A friend of mine just told me about this wildly useful exercise she did in couples therapy:
They sat facing each other and closed their eyes (which signified ‘me’ time). Whenever each of them felt like opening their eyes (which signified that they felt like connecting with their partner), they did and said, ‘hello!’
Sometimes their partner also had their eyes open, sometimes not. Sometimes while they had their eyes open, their partner opened their eyes and they connected. Sometimes their partner never opened their eyes, and when they were ready to go ‘back inside’ they said, ‘goodbye’ and closed their eyes once again. Rinse, repeat.
I found the explanation of this exercise to be a poignant metaphor, not only for how we interact with our partners, family and friends, but for how we ‘live’ on the internet.
The purpose of this exercise is to let couples see that you can’t possibly always be connected, that you are, in fact, individuals with needs, desires and personalities that simply don’t jibe with each other all the time.
This reality is oftentimes extremely difficult for people in relationship to understand (and what makes relationships so challenging). We want connection when we want it and we don’t want it when we don’t want it. In other words, we want their needs met on our terms, when someone else’s terms have to be considered, it’s quite, um, inconvenient. Shocker: it takes work, collaboration and compromise.
The internet and social media have us participating in this ‘hello, goodbye’ game every time we log on. We say hello and goodbye at will and so does everyone else – we have no choice but to accept this. Sometimes we connect with people at the same time, sometimes we don’t – and there’s a delay between responses. Just like in relationship, if we absolutely require connection, we can set up a meeting where both parties agree to be present.
But, we’re okay with this scenario online. Why?
The view is often expressed that our computer and mobile device screens provide a buffer that allows us to say things we might not normally say to someone’s face. SO, are the screens also allowing us to ‘deal with ourselves’ in a positively abnormal way too? (Or is it that we’re not married to the people in our online communities? Those of you that do communicate online with your partners will have to let me know about that one.)
Are we doing our internet relationships better? Or am I about to get pounded by my readers for comparing the virtual vs. the live relationship? I can see it going both ways.
Weigh in…I know you’re all going to have some strong opinions here.