Last month, my Gmail app stopped working. I couldn’t figure out what happened. I was getting junk email in my primary inbox, and important emails in my junk inbox. What’s worse, I had somehow gotten on a lot of spam lists, and my spam filter wasn’t working properly. So I was inundated with meaningless emails. In an effort to fix it, I deleted the app with the intention of reloading it.
Then I did something drastic (gasp): I decided not to re-install it.
It occurred to me how often I was checking my email on my phone (probably every few minutes for the entire day). If I didn’t have it immediately accessible, I thought, would it really be so bad? I would keep my work email app on my phone, so I could make sure I didn’t miss any of those (and those stop coming in, for the most part, after 5 p.m.). But did I really need to check my personal email all the time? When I was a kid, email didn’t even exist. You had to actually look up someone’s phone number in the directory and call them to get in touch, and we made it through the day okay.
Those first few days, I kept picking up my phone and realizing I had nothing to check. It became clear to me how much my phone had become a crutch. Then, gradually, the urge faded. If I needed my email when I was out, I could still access it through a web browser – but mainly, I just checked my email on my computer a few times a day. I don’t think I’ll ever look back.
Military families spend a lot of time apart – which means the time you have together is more valuable. But more and more, families are bringing their phones to the dinner tables, to the couch on movie night, and into bed at night. We are really facing an epidemic of email checking, and excessive phone use in general.
Military divorce rates are higher than the divorce rates of people in almost any other field. And I know how difficult it is, because it happened to me. And while I don’t think checking our email less would have changed the outcome, I do think that poor communication is often the number one reason for divorce. And you just can’t learn to communicate when you’re on your phone all the time.
Here’s my challenge to you: delete your personal email for a month. When you feel the urge to check it, text or jot down a note to your spouse or your kids instead. Put that small bit of attention into cultivating better relationships.
After I deleted my email, I liked the result so much that I also deleted most of my other apps. I only follow a handful of people on Instagram. My apps on my phone take up only one screen, which means that I really have nowhere to “run” to when my mind gets bored or stressed. I have to face things head on. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.
Here’s another tip: Try hand-writing a letter to your deployed spouse instead of sending an email. Yes, it will take forever to get there, but there’s something beautiful about having a keepsake like that, that you can look back on together years from now.
It’s the small things that break families apart, and it’s also the small things that keep families together. If you start taking small steps toward better communication, it will add up to big rewards in the long run.
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- Ways to celebrate the Month of the Military Child
- 5 novels to read before the summer is over