By Christine Katende
I am getting tired, she said in a painful tone. Michael is never home and the little time he is here, he is on the phone. His love for the phone has suddenly replaced our companionship. During dinner time, he wont get his hands off the phone. He even carries his phone to the bedroom.
Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have replaced his family. The phone has taken over conversations we used to have as a couple. We dont talk anymore. Michael has changed from the man I used to know.
This was a conversation I had with my long-time friend, Ritah Naluwooza (not real names). The couple has been married for nine years. She says she has resorted to watching Tv soaps as a way of coping with boredom.
Let us have a candid conversation. Has technology officially become a new member of a modern nuclear family? Are couples aware that excessive phone usage is contributing to the distance that appears to be increasing in families?
Over the last two decades, technology has transformed the way we work, communicate and the nature of learning and education. Couples, parents, children, who form part of the modern family today face new and challenging choices about technology use and control.
Considering the ongoing lockdown in many countries, people are likely to spend even more time on their phones than they used to. They have to constantly communicate with their supervisors at work as well as get the work done. The time couples used to spend walking, cooking, reading books, watching movies and spending quality time is spent on the phone.
Although people are married and living together as a couple, they are worlds apart and living lonesome lives behind the curtains.
Evelyn Kharono Lufafa a relationship psychologist working with talk therapy Uganda says that every family including low income earners has embraced technology.
Borrowing a leaf from Ritah Naluwoozas story, the expert says the love for technological devices such as phones and laptops, has also led to neglect of traditional family roles, especially where both partners are working. There is less intimacy between husband and wife because the phones are connecting partners to the outside illusional world. Technology hampers family time and gets some couples suspicious, says the counsellor.
According to Kharono, even in this time when technology makes everything possible, it should never replace physical communication, especially in a family setting and intimate relationships.
Feeling of loneliness even in the presence of a partner are common lately. People are too addicted to their phones that they dont feel the value of their spouses anymore. This is dangerous to a relationship, she notes.
We can only change ourselves. It is difficult to parent an adult. However, let your spouse know that you are not comfortable with their addiction to their phone. Avoid competing with his phone for attention, as this may cause resentment. Instead. Let go of your own phone and try to do the right thing. Let your partner learn from you, advises the expert.
The counsellor advises couples to use their best moments to discuss how they feel about the position that technology has taken in their family. She says people tend to give utmost attention to their partners during their good moments because they dont feel like they are being attacked.
Kharono says choosing to learn communication skills is the best option as opposed to being preoccupied by your partners phone behaviour, as this will heighten stress.
Agree on the time when it is not acceptable to use phones at home as a couple. For example, set 8pm as a no-phone-zone. Have a small basket where phones and tablets are collected during the night. No phone or laptop engagements during supper time and bedtime or even breakfast, among other important times. These rules are supposed to couple be tailored and allow flexibility in case of an emergency.
About family time, Dr Samuel Kazimba Mugalu, the archbishop of the church of Uganda, recently called on couples to utilise the lockdown to rectify issues that had snatched away the love.
Instead of creating space, bring back that lost love, do what you used to do then, reconcile and live a peaceful life, spend time with your family besides your phone or computer, he says, adding, Prayer is critical in such times and God should always be at the centre of every marriage.
He says smart phones split the most educated and least educated couples. Thats why the user needs to realize that this can turn into an addiction if it is not regulated. People need to be mindful of their actions.
Of course, mobile devices are complementing family interactions, especially for long distance couples. But what is clear, is that there is a rise in alone together time. This means although families now spend more time at home, it is not necessarily in a way that feels like quality time.
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