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By Katie Bailey, MA, LPC

Technology is great, and our phones make life easier in many ways. Remember having to ask an actual human for directions? Or pull your credit card out of your wallet to pay? What about having a wallet of CDs in your car for music? Yes, technology offers us many benefits and luxuries these days.

As an experienced therapist, I’ve seen technology grow and its impact on relationships. We are all addicted to our phones to some extent. When the beep goes off for a notification, we get a little hit of dopamine, the happy chemical in our brains – the same neurotransmitter that we get from food, exercise and sex. Powerful stuff, right?

Over the years as smartphones have grown bigger in our lives, I’ve seen people get consumed with their virtual lives – “friends” in Facebook groups, Instagram likes, YouTube videos – people that aren’t actually apart of our daily, real lives. People quickly get enthralled in these online activities, and neglect relationships with people who live in the same house with them.

What if your spouse is always on the phone? Does it really matter? Should you be worried? If you are even asking those questions, then yes, you should be concerned. A partner giving more attention to a smartphone than their spouse has the same feeling as infidelity.

How do I know if my spouse’s smartphone use is a problem?

If you feel rejected, and like your partner’s phone is a bigger priority than you, it’s a problem. Here are some other hints the phone is impacting your marriage:

· Your spouse ignores you and doesn’t answer when you talk because they are on the phone.

· Your partner can’t leave the phone for periods of time, and if they do, they feel anxious.

· Your spouse doesn’t think it’s wrong to be scanning the phone while you hang out.

· Your sex life is affected. If your partner is in bed on the phone, it’s hard to get close physically.

· Your spouse avoids conflict by getting on the phone.

· You both fight about phone use regularly.

How do we make it better?

Like all challenges in marriage, you need to talk about it. Ask your spouse to put the phone down, and let them know how you feel. Do this calmly, without an accusing tone. Saying, “I feel lonely and ignored because you seem to be on your phone so much. Could we figure out a solution together?” is a much better approach than, “You are always on your phone! You never put that thing down! What’s wrong with you?”.

Work together to set “no phone times”, agree to turn off notifications from all apps, and leave the phones out of the bedroom. Make sure your spouse knows you love them and want more quality time with them, and that you want to improve your marriage.

There will of course be exceptions. Maybe your partner has a particularly busy season at work, so you might agree to change your expectations for that time. The key of course, is communication. And I mean, live, face to face communication, not texting. Couples should never argue or discuss matters of importance over text!

Start Marriage Counseling in Ambler, PA

If you run into problems working through limits on phone use, we are here to help. At Lime Tree Counseling, our therapists are trained especially for marriage counseling. We want to help you learn new skills to communicate well and understand each other on a deeper level. Please contact us today to get started – your marriage can get better!