Multitasking in Marriage
Most of us think we are pretty good at multitasking, or doing several tasks at once. I have often heard people brag that they are good at multitasking. However, multitasking and communication go together like oil and water. They cannot blend.
The Gift of Multitasking
While there are some things we can do while engaged in other activities, other things we cannot. For instance, we can watch TV while folding laundry, or sing a song to a child while we are making lunch. But some activities, like a conversation with your spouse or child, need your full attention.
The ability to do a few things at the same time is a gift of human evolution. But here is the rub. Scientists have found that we cannot really focus on multiple tasks at once, but we change focus from one activity to another very rapidly. So when you think you are listening to your spouse talk about her day at work while you check your email or browse the paper, you are not fully focused on either task.
The Electronic Pitfall
Good communication is essential to a healthy marriage. It deserves its own special attention. Portable electronic devices like smartphones and laptops make it very tempting to try to multitask while having conversations. You may think you are listening to your husband talk while you are updating your status on Facebook, but you are not listening well.
Hand held devices make it deceivingly easy to think we are communicating because they are easy to look up from and appear to be paying attention. But we are simply quickly alternating what we are focusing on. Your marriage deserves better.
People cannot concentrate on more than one thought at a time. So when we try to multitask, neither activity gets the best of you. That evidence can be seen in the data on car crashes while the driver is talking on the phone. People like to feel that when they speak, they are heard. Most people feel heard when they are also seen.
When you look back and forth between your screen on the TV or smartphone or computer, it shows the other people in your conversation that you are not fully present.
It sends a very clear message when a person takes out his or her phone and starts reading alerts or texts while you are trying to talk to them. The message is that the person on the other end of that email, text, tweet or comment is more important than what your partner is saying.
Multitasking is a Myth
The largest barrier to reducing multitasking behavior is the lack of understanding that no one multitasks well. We have deluded ourselves into believing that we can do it all. But we really cannot do our best when we try to spread our attention so thin. If you have to tell someone, “I’m listening”, you are not as good at multitasking as you thought.
When it comes to having a face to face conversation with your spouse, PUT THE PHONE DOWN! CLOSE THE LAPTOP! TURN OFF THE BASEBALL GAME! Your partner deserves your undivided attention.
Multitasking is exactly what divides your attention. Your spouse knows that you are not really listening when they tell you about a situation that happened at work while you are exploring the twitterverse. To be clear, being able to repeat the last few words your child or spouse said while you were not really paying attention does not mean you were listening.
Your Spouse is More Important
Focusing on one thing at a time takes a lot of self -discipline. Slow down, staying centered and focused on one thing may take some time to learn, so start practicing. Be purposeful in determining what steals your attention while communicating with your spouse. Be aware of what you are doing and remind yourself that nothing is more important than this moment, so be present in it. Fully present. That way you can give your marriage the time it deserves.
About the Author:
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.
Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides marriage, couples, individual and family counseling for adults, children and adolescents. Based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, Imagine Hope’s desire is to inspire hope for life and relationships, understanding that Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough. Alexa has specialized experience in helping others in the areas of depression, anxiety, infidelity, communication, addictions and grief.
To learn more about Imagine Hope please visit www.ImagineHopeCounseling.com or read our blog at www.Inspire.ImagineHopeCounseling.com