Family Date Night Tip: Do Not Text and Date!
Let me say I believe in scheduling regular date nights with your spouse and children. Having a date night with your spouse will truly boost your marital happiness. The quality time and intimate conversation shared on a date will enhance your marital intimacy. And, regular “date nights” with your children will also improve family relationships. Spending one-on-one time with each child while engaged in a mutually enjoyable activity, builds relationship, opens conversation, and even encourages your children’s positive self-image. But, I have one warning to offer: DO NOT TEXT and DATE! Texting while dating is dangerous. Texting while dating kills intimacy. Let me explain.
Researchers from the University of Essex measured the impact of having a visible cell phone on the development of intimacy. To do this, they put participants into dyads, had them leave all their personal belongings in one room, and then led them into another room to have a conversation. Each person in the dyad sat on a comfortable chair. A coffee table sat next to the chairs; and, on the coffee table was a book. For half the pairs, a random cell phone was placed on the book. The other half did not have a cell phone in the room. After a ten-minute conversation, participants completed a questionnaire assessing relationship quality and emotional sensitivity. The results: dyads in which the cell phone rested on the table reported lower relationship quality and less closeness with their partner. The mere presence of a cell phone had hindered their relational intimacy.
The researchers took this experiment one step further. They conducted a follow-up study using a similar format. The only difference was the addition of two levels of meaningful conversation. Half the group discussed a casual topic (your thoughts and feelings about plastic Christmas trees) and half the group discussed a personally meaningful topic (your most personally meaningful event over the last year). This study revealed that the presence of a cell phone significantly reduced relationship quality, partner trust, and partner empathy only during meaningful conversation.
This research suggests that just having a cell phone in sight during personal interactions hinders the development of closeness and trust. It reduces each person’s sense of being understood by the other, especially if you are trying to have a meaningful and intimate conversation. The phone in these experiments did not belong to either participant. It merely sat unobtrusively, and even out of conscious awareness according to questionnaire answers, on the table. Yet the power of that cell phone to 1) bring the larger world into our awareness, 2) to orient us to the possibility of what might be happening outside our immediate interaction, 3) to raise the possibility in our mind that news from the “outside” could interrupt our date, and 4) to remind us that we might be missing something, interferes with our date, hinders our relationship, limits our sense of closeness, and kills intimacy!
Put that altogether and learn an important lesson: DON’T TEXT and DATE! Go out with your spouse. Enjoy one-on-one time with your kids. Seek intimate moments and meaningful conversation. Pursue quality times of fun and celebration. But, by all means, put the cell phone on silence and leave it in your purse. Hide it in your coat pocket. Leave it in your car. Forget about the cell phone and enjoy your family. You’ll find conversations deepen, connections grow stronger, and laughter booms louder without a cell phone present. DON’T TEXT and DATE!