Saturday, October 16, 2010

Relational Tyranny

I think much of the new technology is marvelous – cell phones, text messages, gps, and so much more. But I am convinced that all technological advances must be examined and evaluated for the impact it will have on our lives. The goal, of course, is to add value to our lives – to facilitate positive changes and/or free us up from negative ones.

What I have seen increasingly in people’s lives, and particularly in couples’s relationships is a kind of soft tyranny. Tyranny can be defined as: a rigorous condition imposed by some outside force.

It is easy to recognize the condition as negative when imposed by an employer or parent or some other authority – as in having to be available 24/7 for the convenience of a boss or manager. But how about when it is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend that holds that expectation of anytime availability?

I have seen this kind of pressure being placed on relationships with the inevitable negative results. This is a scenario I have seen more than a few times:

One person texts or calls another with the expectation of an immediate response even though there is no emergency or need for a timely reply. When a response does not come, the initiator becomes angry or offended. As difficult as this might be for some to hear – this is an unreasonable expectation to hold, and a relationship killer.

And this expectation is held even during working hours. 

Statistics show that it takes the average person about 15 minutes to fully get back on track with a task after an interruption. Employers and managers are cautioned to hold interruptions to a minimum for optimum performance -- and we should heed the same advice. 

What I think is most destructive to a relationship is the stress that is imposed on both parties, particularly when there is the aforementioned slow response or inability to answer. For the initiator, the result could be feelings of insecurity – and for the responder feelings of being controlled (or concerned that their partner is too needy).

As I think back over our almost forty years of marriage I can count on one hand the times we have made contact more than once a day during working hours when we were both working separate jobs. Sometimes we would not make contact during the entire week. I think that is probably the result of two things. We are emotionally secure in our relationship and we both have respect for each other’s work-life and need for autonomy.

One exception I see is this: When there has been a break in trust – as in an affair or condition of chronic lying – it may be necessary to be available in order rebuild the ruptured relationship.

I would suggest that all couples/friends make this a topic of discussion to head off relational troubles.  

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