I am not innocent of phone addiction. When my 92-year-old mother told me she cured her solitaire addiction by "just taking it off my phone," I decided I could do no less than change my entire relationship with my phone. I plan a phone-free morning. (I'm building up to a day.) I purposely "forget" my phone when I go for a walk. I stop myself from getting on the computer after 9 pm. And it's still a struggle.
I'm not alone. When I ask couples what bothers them about their time together, "staring at the phone instead of focusing on me." is high on the list. When I ask how they spend their evenings together, most answer they're on their phones (separately) or computers, or watching a movie together.
And when I ask them to describe what it was like when they first met, it's so different. They talked, and talked, they couldn't stop talking. And they listened; they were the best listeners ever when they met.
Of course, life intervened. Work stress. Driving in traffic. Paying bills. Family dramas. The small, unceasing annoyances of everyday living. And then there are all those daily interactions with this partner/spouse of yours that can wear down a relationship...the little annoyances, the tiny pinpricks of hurts and resentments sprinkled through the good moments. Who would have thought she, he, they could behave this way?
So pretty soon it becomes a lot easier, even soothing, to stare at a screen--solitaire! the news! porn!--than to try and reach across the chasm and talk to our (not so) beloved. The phone offers us solace, entertainment, comfortable numbness against the gnawing ache of dissatisfaction and loneliness.
Here's my suggestion: just for today, put down your phone and turn to your partner (or your child or your neighbor or your friend) and say, "How are you doing? I really want to know." And don't give up if you hear, "I'm fine" or "not bad." Ask for details. Ask questions. Be curious. And ignore your hand itching to reach for the phone.
Pretend it's a first date and you are truly curious about this amazingly complex, wonderfully non-electronic person in front of you.
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