Sacred Spaces with Each Other l January/February 2014
“The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.”*
Machines that seem to care? Psychologist Sherry Turkle is referring to robots designed to function as companions. But she might as well be referring to Facebook and email and text messaging — all the ways we experience ourselves, via our devices, as the target of other people’s interest. The ding announces an email received and our heart speeds up: someone cares, someone is interested. Ditto when the sweet chime announces a text message, or new entries appear on our Facebook page.
So much “traffic” seeking us out in our online world and yet many of us go through our days with a sense that “no one is listening.” Not even our spouse. Especially our spouse.
We must create sacred spaces in our partnerships, device-free zones where pings or whistles can’t interrupt, stealing our attention from one another. “Sacred” because it’s time — when we use it well — that can nourish heart and soul in ways online connection rarely can. Device-free zones make room for real contact, including voice tone and facial expression, pauses and gasps and sighs … everything that’s missing when we’re online. We need the entire complex mix to really know each other; emotional connection requires that.
Consider creating these sacred (device-free) spaces:
- Car rides. When it’s just the two of you staring straight ahead (rather than the more vulnerable face-to-face), get nosy, pry a little, inquire about one another’s day, or be so bold as to say, “How’s your life lately?” Take a chance; stretch farther than usual.
- Before bed. Establish, say, a half-hour before shut-eye for quiet conversation and sensitive listening. For listening tips, read The 5:1 Ratio and substitute “partner” in place of “child.” Whether conversing with our kids or our spouse, good listening skills aren’t that different.
- Mealtimes, whether at home or in a restaurant. If you’re a partnership of two, protect it: let the invisible others somewhere in cyberspace wait until dessert’s done.
Our devices make it easier than ever to avoid the “work” of real connection with the person we claim to hold in our top spot. That’s why many of us feel lonely even though we’re together. So establish sacred spaces and let your partner know you’re listening.
*Turkle, Sherry. 2012 TED talk. http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html