Effective Communication in Marriage: Being Present
Myrtle Alegado: Do any of you remember what your lives were like before smartphones?
Think about those times when, you know, you’d actually have to go into a restaurant and try their burger or wings to see if the food was any good, instead of just going online, reading the reviews and maybe not even giving that restaurant a chance.
Who remembers having to actually use a phone book and a landline phone? It didn’t use to be a world full of smartphones.
Technology has changed our way of life. It has made a lot of tasks easier and it definitely has saved us a lot of time. But, have all the impacts of modern technology and smartphones been positive? And how have these changes affected married life? Are there times when technology might actually take away your time and attention from your spouse?
This leads us to our episode today which we decided to call, “Being Present”
So let’s get things going, as we continue our series on Effective Communication in Marriage.
Welcome to Happy Life. This podcast brought to you by INCMedia aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband Paul since 1999.
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive.. You’re listening to ‘Happy Life’
Myrtle: “The smartphone has changed our lives for the better in some ways, but it definitely has its drawbacks, too,” says businessinsider.com
Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of “Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives,” agrees that smartphones are useful, but can also cause friction in our lives.
In many households, at the dinner table or at bedtime are definitely occasions when you can share your thoughts with your spouse, catch up on how your day went, or just chat casually about anything under the sun.
But during those moments, are we 100% present with our spouse? Meaning, are we being as attentive as we ought to be when our spouse is communicating with us?
According to usu.edu, a study done in 2019 shows that: 45% consider technology a big problem in their marriage. 43% report that their spouse uses technology in bed every night or almost every night. 55% feel like their spouse/partner spends too much time on their cell phone. Let’s talk about how we can be physically, mentally and emotionally present for our spouse.
Here with us today are Vic and Janelle from Burlingame, CA. Our newlyweds have been married since August of 2020. Welcome to Happy Life, Vic and Janelle! How have you two been?
Vic Laguisma: Hi!
Janelle Laguisma: Hi! We’ve been good. How are you?
Myrtle: You know, hanging in there, hanging in. Thanks for asking.So, it was mentioned that technology can cause problems in marriage. One example is when one feels like the other may be spending too much time on their phone. Is this something you’ve noticed in your marriage? And If so, how often does it happen?
Janelle: Yes, definitely. I think I am very guilty of spending too much time on my phone just because everything’s on there. And I love planning, so for the weekend I want to plan on where are we going to eat, what are we going to do, where to get the car oil changed, like everything. I’m always researching and looking things up, what’s next or where can we get the least expensive piece of furniture. You know, it’s just a lot of that.
Vic: I mean, I’m just happy that it’s a productive thing, you know? And it’s not a cat playing a piano or anything like that. Sometimes I’ll catch her, you know, she’ll be answering me when I talk to her, but I’ll repeat my question but in a louder voice, with like a smirk on my face. But both of us, we kind of call each other out on it too because sometimes it’ll cut into our quality time.
Myrtle: Well, knowing is half the battle right? So, you know, when your quality time is cut, what impact does that have on your relationship?
Vic: Like emotionally and physically present. I personally enjoy, like, face-to-face talks. It’s always important to stay connected with each other.
Janelle: Definitely. So, it gets kind of tough but sometimes if I’m on my phone I’ll go on Instagram and send him, like, a cute picture or something. Just to kind of include him in my research on my phone. You know, just so he’s not completely left out. But it’s nice just to be together. For me, you know, it’s just nice to have his presence and not be a thousand miles away or anything.
Vic: Oh my gosh. Long distance.
Myrtle: Oh that’s right, yes. You were in a long distance relationship. I forgot, yeah. So how, you know, being in a long distance relationship before, quality time must be important to your marriage. What does it mean to you to spend quality time together?
Vic: It’s very important. You know, like especially preparing for a family. You know, we have busy schedules and we only get to see each other, gosh, like a couple of hours a day, you know? From the time we wake up to the time we have to already get ready for bed—having dinner and getting ready for bed. But you know we allot the weekend for our quality time. We just actually had a Buklod GMM—
Myrtle: Oh, and GMM, that’s the general monthly meeting of the Buklod, which are the married members inside the Church Of Christ.
Vic: —where they actually say advice to go out on little dates. We pretty much do that on the weekends. Sometimes we’ll do that on a weekday depending on, like, how the day goes, you know. If the sun is out and if we need ice cream. If there’s any little stress, there’s a need for ice cream.
Myrtle: [laughs] There’s always a need for ice cream. So Janelle, you said you enjoy your chats too and your quality time? Do you always prefer to, you know, just speak face-to-face?
Janelle: Most of the time, but, like, if there are times when we’re extra stressed or emotional, sometimes it’s easier for me to write out how I feel rather than just say it out loud. Because sometimes when you say things out loud—when you’re, like, angry or at a high emotional state—you say things that you don’t mean. So a lot of times it’s easier, like, “I’m going to text this to you.” Give me a second, and like let me text this to you because I can’t talk right now. I’m going to say something I don’t mean.
And so it took a while for Vic to understand that, because he can really say what he feels verbally. But for me, I’m like, “no, I need to gather how I feel,” and then write it down and maybe send it to you through a text, even if we’re right next to each other. Like it happened when we were long distance, and you know, now that we’re together, like, it’s something that I’m still working on because it’s something that’s difficult for me. So, that’s something that’s just, it’s kind of funny. But other than that, you know, it’s a lot of fun just being together.
Myrtle: Well, expressing your thoughts verbally can be more intimate than other methods of communication, but are there other ways that can help?
According to washingtonpost.com, “Texting can and should be a positive force in people’s lives, both in terms of emotional and physical health, they say — so long as it’s used correctly.”
But they did warn us not to use texting to avoid difficult face-to-face interactions.
“Don’t let it turn you away from the necessary vulnerability you need to feel in relationships,” Turkle said. “Is texting keeping me away from a necessary conversation? If not, enjoy.”
So, Janelle & Vic, how do you use things like messaging or texting to benefit your relationship?
Vic: When we were dating still, and early on in the relationship, we would always just text each other or DM (direct message) on Instagram. But I was always under my anxiety when she wouldn’t respond right away. Like I’m on the edge of my seat like when I ask her a question, you know, because we’ll have straight conversations and then all of a sudden I’ll hit this question and I wouldn’t be answered and I’m just like “What?”
Myrtle: It’s like, “where did she go?” [laughs]
Vic: I used to always get mad. You don’t do that in a conversation with somebody face-to-face. Like you know, where we’re talking to each other and I ask you a question and you just don’t answer. But then again, that’s like texting. What I learned is you can’t really judge the conversations on texts that you have in real life, you know, or face-to-face.
Myrtle: For sure, especially if something comes up right?
Myrtle: And you get interrupted, and you intend to reply, but sometimes other things grab your attention. Is that kind of what happened, Janelle?
Janelle: Yeah, that’s pretty much how it is, and I had to explain to him when you’re long distance, the reason why you text is because you’re not available to talk. If you want an answer right away, then let’s have a phone conversation or FaceTime. And so, that was a lot to understand when we were long distance, because I’m so used to if you’re texting, that means you’re not available to talk. If you’re talking, you don’t just hang up and ghost each other on the phone or just stop talking all of a sudden.
Vic: I learned that. I learned that you have work to do—
Vic: —when you’re at work.
Myrtle: Really? Wow, what a concept! [laughs]
Vic: When you’re at lunch with somebody, you’re talking to them and not me.
Janelle: Yeah. [laughs]
Vic: Oh my goodness. I was such a kid, you know.
Myrtle: But now that you’re married, you know, you live in the same city, I’m assuming now, yes?
Both: Yeah [laughs]
Myrtle: So you still text each other during the day?
Janelle: We do.
Vic: Oh of course, yeah.
Janelle: Yeah, usually now it’s just during breaks and lunchtime. And he would send me pictures or, you know, random things throughout the day and vice versa, just to keep in touch. I mean, we’re only like 8 hours away from each other during the day.
Vic: But it’s like this world that we have together. Like, this is something she’ll only get. Stuff like that.
Vic: I can’t text that to anybody else, you know. They won’t understand it.
Janelle: Or if I’m, like, stressed at work, or there’s something funny, I’ll have to share it with him right away before I forget.
Myrtle: Well, it’s great that you guys still try to include each other in your day, even if it’s just through something as simple as a text. So, that’s really wonderful. What else do you do to try to be 100% present for each other?
Vic: As much as we get to text each other throughout the day, you know, we just catch up. Like, “how’s your day going,” you know, just little updates of our day, right?
Myrtle: Yeah, check-ins right? Yeah.
Vic: There you go, check-ins. You know, I always want to know how she’s doing. I’m always thinking about her.
Janelle: And he does a really good job (of) keeping me in check when I’m just over-researching. [laughs]
Janelle: If I’m just having my cellphone addiction moments, you know, he would just be like, “hey…” [laughs]
Vic: “That’s too much research now.”
Janelle: Or just like, he’ll give me a task to do or something.
Vic: I’ll give her, like, a time. Like okay, at 1:33…
Myrtle: That’s it, you’re done. [laughs]
Vic: I’ll email this email. [laughs]
Janelle: Yeah he’ll put limits to it, so that way I’m not over-extending whatever I’m looking at on my phone. So that really helps me, because it is something that physically and mentally present is always something that’s really important.
Vic: You know, I’ll remind her. But then, the reminding her to do that, it reminds me—oh me too though. I don’t want to be like a hypocrite. I love reminding…
Myrtle: So no phone time for you, but you’ve got to abide by the same rules, right?
Vic: Yeah right?
Myrtle: So, were there some things that you noticed while you were in your long-distance relationship, communication-wise, that you kind of were able to catch then that helps you now in your marriage?
Janelle: Pretty much just being really, telling each other how we feel. It’s a really important thing because…and not to hold back. Because sometimes one of us would hold back on how we feel and later on…
Vic: It’s a big explosion
Myrtle: Mmhmm. Yeah.
Vic: And we don’t keep scorecards. That’s a very toxic habit
Vic: And it always comes out in other peoples’ relationships, when they vent to me about so and so, it’s like they always say that but I’m like “Why did they have to say that in the first place?” Why did they have to bring up old stuff, you know?
Myrtle: Yeah.It’s kind of like, why did you let it get to that point where you did explode, right? So yeah, it’s great that you recognized that and are trying to avoid that.
So, we heard from our guests as well as a few articles we’ve quoted that smart phones do benefit a marriage when used correctly, but can also harm a marriage when used incorrectly. So, how can we maintain the right balance?
I don’t know about you but now I’m curious to hear what the Bible has to say. What guidelines can we take with us today that are from the Bible? To answer this, here’s a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ, Brother Felmar Serreno. Hi Brother Felmar, how are you today?
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hello, Myrtle, hello to Vic and Janelle, our guests today, and to everyone who’s tuning into Happy Life. Doing very well, thank you, considering spring is here, as we are recording this podcast. It’s nice and sunny out right now. You know, thanks be to God in spite of everything, in spite of the pandemic, we’re staying positive and getting through it.
Myrtle: Yes, absolutely—staying positive and hopefully everybody is staying safe as well. So, Brother Felmar, as we heard Vic and Janelle discussing how the smartphone has affected their marriage, is there something that the Bible has to say? What kind of guidelines can we take with us?
Brother Felmar: Yes, Myrtle, absolutely. Let’s get to that now. What guidelines does the Bible give when using things of this world, such as smartphones, computers and the internet? Let’s read what’s written in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, verse 31 in the New International Reader’s Version.
Those who use the things of the world should not become all wrapped up in them. The world as it now exists is passing away.
[1 Corinthians 7:31 New International Reader’s Version]
Brother Felmar: Using smartphones, computers and the internet is not evil in itself. In fact, they can help us when it comes to our services to God, in our livelihood or education, in our marriage and even in finding entertainment. But, how we use these technologies can become evil if we allow ourselves to get enwrapped in it that we cannot control our usage, and then the fulfillment of our responsibilities towards our marriage—and, above all, to God—suffers because of it. Thus, there should be self-control in how we use such technologies.
Quite ironic, wouldn’t you say, Myrtle, how the smartphone can be a cause of interference in the communication and relationship between husband and wife.
Myrtle: Absolutely, and I know that I’m guilty of it too, especially just doing research or I can get distracted by social media posts and scrolling through them.
Brother Felmar: Yes, I’m sure on some level, all of us you know, in one way or another we have similar experiences with this. The thing is though, like what we are learning from the Holy Scriptures, we should not allow ourselves to get enwrapped in it, right, to the point where, you know, at times other married couples could be in the same room together, but their heart and mind are miles away from each other. Well, this is definitely not what God has intended for married couples. As we heard from the Bible in our past episodes, in God’s design of marriage, husband and wife are to help each other; care for one another; pray together; love each other.
Now what’s another guideline from the Bible that should be remembered when using things of this world? Still here in the Book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 6 this time, verse 12 in the Easy-To-Read Bible:
“I am allowed to do anything,” you say. My answer to this is that not all things are good. Even if it is true that “I am allowed to do anything,” I will not let anything control me like a slave.
[1 Corinthians 6:12 Easy-To-Read Bible]
Brother Felmar: Apostle Paul said, “I will not let anything control me like a slave.” A slave follows whomever he recognizes as his master. So let us not allow things that lead to evil to master us or overtake us.
It would be evil in the sight of God for a husband or wife to neglect their spouse for any reason, including excessive use of the smartphone or other technologies. Did you notice what the Bible also said? “‘I am allowed to do anything,’ you say. My answer to this is that not all things are good’” is what we heard from the Bible. So although we ‘can’ do something (like texting, or playing games online, or putting up posts on social media) but we must be careful that in so doing, we are not compromising on what is good. Well, what is good? In the Book of Romans, chapter 7, verse 12 in the New King James Version, it explains:
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
[Romans 7:12 New King James Version]
Brother Felmar: It is God’s law or commandments which are good. That’s why as members of the Church Of Christ, the Church Administration leads us to always consider first what is good before we do something.
Therefore, while we can use our smartphones, the internet, our computers, however, we must not allow such things to cause harm to our relationship with our spouse— and above all our relationship with God.
So how can husband and wife make sure that we don’t go overboard with our usage of these technologies?
Look at what the Bible says here in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verse 1 in the Modern Language Bible:
“For everything, there is an appointed season and there is a proper time for every project under heaven.”
[Ecclesiastes 3:1 Modern Language Bible]
Brother Felmar: According to the Bible, everything has a proper time. So, from spending time on our smartphones to spending quality time with our spouse, these should also be put in their proper time. So, why not discuss these things with your spouse if you haven’t already? Why not plan things out together? Make a schedule and help each other develop good habits?
It was nice to hear how, Vic and Janelle, they message or text each other throughout the day, you know just to catch up. They mentioned how they send each other light-hearted messages, jokes, to lighten their mood throughout the day or even just to give each other a good laugh. Do you do the same, Myrtle, with your husband Paul?
Myrtle: We try to as well, do little check-ins with each other, even if it’s something as simple as asking each other, “what’s for dinner tonight?”
Brother Felmar: Yes, yes, very nice. For me and my wife, one example we can share is, when either of us is out on the road, we make sure to message each other just to make sure we got to our destination safely.
Another example, like Janelle mentioned, it’s her personal preference right. She finds it easier for herself to convey what she’s really thinking, you know especially through a stressed or emotional situation. She finds it easier to gather her thoughts and then to send that to her husband, you know, just to make sure that she doesn’t say something verbally that she doesn’t mean.
So, these are examples or instances when using our smartphone becomes beneficial to the relationship. On the other hand, what do other married couples do to refrain from going overboard? They schedule their quality time together and come to the agreement that during those moments, they give their 100% or undivided attention to each other, which means putting away the gadgets, the smartphones and what-have-you.
In the Church Of Christ, we make it a point to hold what’s called the Family Hour on a regular basis, right. Family Hour is not just for the purpose of spending time together. We also receive timely reminders, and we pray together, and we meditate on, we’re grateful for and we celebrate together the blessings we receive from the Lord God.
In summary, we learned from the Bible today that: (1) we should put everything in its proper time, (2) we should always consider and prioritize what is good, which are God’s commandments, and (3) we should have self-control; stopping ourselves when something is already leading us to do evil or to do wrong.
To the newlyweds, it is our hope and prayer that the Bible-based guidelines you learned about today will help you maintain balance in your life and harmony in your marriage.
Myrtle: Brother Felmar, we appreciate once again the spiritual and biblical advice that you were able to share, because it definitely benefits all of us.
Brother Felmar: Yes, praises be to the Lord God. Grateful to be here again on Happy Life. May everyone continue to stay safe. One in prayers and God bless to us all.
Myrtle: Alright, back to our newlyweds, Janelle and Vic. Do you devote time to pray about your marriage, and what do you request from God in terms of maybe being able to improve on your communication?
Vic: Yeah, we pray every morning, every night. We even have a devotional prayer together specifically for our marriage and our family. And we also have our own separate devotional prayers by ourselves throughout the day—that we plan everything together, our future, and set our goals.
Myrtle: And how do you feel about when issues are unavoidable? How do you put your faith in God when you do hit rough patches? What are things that you ask from God then?
Vic: Just His guidance, you know. We always pray for peace and like happiness in our life, to always put Him first. And, you know, when you do that, you have the confidence that everything will be okay. And we’re 100% on the same page with that, so when we hit a rough patch, we’re always actually saved by prayer. My alarm would go off for the prayer and we’ve had time to breathe. We kind of just come to and fall back together again in prayer. And of course everything will come out, everything that’s been held in.
Myrtle: Janellle, do you want to add to any of that?
Janelle: Definitely. So, when we pray and we trust in God, especially for me, I mentioned I love planning things, I love planning ahead. But we know it’s not up to us, you know. Everything is God’s will and so we really have to trust that whatever happens, it’s up to God and that He’s going to take care of everything. And we’ve seen it so many times throughout our relationship that there are just things that didn’t happen our way, but when we prayed about it and trusted God, we were like, “wow, this was…”
Vic: Way better than what we were expecting.
Janelle: Yeah. A lot better. So it really reinforced our faith and our trust even more, and we know that prayer and how we live our lives as Christians is really the way to do it. It’s really the way to have a healthy marriage.
Myrtle: Trusting God is really so very important. In fact, we’ll learn more about this in our next episode when we talk to a couple who got married during the pandemic. Hopefully you’re as excited as I am to hear about their journey to their big day. For today, thank you so much to Vic and Janelle for being so candid in our topic of discussion!
Janelle & Vic: Thank you
Vic: Thanks for having us. Really, really cool. This was pretty fun.
Myrtle: We hope we all learned how to be present for our spouse in all aspects of marriage, and we hope we are all inspired to put the phones down when needed. And with that, we’ve wrapped up our series on Effective Communication in Marriage. We truly hope these episodes were able to bring some insight into different challenges with communication between married couples and provide helpful and inspirational biblical advice.
That’s all we have for today! Please remember to share our podcast with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know! To learn more about Christian relationships please visit incmedia.org. And if you’d like to say hi or send us a question, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Happy Life.
Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today, and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.