Just today I was having a long chat with my best friend about the phenomenon of face-in-the-screen in marriage. “It drives me nuts,” she said, “every time we go out for dinner he puts the damn phone right in the middle of the table. It’s like whoever is calling or texting is more important than me.”
Another friend recently said to me, “I can’t ever get her to look up. I’m not kidding. Our whole house is filled with one device after another. I feel like I’m living with a ghost—she just goes from room to room with her face in a series of screens.”
And it hit home. I had to ask myself, “How often are we actually focusing on our spouses? On his or her face, voice—on attentiveness?” We say we want closeness and intimacy in marriage, but do we actually make room for it? Do we have a space in our lives for focusing on each other—time blocked off by just me-and-you and nothing else? And can we shut off the damnable devices long enough to look over and generate a hankering and a desire for our partner that compels us toward intimacy? Honestly—do we?
Therapist Maureen McGrath, in her brilliant Ted Talk, states that 20% of people actually pick up their cell phones during sex. Really? Has it gotten that bad? And just how do we expect to have a passionate connection with our spouse if there’s never any room to focus on him or her and our face is always in front of a screen?
What if we just had some scheduled unplugged time? Think about it for a moment. How long has it been since your spouse looked at you with a wry smile, then unplugged and turned off all electronic gadgetry in the vicinity, grinning at you wickedly?
Unplugging means business—the get-your-stockings-out-and-stand-on-a-chair-in-high-heels kind of business—and it’s the best get-ready-baby message I know of. Unplugging means leaving the unsolved projects in the box, the texts and emails and communiques alone for a while (no one will die if they don’t get an immediate response). It means leaving the checkbook at the door, the day’s grievances and concerns and compelling neediness in a closet in favor of a far-off land of delight. Unplugging means there’s room for focusing on each other; room for remembering why we delighted in each other in the first place. It means there’s room for intimacy and sex and delighting in the sensuous nature of the physical.
We have become a culture of jones-ing headcases. We’re addicted to the next needy alert or notification, and we’re missing the boat. Read up: dozens of researchers are now noting that our modern marriages are more sexless than ever before.
And we can stem that tide, simply by putting down the damned devices and looking over at our partner with a bit of interest, and love, and inquisitiveness. That’s where desire comes from: from being able to set aside life’s daily cares for a few moments and just reach out to touch, and laugh, and pay attention, and delight in each other—and then, to be reminded of us of our ardor. To experience the actual sensual and physical world of love: hands-on, skin-to-skin, breath to breath and real, with no screens allowed.