relational connections? Below are a few ideas that we believe can help you disconnect to reconnect:

  • Protect your mealtime. Do not place the phone next to you. Instead, have a designated place your phones stay during your meal.  
  • Guard your conversations. When having a conversation or discussing an issue with your spouse, place phones face down and away from reach. We have seen couples accept calls and even respond to texts while we are counseling them. This tells the story of what is more important.
  • Eliminate phones in bed. No phones in the bedroom before bed. Remember how you used to connect and talk before bed- give it a try again.
  • Cell Phone free Sunday. It may not be Sunday, but pick a day to rest from your phone and all the distractions it provides. We do it every Sunday.
  • Pocket or Purse it. When on a date, put it away. Yes, you can check the babysitter’s text or take a cool selfie, but try to limit it. Be present. 
  • Look around you. This one is for all of us. Next time you are at the market, waiting in a line, or anywhere people are standing around, look at what they are doing- staring at their phones. Don’t be a sheep- put your phone away, look around you, and see what you have been missing. Connect.

The ideas above will help you find freedom from the not-so-smartphone which has come between your relationship. We desire to see your relationships and marriages thrive, so remaining connected in a world fighting for our attention is essential. Remember, your marriage and the relationships around you deserve and need your time, attention, and simply to see your face. Now disconnect so you can reconnect!


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