DEAR AMY: My husband of many years is addicted to his iPhone. It goes everywhere with him and has his undivided attention. There was once a time that this was necessary for his work. I understood and did not mind, but it is no longer a necessity for his work, and his time on this device has me concerned. Over the past year, it has gotten out of hand. I do not believe there is another romantic involvement here, but he is just always staring at his phone, whether we are at a restaurant, watching TV, or in bed. The first thing he reaches for when he wakes up is his phone, and it will be the last thing he does before he goes to sleep. The phone is his number one priority. I have tried numerous times to speak with him about how lonely I am to have him always on the phone, but he thinks I’m trying to control his enjoyment of reading articles or interacting on social media. He says this is his way of relaxing. We are a working couple, soon approaching retirement. I’m worried about what he will be like then.
DEAR UNPLUGGED: Smartphone addiction is real, and many users (including myself) struggle with the impact that their usage is having on their life.
You could qualify your husband’s constant use as an addiction because it is having a negative impact on his relationship with you (and likely other people in his life).
One way I measure usage is to imagine the smartphone as a book or newspaper. Would you take a book or newspaper to bed or into the bathroom? Possibly. Would (or should) you read a book or newspaper while driving 65 mph down the highway, while out at dinner with your spouse and friends, or while walking through the woods? No.
There are very practical ways to control smartphone usage that your husband could try, starting with deleting social media apps from his phone (he could still check on a laptop), or turning off notifications. He should leave it face down, turned off, or in another room during meals. There are apps (ironically) that will help a person track and control their usage. One article I read suggested that getting a smart watch could help break the phone addiction.
None of these suggestions will make any impact on your life unless your husband recognizes this as a problem and decides to address it. You might get his attention by snapping a series of photos of him glued to his phone throughout the course of one day.
DEAR AMY: We are an elderly couple with no children of our own. There are two sisters and one brother that have a total of nine children and about 15 grandchildren. We should be happy we are invited to every birthday, christening, graduation, bridal shower, wedding and every other social event in their lives. But each occasion calls for a gift of some kind that has been putting a strain on our fixed-income budget. How do we attend an event or accept an invitation and say no to the gift-giving without causing any ill feelings or being talked about?
DEAR WORRIED: Your family members should understand the situation you are in; presumably they would be just as happy to see you, regardless of whether you come with a gift in hand.
Be frank about this. You might send out an email to the adult members of your family group expressing your gratitude to always be included in these landmark events. Tell them how important they are to you. And then explain, “Because of our limited income, our ability to purchase gifts has dwindled. We hope to accept these invitations without the pressure of gift-giving, but feel self-conscious about it. Please let me know privately if this is going to be a problem for you or the children.”
DEAR AMY: I understand a lot of men are responding to the letter from “Frustrated!” about her husband’s lack of initiative regarding household chores. In my case, I jump in and do my best, but my efforts are criticized and belittled. It is hardly inspiring me to do more.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I agree that this is an ancillary issue. In my response to “Frustrated!” I said that once her husband steps up, she needs to accept the fact that she is not solely in charge. This calls for her to let go.