Ask Kirsten: How to cure a technology addiction?

Dear Kirsten,

My girlfriend is having an affair…with her phone. I think she has a technology addiction. I swear that she is always staring lovingly at its little screen. If we go to dinner, she’s scrolling through it. If we’re hanging out at home, she’s tapping on it. The only time she looks at me these days is if she’s taking a photo of me for Instagram. She insists that she loves me, but I seriously feel like she loves her smart phone more. Help!  

Sincerely, Replaced by Screens

Hi Replaced by Screens,

Oh goodness, you are not alone my friend.  I’m hearing this complaint about technology addiction more frequently in my counseling practice. Men and women feel like they are competing with a wide variety of screens for their partner’s attention. And they’re not liking it.

We really do live in strange and wonderful times. Never before in history has there been so many available and entertaining distractions that fit right in the palm of our hand. Thanks for that, Steve Jobs. Add in social media, Netflix, iPads and game consoles and you have a never-ending flow of diversion and distraction. These fountains of entertainment can be downright addictive. Technology is advancing at an astonishing pace, which is super cool. Unfortunately, human relationships and the art of conversation are struggling to adapt and adjust.

Here are four ideas for handling this issue with your phone-loving gal:

Examine your own screen habits.

Is Xbox your go-to stress relief in the evenings? Are you known to get mind-numbingly lost in a Netflix binge-watching abyss? The following conversation with your girlfriend will be more productive if you’re ready to fess up to your own problematic screen habits.

Talk with your girlfriend about your concern for her technology addiction.

Let her know that you miss having conversations and making eye contact with her, that you miss her. Explain that this is an issue that you want to tackle together.

Come up with guidelines around phone and screen use.

I know, I know. The word “guidelines” or “rules” conjures up visions of children being policed by their parents. But, guess what? We need to start policing ourselves a little bit with screens in order to stay connected to our partners and our families and beat this technology addiction. Possible agreements could look like this:

 

  • No phones or screens at meal times and/or dates.
  • From 6pm to 8pm every evening, screens are darkened unless the two of you are watching a show or movie together.
  • One weekend a month, or one day every weekend, is designated as social-media-free or phone-free. These are great times to get out in nature, abandoning all worries about “signal.”

 

These are just some ideas to get you started. You and your girlfriend should figure out what feels right for you.

Lastly, consider removing social media, news alerts and even e-mail from your phones.

I guess this will make your phones less “smart” but they will also be a hell of a lot less distracting.

If you two try out some of the above, don’t be surprised if some of your friends follow suit. It can be incredibly freeing to throw your phone to the curb occasionally and open up your eyes to the people and beauty right in front of your face. It’s time to battle that technology addiction head-on.

Sincerely, Kirsten

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Ask Kirsten on As One Loves is published as a community service with the intention of addressing reader-submitted questions about relationship issues. Written by Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC, a licensed professional counselor, this column is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or actual psychotherapy. Always seek the advice of a licensed mental health professional, without delay and in person, regarding questions you may have about any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard other professional advice because of something you have read on AsOneLoves.com. Reader-submitted questions are anonymous to protect the questioner’s identity, chosen by the As One Loves team, and may be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity, and length.

Do you have a technology addiction? Does your partner? Do you find yourselves laying next to each other only looking at your phone every evening? How does that make you feel about your connection?

Let’s have a conversation in the comments. Or find us on Instagram and Facebook at @AsOneLoves.

Author: Kirsten Brunner

Kirsten Brunner is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has provided couples therapy and life coaching for 19 years. On her website, Baby Proofed Parents, Kirsten delivers relationship and emotional health advice to expectant and new parents. Kirsten is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and TODAY Parents. Her writing has also been featured in The Atlantic, Real Simple Magazine and Mamalode. She works with clients, in person and over Skype, with a specific focus on strengthening communication between couples. Kirsten lives in Austin, TX with her husband, two sons and her dog, Jake (Yup, she is definitely outnumbered.)

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  • This is becoming a major issue in marriages and relationships across the board. Being able to communicate when and where the “noscreens” zones are is essential to stay focused on the moment and the people we love.
    And I love the phone-free day idea. Since I work on social media this is difficult for me but essential so my children and family know that I can choose them rightly over my work.
    Cheers to the weekend.

    • Thanks for your comment and feedback! ❤️ Yes, I think families and couples everywhere are having to tackle and navigate this issue. Good to know that you and your family are finding ways to achieve balance with screens.