NPR featured a story the other day about technology and marriage — specifically, the challenges of intimacy and companionship when there’s an iPhone in the room (or Blackberry at the dinner table, or laptop in bed).
A typical scenario plays out in the South Florida home of Carolyn and Sorin Popescu. With dinner over and the dishes done, the couple might settle in to watch TV. It could be a cozy time to reconnect at the end of the day. That is, if Sorin didn’t have to manage work e-mails on his iPhone — again.
“I would make a reference to something on the TV,” says Carolyn, “and he’d say ‘Huh, what? Oh that’s funny, yeah,’ and put his head back down and keep typing. So, you miss a little bit of closeness that way.”
Sorin can’t avoid working evenings — he manages staff in time zones around the world. Still, the couple have had spats over his iPhone use, including one heated beachfront argument when Carolyn threatened to rip the device out of his hands and throw it into the water.
We’ve experienced our own spats along these lines — like the time Ben moved the microwave to his nightstand.
“What are you doing?” Erin asked.
“Heating up nachos,” Ben said as he crawled into bed. The timer went off and Ben pulled out a hot plate of cheesy goodness. “You want one?”
“No, I brushed my teeth,” Erin said. “Aren’t you concerned about sleeping with that thing twelve inches from your head?”
“Drust me,” Ben said, cheese stringing from his mouth, “dis is wordth it.”
Matters got stickier the following night when Ben and Erin were sitting up in bed using their respective handheld electronic devices. Ben’s beeped.
“Why did you just send me a text asking if I brushed my teeth with dog crap?” he said.
“Because your breath smells like dog crap.”
“No, I mean — I’m sitting right here. You could have told me.”
“I chose not to do so for obvious reasons, namely that I didn’t feel like smelling dog crap breath.”
“Not only is this hurting my feelings,” Ben replied, “but it’s ruining a perfectly good Hot Pocket.”
The following night, Erin returned from brushing her teeth to find Ben sitting up in bed, arms folded, looking pouty.
“Are we out of nachos or something?”
Ben shook his head.
“Oh, we ran out of dog crap toothpaste?”
Ben shook his head.
“Oh, oh, I know. Trader Joe’s stopped selling those microwavable beef taquitos you like so much! I’m really sorry, honey. Life’s just so unfair sometimes.”
“That’s not why I’m pouting.”
“Oh it isn’t? Then what else could it be?”
“Maybe that you tweeted that I’m having back hair removal surgery next week.”
“Honey, why are we doing this? It’s like we don’t even talk anymore. I guess it was a mistake to move the microwave into the bedroom, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was. And I’m sorry if I’ve behaved a little passive-aggressively the past few days, it’s just that I think technology has contributed to some tension in our holy matrimony.”
“So we need to set boundaries?”
“Yes, I think we do.”
“Do you want the microwave on your nightstand?”
“NO I DO NOT want the microwave on my nightstand. I want it in the kitchen. Where it belongs.”
“Well. Okay. If it’s tearing this marriage apart, then I can do it. I’ll move it down there tomorrow.”
“I’d like it moved tonight, thank you.”
“But my Hungry-Man Mexican Style Fajitas! They’ll be done in twelve seconds.”
“I will take a sledgehammer to that microwave if you choose Hungry-Man fajitas over your spouse.”
“All right, all right! I’m moving it now. You can be such a Luddite sometimes.”
“I love you too.”