Your phone or your spouse — take a pick
It’s true: no one can make you get off your device and pay attention to your spouse. You’re an adult, free to decide what you want to do with your time and your life. You’re also a busy person and grateful for the inventions of devices that enable you to multitask, access the world library, do business, enjoy a bit of well-earned downtime, learn new skills, manage your tasks, and much more.
Your spouse, on the other hand, wants something from you. Maybe your spouse wants to tell you a story (ho hum). Or maybe your spouse wants to remind you of a chore that needs doing (yuck). Or maybe your spouse wants to just have some quality time with you (doing what?).
Whatever it is, your spouse’s offerings may be of significantly less interest to you than those of your device. It’s a hard call. And it’s yours all yours to make.
“My wife and I hardly ever have time to just be together. I used to look forward to having to take a long drive with her to attend a simchah from time to time. However, that’s changed since she started doing business on her phone.
“Now, I drive and she’s busy texting and emailing and posting for her shop. She takes orders, talks to customers; you name it, all while we’re driving. I honestly feel like her chauffeur or something. This isn’t my idea of quality time, and I’ve told her so. But she just tells me that she has to do this work, and if she didn’t do it while we’re driving she’d have to stay up until 3 a.m. doing it. So what can I say to that?”
This husband may feel alone in his marriage, but he’s definitely not alone in his predicament. Many people are struggling to wean their spouse’s attention away from their phone.
“My husband is always on his phone, and I mean — except for Shabbos — always on the phone. If I want to say something to him, he keeps clicking away while I try to talk, never looking up. When I protest that I want him to actually stop what he’s doing and listen to me, he tells me that he can hear me just fine and I should continue talking.
I don’t even bother trying to speak anymore. I got tired of competing with a phone for my husband’s attention so eventually I stopped trying. Of course, he hasn’t noticed. He’s getting so much from whatever he’s doing on that phone, that he doesn’t seem to care that he hasn’t got a wife anymore. We don’t have a connection at all, we don’t have a marriage. I think he’s going to wake up one day and wonder where everyone went, but then again, maybe he won’t. I hope his phone looks after him really well when he gets old.”
Many people who are busy working on, playing on, learning on, or communicating on their phones don’t realize that loved ones won’t wait forever. Happily occupied, they take their spouses for granted. “I enjoy being at home with my wife. I’m happy just knowing she’s puttering around the kitchen.”
Yes, but is she happy there too? If she doesn’t mind busying herself with her own phone or activities, perhaps it’s all good. But if she’s already told you that she’s feeling blocked out by your phone, you need to listen. You’re feeling content, but she’s feeling lonely and miserable. Is that what you want for someone you love? How good a spouse does that make you?
At first, frustrated spouses will try hard to salvage a floundering connection. Sometimes they will argue, threaten, and fight just to get a few minutes of undivided attention from a reluctant partner. But then the sour feeling of not really being wanted sets in. It’s all too obvious that the partner resents the intrusion on his or her phone time. Eventually the lonely spouse is forced to acknowledge that the phone is the companion of choice.
People who need to answer every call and notification and/or watch, read, or listen to something at all times, need to recognize that they are choosing their phone and everything and everyone on it over the one person in the world who truly has their back. Or rather, had their back. That is their choice to make. No one can stop them.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 727)
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