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Advocating For The Personal Touch


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Dear Dr. Respler:

While my husband and I have always had a good marriage, his relationship with his iPhone is adversely affecting ours.

We always had a rule: we did not answer phones during our limited time together. But because my husband needs his iPhone for work, he has introduced it into our dinner and post-dinnertime. At first he would only check for something important from work, but now it seems like he is constantly using his iPhone during our time together. It has become a near obsession on his part. He texts, checks e-mails and plays games every time I turn around. This is causing much friction in our relationship.

He says he cannot leave his iPhone in a different room because he needs it for work emergencies, but the lure of having it with him – and using it incessantly – is too strong for him to ignore. Both of us know that this is a problem – and now our young children are well aware of it as well. They are always asking, “Abba, can I talk to you without your phone?”

My husband, a social person, sometimes chats on his iPhone at the dinner table when we should be speaking with each other. Many friends tell us that they too are attached to their phones, leading to friction with their spouses.

Why are people so drawn to their phones? Can you offer some advice to help me deal with this issue?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

The iPhone and other new and innovative technologies have become an addiction for many people. The lure of the Internet and the ease with which one can access is a challenge for many adults and teenagers. .

In your case it seems that keeping the phone away from both the dinner table and private time is nearly impossible for your husband, but he will have to find a way to keep his phone addiction in check.

You need to express your feelings about this issue to your husband at a time when he is happy and calm, as opposed to when he is experiencing stress. You should have this discussion when the children are sleeping, so as to avoid inevitable interruptions. And relate your frustrations that his constant use of the iPhone is truly interfering in your marriage in a loving and calm manner.

In the conversation, say something like: “I know you need your phone for work and that you probably do not realize it, but I feel badly that you are often looking at your e-mails and texts instead of talking with me. I really enjoy spending time with you and I cherish the small amount of time we have together. It saddens me that you are constantly checking your e-mails and texts.” Do not speak in an accusatory way, in order to avoid defensiveness on your husband’s part.

The goal of the conversation is to arrive at a solution, leading to the two of you spending more quality time together. It is not for either of you to pin blame on the other. If your husband gets defensive, find a way to maneuver the conversation so that your husband feels loved and not criticized. This will take much strength on your part because it is easy to play the blame game and get sucked into an argument. If that were to happen, nothing will be solved and your relationship is likely to suffer. The key for success is to act confidently and loving during your heart-to-heart conversation.

As with other addictions, abstinence (in this case, keeping the phone away from the dinner table or out of sight during what should be private time) is ideal. But it seems that your husband cannot do this. Thus, your husband needs to learn to use his phone in moderation, which is very difficult to do.

He needs to have a different ring for his work number in order to be able to ignore all other incoming calls and message alerts. This will give him the opportunity to only speak on the phone or retrieve texts when it is absolutely necessary to do so. Leaving his phone in another room will also decrease the noise level in the place where the specific activity is occurring. (Keep in mind that if his office is constantly calling, you will be faced with a new dilemma.)

Another idea is for your husband to set aside certain times during the evening to check and reply to e-mails and text messages. This will permit him to address important, time-sensitive items and issues. Other than during these scheduled times, the phone should be turned off or left in another room. This will also allow you to enjoy uninterrupted time with your husband and children.

Unless your husband is a doctor on call, in which case he would likely have a beeper, I do not know of a reason for him to always have to answer his phone immediately. Today, we feel that all phone calls must be answered immediately, but this is inaccurate. Most calls and e-mails can wait.

I hope my suggestions assist you and your husband in your quest for an effective solution to your problem. Hatzlachah!

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