We were seven years into our marriage when we started struggling. We’d drifted away from each other. Our kids were little and needed me, and he was busy running his own business. There were times it felt like we were two strangers co-existing.
Anyone who has gotten divorced knows this kind of situation builds slowly. You don’t go from being madly in love to questioning whether you still want to be married to your spouse overnight. For us, that happened over a series of small things. And looking back, I know what a huge part of the problem was: our phones.
We used our phones to escape when one of us felt discouraged and unheard. That looked like texting a friend or getting distracted on social media. My ex also had a stage where he was constantly playing some game instead of coming to bed with me like he always had.
I wasn’t any better, though. I’d get lost in Pinterest, thinking a new recipe or craft would remove the void I felt. I was spending more time interacting on social media than I did with him. We’d both take a phone call or answer a text or glance down at social media notifications while talking to each other.
I’m not talking about occasional interruptions. I’m talking about using our phones as an emotional bandaid and an escape hatch. It was easier to turn to the rectangle than to mention I was upset that he’d forgotten to take out the trash or pick something up from the grocery store like I’d asked him. He stopped asking me if our sex life would ever get back on track. He stopped planning date nights, doing romantic things, and pursuing me.
Instead of communicating, we went straight to our phones.
We brought them to bed. We had them out if we went to dinner. In the evening, after the kids had gone to bed and there was plenty of time and space for us to talk and spend quality time together, we chose our phones.
Hearing from ex-boyfriends and girlfriends via Facebook or Instagram didn’t help our situation. We were both honest about the (very few) messages we got from our exes (they seemed to struggle in their marriages, too, or they’d gotten divorced), but I think it left us both wondering if there was someone better suited for us. And if I said it didn’t make old feelings resurface when my ex-boyfriend from college sent me a message, I’d be lying.
I don’t blame technology for our troubled marriage. We were two consenting adults who made a choice. But sometimes I wonder: What if we tried to address more issues instead of escaping them while lying beside each other in bed? Because even when we tried to work things out — and we did, for six years — I feel like we weren’t as thorough as we could have been. Because we were so used to getting that dopamine hit every hour our phones became our way of coping.
Maybe things would have ended the same way, and I’m looking at things through rose-colored glasses because I’ve had lots of time and space to reflect. But honestly, I’ll always wonder: Could my marriage have been saved if we just put our phones away?
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.