The Couple That Clicks Together Sticks Together
"And if you think you're too busy to Twi --"
"And if you th --"
As Rob typed, the words disappeared in front of his eyes. He tried to continue his blog post, only to see the sentence disappear once more. Finally another message appeared:
"Come to bed!"
From downstairs in our bedroom, I'd taken over the screen on my husband's laptop. His amusement at my technical prowess in messing with him outweighed—marginally—his annoyance. He closed his computer and joined me in our bedroom.
It's rare for our marriage to go a day offline. The Internet is our shared playground, shared passion and shared livelihood. But what matters to our relationship is not that we both love the Web: It's that we both use the Web to enjoy what we have in common.
Tomorrow marks our 10th wedding anniversary, a major milestone. We've not only outlasted my own parents' marriage (eight years), we've outlasted CD-ROMS, dial-up modems and floppy drives. And while I like to think we'd have made it to the big 10 with or without a high-speed Internet connection, the Web has definitely played a major role in finding and stoking the shared joys that sustain our relationship.
Here's how the Web can nourish your relationship
Before we had kids or blogs, we had Sisko, our black lab—Rob described him as the snooze button on our biological clocks. Our obsession with Sisko was the subject of great amusement and mockery among our friends, not least because we trained him with Star Trek-themed commands. The Web gave us a place to indulge our shared obsession without (audible) derision: We posted online photos from every dog walk, and when Sisko's ear was torn by a pit bull, we created an online monument to "Siskogh," illustrated with photos we manipulated to look like the famous Van Gogh self-portrait. Whether your creative passions are sparked by dogs, doughnuts or Degas, a shared online project is a terrific way of developing or deepening a creative connection to your sweetie.
Find New Interests
Some couples are shaken by the divorce of close friends or the disappearance of their favorite restaurant. Our world was rocked by the cancellation of the last Star Trek series. After a few months of groping for new topics of conversation, I happened across an online announcement for a new pottery studio in our neighborhood. We popped by to check it out, and within a matter of weeks our Star Trek conversations were replaced by discussions of throwing and glazing techniques. Use the Web to search your community's events calendar and try at least one new activity together each month.
You may think of a Wii gaming system as the dream birthday gift for a 13-year-old boy, but it was also the dream gift for this 37-year-old girl. Rob got me a Wii for my birthday so I could play Dance Dance Revolution, a game I'd loved during a few arcade visits over the years. Much to my surprise and delight, he took to DDR too. Instead of sitting on the sofa with our separate computers, we spent that summer's evenings on our feet, dancing our guts out. The playfulness and physical energy of our dance nights were great for our connection, our health and our passion.
3 more ways the Web can nourish your relationship
When I go to a party with Rob, we tend to go in separate directions and talk with different people. The high point of the evening is always when I wander over to his elbow and intrude on his conversation—seeing the way he connects with, listens to and amuses other people gives me fresh eyes on the qualities I love about him and makes me happier and prouder than ever. The same thing happens when I drop in on his Facebook page or Twitter feed—there he is, entertaining people with his latest quip, offering a word of support to a great cause or cramming a wise and poignant note into 140 characters. Tracking your sweetie's blog, photos or Facebook page is a great way to keep him in your heart and enjoy that renewed appreciation for his wonderful qualities.
Build a Community of Supporters
It takes a village to sustain a marriage as surely as it takes a village to raise a kid. When you know folks are rooting for you, it helps you get through the inevitable hard times and gives you a community to share and amplify your joys. Your online community can be a great, encouraging fan section, especially if kids or work keep you from getting out much as a couple. Rob and I tweet back and forth so frequently that we get lots of affirmation: "It's hard to think of a cuter Twitter couple than @robcottingham and @awsamuel," one person tweeted recently. "Even though I don't know either of them!"
Agree on Limits
When Rob had surgery to fix his double hernias, I was in the recovery room as he woke from his anesthetic. We checked out his incisions together, and he suggested I snap some pictures with my iPhone. "Want me to tweet the photo?" I asked, and he nodded. A few weeks later, a friend commented on the gory snaps, much to Rob's surprise. The anesthetic hadn't fully worn off by the time of our shoot, apparently, and Rob had no memory of the tweeting. In some relationships, tweeting bedside photos would be a major violation; in ours, it was a cause for amusement. Agree on clear boundaries for what can go online and what needs to stay private, or at least offline.
Whether you're looking at your 10th wedding anniversary in the rear-view mirror, or wondering if that guy you just started dating could be the one you'll be with 10 years from now, the Web can help nourish your relationship. Love isn't easy, but the Internet can make it a little easier.
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Alexandra Samuel, PhD, is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the principal of Social Signal, a social media agency that has launched more than 30 online communities. The mother of two young kids, Samuel blogs about how to make technology a meaningful part of your life, work and world. Follow her on Twitter @awsamuel.