I’ve never been a fan of the winter. I don’t like the snow. It’s a bother. A nuisance. The powdery white flakes are a pain in my ass. I don’t like the darkness. The days are too short. My mood is too low, and I don’t like the cold, especially the constant chill that consumes my face and chest and snakes down my back. But nothing is as cold as my marriage. At least not now. Not today. Why? Because my husband is addicted to his phone and it’s destroying our relationship.
I fight for his attention on Facebook.
Our intimacy is on Instagram.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: I must be exaggerating. It isn’t that bad. He can’t be that bad, but it is — and he is. When my husband wakes, he turns toward his phone: not to his son, his daughter, or me. Never me. He consumes IG Stories with his coffee, catching up on snaps and filtered images, not his wife or real life. He spends his afternoons scrolling through Facebook instead of talking. Instead of snuggling or tickling or playing with our kids. And at night he watches video after shitty video.
He communicates with me not through words, but through texts, tags, and memes.
But his addiction doesn’t end there: My husband is on his phone for work, which is both suggested and (in these current times) required. He answers emails at all hours. There is no shutting things off or “end of day.” He spends hours reading status updates about his friends instead of talking to them. Instead of being with them. And it isn’t just me who is affected. My daughter fights for his attention. My son says “dada” a dozen times before he blinks. Before he even looks up. And while we’ve been through a lot over the course of the last 18 years — we’ve endured four moves in three states; we’ve faced chronic illness and mental illness; we’ve battled addiction and survived suicide — I’m not sure we’ll make it.
I’m not sure we can muscle through this battle.
That said, my story is not unique. While one cannot officially be diagnosed a “phone addict” or a “cell phone addict,” the compulsive behavior mirrors that of other addictions. “[Cell phone addiction] would fall into the general category of a behavioral addiction: an action that is repeated compulsively due to it creating some sort of pleasurable feeling, or removing a negative one,” Dr. Aaron Weiner — a board-certified psychologist and addictions treatment specialist — tells Scary Mommy. And this type of addiction is common. Millions of Americans are diagnosed with addiction-related disorders each year. What’s more, a recent study by Reviews revealed 75% of all people believe they are addicted to their phones, and 65% admit they sleep with their phone — as my husband does. That damn black box never leaves his side. Yet he doesn’t think he has a problem.
He thinks I am being dramatic. I’m blowing the situation out of proportion. He believes I’m irrational and emotional. My perception is crazy. I’m just plain wrong. He also defends his use of social media. It’s not his fault he stays connected. It’s not my fault he “has friends.” But his “friendships” are destroying our relationship.
His phone is destroying our life.
Of course, I’ve tried to figure out the “why.” The reason for his obsession. And while there are numerous causes, Weiner tells Scary Mommy the primary reason for phone addiction is social media. “The reason people become addicted to their phones is because of social media and mobile games,” Weiner says. “They cause an immediate pleasurable feeling and can also help someone escape from negative feelings. Fear of missing out may also be a driving force, though this behavior is more common in teens (particularly in high school) than older individuals.”
So what can I do? What can we do? Well, my husband and I are in counseling to improve communication. We see a therapist every week to learn how to talk to each other and look each other in the eye. My husband is practicing mindfulness. He’s begun doing yoga and meditation and is taking time to be and breathe. We have technology-free time. There are no phones at the table and certain events, like story time and family game night, are device and Facebook-free, and I call him out on his bullshit.
I take pictures of him on his phone while life happens around him — to show him what he’s missing. So he sees the way his addiction impacts his family.
Will my efforts change things? Will our joint efforts work? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I don’t want our love to fade like a Story. I don’t want our relationship to disappear like a Snap, and I don’t want “us” to be Facebook memory. So I move forward, I try, and I fight.