The last week of April (April 29 – May 5 this year) is being celebrated nationally as screen-free week I which people are encourages to turn off the TV and other screens at home. This is being sponsored as a healthy choice for parents to make for their children, but the truth is going screen free for even one week may be the healthiest choice you can make for your relationship and your sex life.
Some of the most common cases I see in my couple’s therapy practice are couples coming in who have a stable agreeable relationship but for whom sex has faded into the deep background. They talk about how sex has become boring or routine, or that sex happens so rarely now it has become awkward. They often can remember the last time they did something new together, sexually or otherwise, and may feel that their relationship and themselves as individuals have lost their juiciness. One of the questions I always want to explore with these couples is, “What are you doing with your free time (however minimal) besides having sex or connecting with each other?” And what I usually hear in response involves watching hours of TV or logging in to Facebook or playing video games or online shopping…you get the idea, it has to do with sitting in front of a screen.
Screens are one of the biggest distractions we have and they are nearly always available. The truth is at the end of a tiring day, it is a lot easier to sit down and veg out in front of the TV or Pinterest. It is sometimes easier to check posts on Facebook than to have a real conversation with someone live and in person. And it is easier to find some porn where you can fast forward to the parts you know you like than to negotiate a sexual experience with another person. But what is easier in the moment, does not necessarily make us happier. The craving for genuine connection is still there and there is nothing lonelier than feeling isolated while in a room with people you love.
Going screen-free for one week can allow you to refocus on your partner and the kinds of interactions you want to have. Not being able to fall back into the comfortable patterns that fill our time requires us to be more creative. Taking away the distractions of screens asks us to get to know each other again by filling the time with conversation, doing things together, and maybe leisurely, not rushed sexual play. Think about this, when you were first dating you probably didn’t connect by staring at screens together. When you got to spend time together you probably wanted to focus on each other. Going screen-free teaches us how to do that again.
Instead of turning on the TV at the end of the day or after the kids have gone to bed, take that time to shower together, put on some music, close the bedroom door (or if you don’t have kids close the curtains) and turn your eyes towards each other. Now that you have a bit more space in your evening, don’t automatically start doing what you always do sexually. Instead, take a deep breath. Let yourself get curious about what might feel fun. Really look at your partner as though you haven’t seen them in awhile. How would you touch them if this was new? If there is no rush to get to orgasm or to “finish”, what do you want to do? You may be surprised by what a turn on truly undivided attention can be.
At first it may feel challenging to go without the seductive diversion of onscreen entertainment. You will need to think more creatively about your free time. There may be awkward silences and frustrating moments but, most likely, you will get past them and find some new ways to enjoy your evenings. Your partner may seem infinitely more interesting when you are exchanging more than a few sentences during commercial breaks. If this screen-free experiment causes you to feel like you have little in common with your partner and you can’t think of anything you want to do together, than it may be time to explore some ways to reconnect or repair your relationship. Likewise, if you find spending extended sexual time together just feels stressful or completely boring, than sex therapy is a good next step to see if you can rebuild a fun sex life together. Celebrating screen-free week may be just the jumpstart your relationship and sex life needs. Try it for one week, you may find you want to incorporate a screen-free night one night a week from now on.
Get more inspiration from Melissa's blog, Conscious Sexual Self.