sacred spaces for relationships

Some spaces are just sacred, whether we treat them as such or not. And, while we all SAY it’s important to limit our screen time and choose times and places safe from the interruption of our devices… not many of us are doing it. Perhaps that’s because, although we acknowledge the danger, we don’t see it.

Take Jenna and Todd, for instance. They have only been married for a little over a year, and their romantic life is already tripping all over the power cables that clutter the foundation of their sacred spaces.

Here’s what an evening together looks like for them, right now…

Todd gets home from work about an hour before Jenna. He turns on a podcast to play in the background and buzzes around the kitchen preparing dinner. By the time Jenna arrives, dinner is ready.

They grab their plates and scoot up to the TV to watch an episode of their favorite show. They talk, a little about their days but mostly about the episode they’re watching.

And, when it’s over, they cuddle up with their smart phones in hand and scroll through articles and social feeds until they’re too tired to keep their eyes open.

It should come as no surprise that Jenna and Todd are starting to feel less close. What may be a surprise is how allowing technology into the sacred spaces of their home created the wedge.

Let’s look at what an evening together looked like for Todd and Jenna a year ago…

Todd gets home from work and takes a long shower. When Jenna comes home, she pulls out a handful of recipe cards, holds them out face-down, and tells Todd to pick one. Todd preps the stove while Jenna starts chopping up veggies, and the two buzz around each other tossing ingredients into the pan and often hurling them at each other.

When dinner is ready, Jenna prepares the plates while Todd lights candles. They scoot up to the table and chat about their days, between bites. When they finish, they cuddle up in bed. Jenna reads a chapter from a novel, aloud to Todd, and they laugh and confer about the story.

Before they get too tired, Todd declares that he’d like to have a moment “just to look at her.” So, the two face each other, resting on their sides. They share feelings and ideas, pester one another, and finally fall asleep, nearly nose to nose.

a new age

Electricity—everything from light bulbs to AI virtual assistants—have afforded us the luxury of skewing and stretching our work and leisure to cater to our individual needs, which in turn tends to isolate us from others.

Most couples today would call the time they spend watching a TV show together “quality time.” And don’t get me wrong. Taking in a broadcast sporting event, playing an online game with offline buddies, or hosting a series release party with friends can be a great catalyst for bonding.

But making those types of activities the main event(s) of quality time? That’s not connecting. Often, it’s just sharing a physical space while, mentally and emotionally, we are elsewhere.

Here are some spaces I’d like for you to consider making “sacred.” By that, I mean decide to put your devices away and turn the TV off, or move it to a new location.

the dining room table

Here’s a challenge for you. Can you and those you live with enjoy a 45-minute meal without a digital screen within eyesight or earshot. Imagine a meal space without technology… What sorts of things would you talk about that you don’t usually get around to?

A common misconception held by couples who have been together for a long time is that they’ve “run out of things to talk about.” I think you’d be surprised how much a lack of good conversation between you and your partner may actually just be a matter of distraction.

the bedroom

Do you sleep with your phone near your bed? What about in your hand? You’re not alone. Over 70 percent of people sleep with their phone within arm’s reach. When considering only Millennials, that figure jumps to 90 percent.

I know many people have televisions in their bedrooms in addition to their smart phones, and tend to lounge in bed while enjoying both, sometimes simultaneously.

I’m not suggesting you feng shui the TV right out of your bedroom. I’m just suggesting you take control: decide when the screen is on and, more importantly, when it is OFF.

Imagine your bedroom without the real or possible distraction of technology. You might get more sleep (*cough* Candy Crush, Word With Friends, one more episode *cough*), or sleep more restfully, or connect romantically with your partner more often (wink, nudge.)

the bathroom

You probably haven’t considered making your bathroom a sacred space, but your relationship with yourself may need some love. If even the time you spend on the toilet, in front of the mirror, or in the shower is interrupted by screens, where’s your “alone” time?

An overwhelming majority of time spent in front of a digital screen is time spent consuming.

Too much consumption leaves humans feeling insignificant, inferior, and even helpless. So, imagine what’s happening when we spend 8 hours a day reading articles and posts, watching videos, and mindlessly scrolling.

Creation can help us balance this out by making us feel energized, accomplished, and important… but many times that requires stepping away from a device to paint, build or craft something, journal ideas, choreograph a performance, or write a song.

No matter how sophisticated and technologically intelligent our world becomes, the human heart will remain the same. We long for connection with other humans, and no device can ever fill the void. Protect your sacred spaces, for your heart’s sake.

Did I miss any sacred spaces? Let me know what you might add to the list.

Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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