Are you married to your smartphone? Or Is your smartphone coming between you and your spouse?
We’ve all seen it. A couple is out on a dinner date, and there is no conversation happening.
They are sitting across from each other, but both of them are looking down at the little screen on their smartphones. The only time they lookup is to address the waiter.
In this scenario, there is a mutual agreement to ignore one another. When it is only one member of the partnership who keeps a nose buried in the phone, the experience is much different.
As with any relationship dysfunction, the problem arises when both parties are not on the same page.
When one desires intimate connection, and the other is desiring to continually search the internet, play on an app, or update social media, the relationship suffers.
Recognizing the problem
Over 4.3 billion people are using the internet on a regular basis, and more than 63% of them are doing it from their phones.
The concern of internet overuse has become so rampant, that classification for addiction to it has been considered for addition to the official diagnostic manual for a mental disorder.
It is estimated that around 420 million users are addicted to the experience of being online.
These statistics are interesting, but they don’t speak to the personal experience of someone who has lost his or her partner to technology. Feeling abandoned by a partner who is sitting right next to you is painful.
The situation is so common that the term “Game Widow” has been created to describe the loss which is felt by a partner who is neglected in favor of satisfying a need for playing a video game.
The term “SmartPhone Widow” can be utilized to include those who have a partner who is continually on the phone.
What all addictions have in common is the tendency to substitute the addictive behavior for activities that were previously considered important.
The situation of addiction to the phone and the corresponding neglect of the relationship is compounded by the fact that many relationships already suffer from a decline in the quality of connection over time.
The initial task will be to decipher how are smartphones destroying your marriage?
You need to find out whether it is the phone addiction, or lack interest in the relationship, which is at the root of the problem.
Addressing the Issue
Once you have established the ways smartphones can harm your relationship, the formula for any good relationship includes the ability to speak honestly with one another.
Unless we are skilled in communication techniques, this honesty can end up causing a greater rift than the one we are trying to fix.
When initiating a discussion about your partner’s excessive smartphone usage, keep the following communication guidelines in mind.
One of the fastest kill switches for communication is to focus on the shortcomings of the partner. When we use the word “you” during our expressions of discontent, the other person can feel attacked.
When a person feels attacked, the natural response is to become defensive. Offenses and defenses prevent progress in coming to mutual understandings.
While communicating how you feel about your partner’s smartphone behaviors, phrase your feelings and thoughts utilizing the word “I.”
2. Offer solutions
Another progress blocker is the tendency to only focus on the problem. A person who is being barraged with a list of things that are wrong can become overwhelmed and frustrated.
Frustration is a precursor to shutting off any further consideration of the issue. When bringing up the issue, follow your descriptions of the problem with suggestions for fixing it.
Mentioning your partner’s tendency to be on the phone during family dinners can be followed up with suggestions that the phone can be off-limits during meals.
Be prepared for your partner to offer alternative suggestions, as well.
3. The art of compromise
If there is the spark of mutual respect and compassion within your relationship, the best approach to the problem is usually that of compromise.
With compromise, the needs and desires of both parties are met, just to a lesser degree. Your partner can have his or her coveted technology time, and you can have your necessary bonding time.
Compromise is a highly customizable structure, and how you go about it will depend on what you and your partner find acceptable.
The exercise of working out a solution can even bring a couple closer together, through the satisfying experience of teamwork.
If you and your partner are in need of some coaching tips toward forming an effective compromise, consider arranging some appointments with a therapist who specializes in couples therapy.
What you don’t want to do is resort to ultimatums. The outcome of these types of demands rarely turns out well.
The partner who is subject to such restrictions is likely to develop resentment, and the initiator of the ultimatum won’t ever be sure that the restricted partner is genuinely devoted to the changes.
The initiation of ultimatums is a setup for further decline of the relationship.
Finding solo support
The thought of doing anything solo while in a partnership may not be the best option, but it can end up being the only option.
It could be the case that your partner’s absorption in the smartphone is not something that he or she is willing to give up.
It may also be the case that the behavior is not something you can abide by. If you and your partner are not able to find a workable solution, it may be time to seek some independence.
Consider joining a support group, getting some individual therapy, or even taking a break from the relationship.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.