Expert tips on how to create a phone-free zone in your relationship.
If we bury ourselves in our phones in our loved one’s company, we might be sending an unintended message.
“When a partner is always glancing away from you to a phone, it feels like rejection, and the rejections can add up,” says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. “But if you say, ‘You’re always on your phone,’ there’s likely to be hurt feelings and a breakdown of communication.”
Winch suggests that couples who struggle with this issue agree to set some boundaries around phone use. To keep communication open, it’s best to make any agreement a mutual one (by using “we” rather than “you”), he says, lest the frequent phone-user feel blamed. Try having a phone-free dinner hour, for example, or turning off the phones at 8 every night.
If your partner feels she needs to stay available for work, he says, “establish a 15-minute period to check messages. But schedule it — decide when it would be least disruptive to your time together.” And then stick to it.
And if that doesn’t work?
Emphasize the idea of uninterrupted time together, he suggests. You’re committing to a time when work is finished, and “not being distracted from each other.” If the phone is truly not an obstacle, it should be easy to establish a no-interruption time. If putting it down is a challenge, that only proves how important and necessary a phone-free zone really is.
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