gadgetsIn countless therapy sessions, I find couples arguing about how much time either spends texting, on the computer or watching TV instead of relating to each other. Far too often, teenagers and parents allow technology to take time away from face-to-face interaction with family and friends.

It’s too easy to fall into the tired trap of checking email and texts, surfing the net and passively watching TV. Boredom from a lack of personal interaction may motivate the use of technology and inspire buying things–gadgets, video games and the latest cellphone–rather than prioritizing fun together.

Playing board games is far more conducive to laughter and fun than the solitary and passive use of technology as an escape from boredom. Facebook and other social media escapes have nearly replaced real life living. Fantasy has become confused with reality. Facebook “friends” are not the same as having real friends in real time.

Similarly, porn and chat rooms are a poor substitute for in-the-flesh sex. The answer is to substitute active relationships for passive consumption of mostly superficial stimuli like brain-dead TV shows and most porn (which lacks a script to make it erotic). I would get all TVs and computers out of the bedroom, so there is an oasis from technological interruptions of face-to-face pleasures. Meals should not be combined with talking and texting on a cell phone. Work and personal calls should usually be put on hold.

Once these adjustments are made, most couples do better. They are more excited with each other. They laugh and enjoy simple pleasures and dates. They shut off their phones to enjoy inspiring conversations about their feelings and what’s going on in the world. They cease to allow phone calls to interfere with lovemaking.

Once we focus on each other rather than buying and using things, we have a shot at improving intimate feelings and experiences. Spending productive time together is what many couples miss. They often yearn for the way they used to be—going to comedy clubs, playing tennis, hiking or riding bikes—instead of texting and other dead-ends to merely talking about living rather than really living. There is no reason they cannot return to what brought them happiness.

An unbalanced emphasis on money, materialism and technology does not make most of us happy. Living in the future planning something is not the same as doing something alone or together. Living in the present makes us happier. Many fail to question what they do with their time, partially because their friends expect them to do what they do. These are bad habits—habits that can and should be changed.

We have choices! Many do not see that they have choices. They think, “this is the way life is,” and they recoil into their boring lives of pushing buttons rather than using their imagination to spontaneously relish all of their senses doing whatever brings them meaning and inspiring pleasures.

Every day should be a new adventure. Instead, robotic couples tend to do the same things in the same ways without questioning what makes them bored to begin with. When couples get away to a cabin by a river in the woods where there is no cell phone reception, TV or computer, they rediscover each other in an uninterrupted and delightful way!

Getting away should force us to reconsider what we do at home. We can turn off technology at home too. To do this, work and others’ expectations cannot run—and ruin—our lives. Workaholics rarely make good partners! They are married to their work more than to their partner. When most look back at their lives at age 70 or 80, they wish they had chosen to play more and work less.

Living our lives out of routinized obligation and duty does not make us happy. Living our lives out of sheer desire and passion is a far more balanced formula for joyful thoughts, feelings and experiences. It’s not selfish to follow our desires. It’s healthy to get out of the maze of boring duties to roll in the grass and laugh with each other!