I hate winter. I’m cold, the air is cold, and the northern winds? They’re even colder. But these days, nothing is as cold as my marriage. At least not now. Not today.
There’s a space in my life right now, and in my bed: a hollow space that used to be filled by the man I love, but is now filled by nothingness. By emptiness.
I wake up alone, and I go to bed alone — all because my husband is occupied. He is busy snapping and chatting and putzing around on Facebook.
My husband and I have been through a lot together these last 16 years — enduring four moves across three states, facing chronic and mental illness, battling addiction, and surviving suicide. And through it all, we’ve seen our relationship evolve from young love to marriage to parenthood.
But these days? I’m just not sure we’ll make it. I’m not sure we can muscle through.
Because my husband has a problem — a cell phone problem — and he isn’t just obsessed with the black box in his pocket, he’s addicted to it.
Of course, I know what you’re thinking right now: What’s the big deal? It can’t be that bad.
But it is.
He wakes up each morning and turns toward his phone, not to his daughter or his wife, who’s laying right there in bed beside him. He spends afternoons mindlessly scrolling through Facebook instead of talking. Instead of snuggling or tickling or playing with our daughter. And at night he watches video after stupid video for literally hours. He ignores me and instead spends all his time on — and with — his phone.
But my husband’s obsession doesn’t end there: he’s on his phone all day at work, and even in the car. He’ll spend hours reading status updates about his friends instead of talking to them. Instead of being with them. And it isn’t just me who’s affected. My daughter fights for his attention, too.
“Daddy, put down your phone,” our 4-year-old often tells him. But even still, it doesn’t seem to do much good.
My husband doesn’t see it as a problem. He thinks I’m emotional and irrational and, well, exaggerating. He thinks I shouldn’t get so upset over him using the phone, but his obsession has made me angry and resentful. It’s caused fights and disagreements and driven a wedge between us; but the hardest thing to deal with is the pain of feeling ignored. And believe me, that hurts more than you could know.
In fact, it often feels like he’s having an affair with his iPhone.
But it turns out, my story is not that unique — and my husband is far from alone. In fact, according to a survey by Only You Forever, “8% of Internet users in a committed relationship have had an argument with their spouse or partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online.” And it’s no wonder why; according to Daily Infographic, the average person checks their phone 110 times a day (and 61% sleep like my husband does, with their phone under their pillow or beside their bed).
But what’s the reason for this obsession? Why? Well, according to writer Tristan Harris the reason is simple: We worry that we are missing something important.
“If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities,” Harris wrote in a recent essay, “it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — because … you might miss something important.”
And that makes sense. Nothing is official until it’s Facebook official, right?
But that fear of missing out? That is causing many of us to live our lives virtually. We are not present with “our people” — at least, that is true for my husband.
So what can the rest of us do? Those of us who feel like a wall has gone up between us and those we love? We can speak up. We can fight back, and we can put in the hard work for what we love. For who we love. And, in my case, that means being honest and open with my husband. Even if that means having hard and uncomfortable conversations.
Because yes, I yell. Yes, I scream. And sometimes, I even cry.
But I am a work in progress, just as we all are. And I’m going to do my damnedest to fix what this phone has fractured. To save not our Snapchat story but our real story. Our love. Our life.