Your wife told me to write that. At least some of your wives.
Yes, this blog is primarily for wives, but today’s post is aimed at the husbands. Specifically, those husbands who are spending time with screens—phone, TV, tablet, computer, gaming systems—when they could be enjoying romance, intimacy, and sex.
Instead, I’m talking about screen activities that are perfectly fine when used in moderation. It could be social media, video games, reading posts and commenting (yes, I see the irony), or online news—and all of those things are just fine. Except when they get in the way of something better: the intimacy in your marriage.
How much time do you really spend on screens?
Most people underestimate their screen time.
For example, in a recent study of 2,000 baby boomers and millennials—as usual, skipping us Gen Xers, but oh well, whatever, never mind—researchers concluded the average American spends 5.4 hours per day on their smartphone. Yet, 82% of respondents thought their personal screen time was below the national average.
Yet the average viewing time on Netflix is 71 minutes per day. Men spend an average of 96 minutes per day on video games, though “gamers” spend quite a bit more and also tend to watch videos of other gamers to improve their skills.
Do you really know how much time you spend on screens?
I wouldn’t know how to answer for myself, especially since my job has me on a screen for most of my day, and my flexible work schedule means I can be off-the-clock one moment and working the next. But I bet my answer would be less than the actual amount.
You know who might answer more objectively for all of us? Our spouses.
If your wife has said your screen time is excessive, it may be time to do an honest evaluation of where your focus is throughout the day or week.If your wife has said your screen time is excessive, it may be time to do an honest evaluation of where your focus is throughout the day or week. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
How much time do you spend with your wife?
Statistics on how much time couples spend together was oddly more difficult to find. However, the UK’s Office for National Statistics suggested an average of 2½ hours per day, and a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2015 found that couples were exclusively together for about 2 hours on weekdays and 3 hours on weekends. Since those match up pretty well, I suspect 2½ hours is a good estimate for couples generally.
However, what’s interesting is the difference in how men and women view time spent together. Note this observation from researchers: “Women report spending about 20 minutes less per day with their husbands than men report spending with their wives, even when diaries show agreement between husbands’ and wives’ activities…. This implies different interpretations of what counts as shared time as opposed to differences in actual time spent together. Evidence shows that husbands would like to have more time with their wives, but women would like more quality time with their husbands rather than simply more time together.”
In practice, this means that if she’s sitting next to you on the couch while you’re on the screen, you may think that counts. But for her, it doesn’t. Your attention is elsewhere, so it doesn’t feel like time spent with her.
But honestly, if your wife told me to write this to you, you’re likely not even spending two hours a day with her. Why not? Didn’t you get married to spend time with this awesome woman who loves you and wants you and shares a toilet with you? (Believe me, as a wife and mom of two boys, regularly sharing a toilet with a man is a sign of love.)
What does this have to do with your sex life?
Well, for starters it’s hard for your wife to have sex with you when you’re not there. Not surprisingly, there’s even research on that count, with a 2007 study of 6,029 couples showing that the less time couples spend together, the less sex they have.
But there are other potential problems as well:
She can’t compartmentalize like you. Plenty of men can shut down the smartphone or video game, switch their mind to thoughts of sex, and engage. Many wives, including higher drive wives, cannot flip the switch that fast. They need time together to ease into lovemaking. So not only could you be less willing, but she may be less willing too, because the build-up time isn’t there.
You’re getting dopamine with screens instead of her. An intriguing study reported that gamers experience fewer problems with premature ejaculation than non-gamers. Sounds great, right? Except “gamers reported lower levels of sexual satisfaction and … one explanation for lower rates of premature ejaculation could be due to gaming’s ability to alter the brain’s reward system. In other words, men who play a lot of video games may be lasting longer in bed because they just aren’t that into having sex.”
What you see on that screen can impact your view of sex. It doesn’t have to be porn for your screen to be showing you something that isn’t good for your sex life. Look up the most popular shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime and you’ll see that most of them are rated MA (mature audience), meaning they feature graphic violence, foul language, nudity, or some combination of the three. Video games feature voluptuous females built nothing like your average woman. Social media can connect you with ex-girlfriends or show you eye candy. Point being that the world sends us messages all the time about what women and sex should look like, and if husbands take large gulps of those messages, they can start expecting their wives or their sex life to look like the fictional version on the screen.
You may be too pooped to pop. Screen usage is not a sport, and yet physical fatigue is a real thing. From eye strain and resultant headaches, to body aches from sitting in a particular pose or hunching over a keyboard/joystick, to muscle tension and consequent exhaustion, you may be wearing yourself out while on your screen. So much so that a tumble in the sheets is a draw on your last reserves.
How do you know if you’re on screens too much?
The answer to that question can’t be as simple as: You’re on the screen too much if your wife tells you that you are. Because yeah, some wives have unreasonable expectations or make exaggerations. Just because she says you’re on too much doesn’t mean you are.
But it might. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Has your sexual frequency decreased as your screen-time has increased?
- Have you skipped or put off meals to stay on your screen?
- Do you sometimes or often come to bed too late to engage in sex with your (now sleeping) wife?
- Are you sometimes willing to have sex but feel “too pooped to pop”?
- Do you regularly respond to your wife’s bids for attention with “just let me finish this” as you gaze at a screen?
- Have you ever thought gaming or online activity was more enjoyable than sex?
- Not counting work obligations, how long could you go without screens? (Be honest.)
And the question I asked myself when my husband (many moons ago) was practically addicted to a computer game called Myst:
- If you died and your wife was asked to identify you, could she do so just looking at your face, or would she ask the coroner to flip you over because she would only recognize the back of your head?
Obviously, no one question—excepting that last one—means you’re definitely the problem. But think about it. Are you wittingly or unwittingly denying yourself and your spouse the pleasure and intimacy you should have because the draw of the screen is so difficult to ignore.
Well, don’t ignore your marriage anymore. Please, get off your screen and have sex with your wife. Like now. (Since you’re finished with my blog post anyway.)