Q: How can I guard against the danger of online social networking taking up too much of my time and negatively impacting my marriage? When my wife and I first started using sites like Facebook, we thought they were a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. Now they're beginning to dominate our lives. Any advice?
Jim: There's a fairly simple, common-sense solution to your dilemma: You need to take control. One way to do this is to draw up a household "mission statement" to govern your use of social media. I suggest you begin by asking yourself some basic questions: "Why do I want to be involved with social media? What am I hoping to accomplish by way of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?"
Sit down and hash these questions out with your spouse. Write down your answers in the plainest possible terms. For example: "My goal is to use Facebook to stay in touch with Mom and Dad, my sister Jan, cousin Frank, and Bob and Jean." Then post those guidelines on your refrigerator and make up your minds to stick with them. If you get "friend" requests from people outside this circle, feel free to ignore them.
Another way to limit the amount of time you're spending with social media is to cut down the number of devices you're using to access your account. You can also give yourself permission to leave behind your handheld devices while you're out doing more important things -- for example, enjoying a dinner date with your spouse. Some families have even found it helpful to have a "Sabbath Box," where phones and iPads can be laid aside voluntarily as a way of disconnecting for a while.
You can probably come up with additional strategies of your own. Remember, you are in the driver's seat.
Q: My spouse and I have been married only a couple of years, and already I sense that the original "shimmer" of our romance is beginning to fade. Is something wrong with us? Are we "falling out of love"?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Maintaining the emotional excitement of romance can be difficult once the day-to-day reality of married life sets in. The good news is that you can still have a healthy, vibrant marriage, even when routine "stuff" begins to take over.
How does it work? Simple. You just have to lay hold of the fundamental anchor points of daily existence and turn them into meaningful relational moments. Here are a few suggestions:
-- Waking Up. Instead of saying, "Good morning," try turning to your spouse first thing and whispering something like, "I love you, and I'm glad to be waking with you by my side."
-- Leaving the house. When it's time to go, kiss your spouse goodbye -- and kiss like you really mean it!
-- Checking in. How do you stay in touch during the day? A judicious use of social media can go a long way toward maintaining and strengthening the ties that bind.
-- Coming home. When you come back together at the end of the day, try kissing and hugging and saying, "How was your day?" You'll be surprised what a difference it makes.
-- Mealtimes. Mealtimes are ideal times for reconnecting and celebrating your shared identity as a couple.
-- Bedtime. The end of the day, like the beginning, is a universal anchor point. It's a time when you can clean the slate and express gratitude and appreciation with a goodnight kiss.
Obviously, this isn't rocket science. Neither is it about "doing more" or "doing things right." It's purely a matter of blooming where you're planted.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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