Thursday, May 16, 2013

When your phone becomes a barrier to communication in your relationship

The Mobile phone is essentially a tool for communication. From recent statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission, there are over 113 million active mobile subscribers across about 160 million Nigerians. It is a very useful tool and I must say it is one of life’s very important tools. Some people cannot do without their phones; I do wonder how we lived before the era of mobile gadgets.

Mobile phones make it easier for people to maintain connections with family and friends. These gadgets have actually contributed to the ease of doing business and communicating. Wait, did I say communicating? Hmmm…. Well not entirely. When it comes to communicating with one’s loved one, it has affected social interaction; for better (for some people) and for worse (for others).

As for me, I consider communication as a very vital part of any relationship. No skill is more critical to a couple’s oneness than good communication! Communication nourishes and sustains a relationship.

Communication, in itself, contains three basic parts: words (10%), tone (40%) and non-verbal signs (50%). The words you speak make a small part of the message you send. The more important parts are the tone and non-verbal signals you give off as you speak. How you say what you say is generally more significant than the words you use.

I have always believed in communicating face to face when speaking with most people, especially my wife. From the non-verbal cues I get, I know whether we are actually communicating. Even with the advent of mobile phone, I still try to speak face to face. It is only when this is impossible, that I call her. My least favourite communication mode is texting. To me, it seems so impersonal. I only resort to this when it is absolutely necessary.

With the mobile phone, some people have lost the art of communicating with their spouses and the simple gadget, as innocent as it might be, has been the cause of many fights in some relationships.

I will like to share some of the ways that the mobile phone can affect relationships.

1. Texting rather than Talking

You may be relying too much on your phone for effective communication when you realise that you text more than you talk with your spouse. Some partners text as a substitute for the real intimate talks that they need to be having. It’s a lot easier to avoid problems in a relationship when most of your conversations take place in the form of texting.

Though texting can be one way to stay in touch throughout a busy day, it can also serve to replace real communication with a false sense of connection. Eventually, you’re will realise that you just don’t talk anymore even though you’re always in touch.

2. The blurry line between office and home

The smartphone has blurred the line between work and home. The fact that anyone can be reached on phone by email or call compels people to continue working even when they are out of the office.

Many Mobile phone users keep their phones turned on all the time, so incoming calls and emails interrupt conversations. They feel they are so important that they can be interrupted even when having intimate times with their spouses. So they are either talking on the phone or answering emails.

Many men see “answering the phone” as a sign that they are indispensable to their companies. And getting a smartphone from the company mandates them to pick up the phone when it rings and act on the email messages as soon as they get them.

These emails, phone calls serve as interruptions. If not controlled, they could serve as a strong demotivating factor against intimate relationships.

Couples need to spend quality, uninterrupted time together as this provides security and encourages people to get to know one another.

3. Phone Addiction (A whole new world of games and social media)

Closely aligned with the earlier issue is immersing one’s self in the world of the internet via your mobile. Some people get so engrossed in the world of online games, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on their phones when they should be spending quality time with their spouses and families.

Before the advent of such devices like the smartphone, people tended to enjoy the company of one another. This has, however, changed for some people. Though social media sites have helped in building social interactive skills like conversation skills, it should be managed as it can affect face-to-face communication.

4. You have no right to read my text messages even though we are married

I still cannot believe that some husbands say their wives have no right to go through their phones. They can share their bodies but not their phones.

Just last year, I was called by a woman to intervene in the couple’s argument. This is a Christian couple that has been married for over 8 years. The wife called me to say that the husband beat her. I could not believe it. The husband is a nice man who I felt, couldn’t hurt a fly. When I asked for the cause of the altercation, she said that she picked up his phone and saw some funny messages from another woman and when she asked about the messages, the husband reached out to snatch the phone from her. In his bid to retrieve the phone from her, she pulled away with the phone and a struggle ensued. The wife emerged from the struggle, crying with a broken fingernail. When I asked the husband why she struggled with his wife over his phone, he retorted: “She has no right to read my phone messages.”

Now the husband felt it was okay to flirt emotionally with another woman on the phone. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong since he was not physically with the woman.

The mobile phone is obvious evidence that you are having an affair; whether physical or emotional. That is why you do not allow your spouse to read your phone messages.

5. Trust with Financial information

Another issue in relation with the mobile phone is trust with financial information. Nowadays with the banks sending account balance information via sms, some spouses do not trust their partners with their phones so that they do not know how much they earn or spend. Though this is a by-product of a bigger issue – Trust, it betrays the fact that you do not trust your spouse. Some men think that if their wives know their account balances, the wives have a right to demand and get money from them.

I believe for a good relationship, couples should not hide their financial information from one another. In fact, it creates unnecessary stress.

6. Your phone bills are too high

Though a lesser issue but an issue nonetheless, is the problem of high phone bills. This can also bring about arguments in some households but it depends on who run up the bills and who pays the bills.

Issues like ….How many minutes to pay for, who went over their minutes, why one of you wants a new phone … can cause some tension. Couples should discuss and manage the amount spent on phones and phone bills.

In summary, as with everything upon the face of the earth, there are merits and demerits. Everything should be in moderation. The Use of Smartphones, though beneficial, must be controlled for peace and harmony in relationships.

This article was initially written for a magazine - www.gemmagazine

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