Meg Luce: Put your phone down, dear |

Meg Luce: Put your phone down, dear

Your partner doesn’t love their phone more than you, though sometimes it can feel that way. Get back in the game and ring some chimes of your own.
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Are you jealous of your partner’s cellular device? Does it get the attention you crave? Their rapt interest and unending TLC to its whereabouts and every sound it makes. Do you envy how they stay up late together, chuckling privately over YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and goodness knows what? Do you long for that kind of relationship with your partner for yourself?

And how can you compete with that thing? It rings, it dings, it even sings.

Sometimes your partner climbs into bed with it, and you’re like, “Whoa, now, that’s going too far.” But that darn device responds effortlessly to their touch by lighting right up (quickly and reliably, I might add). Hmmm, what’s a person to do with smartphone envy?

I don’t recommend flushing your partner’s device. That’s a tactical gambit that will likely be a bust. That crafty little “Jolene” is here to stay. Let’s see what else might work.

Stay Positive

While tempting, refrain from the litany of complaints about your partner’s fondness for their device. If you use criticism, your partner will likely become defensive, and the discussion will go nowhere. We know from the marriage research of Dr. John Gottman, criticism and defensiveness are two of his “Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.” You can probably guess by the sound of it, “The Four Horsemen” are not good for creating happy marriages that stand the test of time.

Be Invitational

Instead of getting caught up in negativity, ask your partner for more of what you would like to see in the relationship.

For example, “Hey babe, I was wondering if we could have some phones-down-time for us to hang out.” If you took this sentiment and put it in your own words, what would you say? Say it out loud to practice. Don’t forget to put a smile on your face to go with it.

Expect Pushback

Don’t be surprised if there is pushback. This is crucial to remember when you request something from your partner. Expect that they will not immediately say, “Oh yes, I would love to!” No need to pout. Of course, they want what they want. Just stay calmly in the conversation and see what you can work out.

Your partner might say, “Why do we need phones down to hang out? I’m a good multi-tasker.” Here’s another time to remember to avoid criticism. While at that moment it might feel good to say, “not so much,” don’t do it! That would be a mere moment’s satisfaction and the booby prize, instead of getting what you really want. Keep your goal in mind, and don’t get drawn into an argument.

You could say, “Yes, you are pretty good at multitasking, but I would enjoy some one-on-one time with no distractions. Could we try it out, say for 20 minutes this evening?” (Baby steps!)

Follow Up

Don’t expect your partner to remember to do the thing that you want. A break from the devices is your desire, so you be the one to follow up. Keep it light. “Hey, guess what? This is your lucky day. It is our time to hang out one-on-one without our phones!” Your partner may likely say, “Okay, wait a sec. Let me get back on this text real quick.” Take a breath. You’re almost there.

Don’t Take It Personally

The thing that will help you do all of the above is if you’re not telling yourself stories about your partner’s device-driven behavior. Just because your partner is into their device, that doesn’t mean they are not into you. Our devices are designed to get our attention, keep our attention, and keep us coming back for more. They have us on an intermittent reward schedule. Something super interesting shows up on our devices every so often, and you never know when. This is hard to resist. Our devices require nothing from us that we can’t put off, and they can offer a quick escape from our ever-pressing responsibilities. Plus, it’s easier to passively scroll than to make an effort to engage in an interesting conversation.

Your partner doesn’t love their phone more than you. Get back in the game and ring some chimes of your own. And good luck! I’ve got to go…my phone is buzzing.

Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at


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