Is your partner nagging the hell out of you about your phone usage or technology time? Do they seem to be perpetually irritated or short because of the amount of time that you spend on social media, particularly when you are around them?
In a previous post, I shared the story of a couple whom I have worked with where one of the partners is on their phone much too often, for the taste of their companion. The partner had a habit of “googling” the answer to whatever the question of the moment was. Then, once the answer was found to the original question, a new question needed to be researched. This may or may not be your social media/ cell phone tendency, and the specifics are of little consequence to the overarching issue. If the aroma of this example applies to you, please consider the following and the impact that it could be having on your relationship.
Imagine riding in the car as a passenger with your spouse. You have your ear buds in and are listening to your favorite artist’s new album … and are loving it. Your eyes are closed and your head is back, just having a ball. Simultaneously, your partner, in this case, the driver, has their eyes on the road. You pass a bakery and the donuts smell great. The driver asks you do you want to stop and indulge. You don’t respond. Then the driver taps you to get your attention. You open your eyes and say “What did you say?” “Do you want to stop and get a donut?” “Oh, sure.”
Now imagine that this cell-wall exists in order for your partner to get your attention over and over again. It can be exhausting. Your partner can’t talk to you and get a response. There is an added step. They have to, first, get your attention to be able to talk to you and get a response. There can be many interpretations and reactions to my imagined but very real and prevalent dynamic. Some may apply to your relationship, none may apply or somewhere in between. If you can’t say that none apply, there may be work to do.
It is possible that the constant prevalence of your cell phone in your life communicates to your partner, “you are not that interesting to me so I need more entertainment and stimulation,” “I am alright with sharing my physical world but I am not satisfied with sharing my mind-world with you,” or “Something else requires my attention right now.” Individually, as a one-time or rare occurrence, these statements are probably harmless and easy to navigate. But, if these messages are perceived repetitively, there may be significant damage being done.
If you are reading this, I am making the assumption that you care about the impact of whatever you do on your partner. With that said, please making sure you show it. Showing it means be caring. For many people, to care about something or someone is simply a feeling or phrase. However, caring is much more than that. Caring is reflected in your actions. An easy way to get to being caring instead of simply using the phrase is to ask oneself “How can I demonstrate that I care right now?
If you are willing to open that door, I’ve got a few perspectives behind it. If your partner’s actions or words illustrate that they have received one (or more) of the aforementioned messages from you:
- Ask them, “Are there any cell phone boundaries that you would like for us to implement in order to increase our connection or the feeling of it when we are together?” This question, if genuinely asked, may say “I care.”
- Propose any of the suggestions that I made in my previous post with a willingness to adhere to them if your partner wants to try them. This may be a demonstration of attending to a partner’s concern(s) at its best.
- Create your own limitation(s). Turn you phone off or put it away after 9pm until the next morning. This will reduce your ability to interact with your phone with ease.
- Consider how gratifying it can be to be exposed to someone else’s world. I can remember and appreciate the numerous artists I had the pleasure of being exposed to when I was moving around the house as my mother played whatever music she enjoyed; and the same with my father riding in the car taking road trips. I would have never received that pleasure and influence if my parents and/ or I had been siloed by my headset or ear buds. The same influences and effects can exist in relationship. If you only listen to or are patched into what you are interested in, you may miss the beautiful influence(s) of your partner.
- Take some alone time, and ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to be stimulated often?” This can be one of the most powerful and revealing questions that you ever ask yourself. If you are up to it, annex that question with, “How would I feel if I were alone?” and “Why do I pick-up my phone when I do?”
The argument can be made that you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness or how they feel about your phone use. That is fodder for another blog.
In the meantime, please deal with your partner as though they matter and as though what they want and how they feel matters. Make it clear and plain that you are listening and that you care. Allow your time together to reveal the beauty of the tree that is right in front of both of you and the hilarity of the sitcom that you are watching together without alternate influence. If you do this, I am sure that you all will create a culture and an understanding that can work for you both. That’s Powerful.
Frank Love coaches individuals that are in and/ or wish to be in a relationship on ways to be more loving. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Way to Be Loving.