We live in an age of technological distraction, where the primary modes of relaxation and diversion involve staring at a screen. For many, technology serves as an escape from the present, whether through procrastination, avoidance, or denial. This can dramatically limit our time to be present with others and negatively impact our interpersonal relationships.

Sure, we can watch the same show with our partners, challenge each other in Pokémon Go, or play a video game together. But just because we are sharing in the same activity does not mean we are connecting, and relationships need a balance of both mindful and mindless time with our partners.

Mindfulness involves the process of working to be present in the moment and offers opportunities for genuine connection with others. It is a curious, nonjudgmental state that allows us to open ourselves to other perspectives and ways of relating. It lets us truly be together.

If you find yourself caught in a routine absent of mindful relating, try establishing new habits that promote time where you and your partner are in the moment together. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Find a shared activity away from a screen.
    You can still watch your favorite shows together, but try to also create time away from technological interference. Take up a hobby that requires you to be more present, such as building a puzzle, drawing, or taking a walk (without cellphones) together.The goal is to establish time together with more ample opportunities for emotional connection. Create openings for more intimate communication that are often missed while watching television when you do not want to miss a plot point, or when one of you is distracted by being on your phone. Be proactive in establishing time to connect with your partner in a more authentic way.
  2. Respect your communication.
    The vast majority of the time, when we talk it is in the hope that our partners are listening. Not too surprisingly, our ability to take in what our partners say is dramatically hindered when we are distracted by our phones/TV’s/computers.If you find yourself caught in a web of distraction, make rules that better respect your communication. For example: Phones put away and television turned off when we catch up about our days. If I need to talk about something that I feel is important, I will speak up and ask that you focus your attention fully on me. I will stop checking my work email by 7 PM each night.

    Establish the habit of actively listening to your partner once or twice per day for 10-20 minutes. This requires energy and focus, and a little bit of time dedicated to genuine listening can go a long way to feeling connected and appreciated.

  3. Seek assistance.
    Breaking habits is very difficult to do. We are naturally inclined to prioritize patterns for ease and comfort, and trying to shake things up with sheer willpower often is not enough to establish lasting change.Couple therapy can help. Therapists are trained to increase your awareness concurrently with altering problematic patterns of behavior. Relational counseling can be a helpful resource for holding you accountable to the goals you set each week and identifying concrete opportunities for change.

Contact Symmetry Counseling in Chicago today to be matched with a couple therapist who can help you achieve a more mindful relationship.