Question

I’ve been married a little over two years. At first, it was great, but then not long after we married, she started being on her phone pretty much any free time and now it has become a distraction in our marriage. It’s to the point where when she goes to bed, she is constantly on it until sometimes two in the morning. I lay there alone and feel betrayed. I’ve also discovered that she talks to some of her ex-boyfriends on social media, which I’m not okay with. How do I confront her in a nice way to have her put her phone away? I’ve asked her if she can put her phone away when we go to bed, and she just plain says “nope” and continues like she’s addicted to her phone.

Answer

I see the hurt and confusion you’re experiencing in your new marriage. Of course, it’s painful that she’s turning away from you in favor of her phone as well as contacting ex-boyfriends. However, it’s also concerning that your attempts to address these observations are disregarded. It makes sense that you’re worried, so let’s talk about how to proceed.

You can certainly raise the intensity and make demands, but I’ve never found this to be a productive way to resolve anything in a relationship. You’ve already asked her to do something different and she’s refusing. Instead, I recommend you approach this situation by seeking to understand why she’s disregarding your concerns. Instead of getting her to change her behavior, see if you can have a different type of discussion about why your concerns are being completely disregarded. Issues come and go in marriage but caring about each other’s pain creates relationship safety.

Your wife may not realize the extent of the impact her behavior is having on you and your marriage. Most of us completely minimize the impact we’re having on those we love. It’s important to start the conversation by expressing how you feel without attacking or accusing her. For example, you could say something like, “I’m hurt by your response to my concerns with your phone use. Is there a reason you’re ignoring my pain?”

There are significant issues to discuss, but the real issue is her indifference to your pain. If your attempts to have her care about the impact she’s having on you go nowhere, this is important feedback about the state of your relationship. Trying to talk about the phone issues or ex-boyfriend issues won’t produce any movement until there’s care and concern for your pain.

She might have reasons for turning away from you, so if she starts sharing, make sure you slow down and listen. Her avoidance isn’t healthy, obviously, but it might be a protest that something isn’t working for her. There are important things to address that can significantly impact the future of your relationship. Checking out on her phone and talking with ex-boyfriends are huge red flags that can’t be ignored. Hopefully she can care about how these impact you.

If she continues to push you away, see if she’ll agree to visit with a marriage counselor who can help you resolve the impasse. If that fails and she continues to ignore you and your concerns, it may require more drastic measures. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance and counseling for yourself to find out what you can do going forward. You can’t change her or make her talk to you, but you can stay congruent with your deepest values as you make tough decisions about your future.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com  

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About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.