Make It Stop: “My Boyfriend Pays More Attention To His Phone Than He Does Me!”
My boyfriend “Jack” is always on his phone. Despite my repeated pleas to focus on me when we’re together, he brushes me off. If he’s awake, he’s in a loop checking Instagram, Facebook, and his various sports apps. It’s non-stop. How do I get him to stop fiddling with his feeds and pay attention to me for a change?
Yikes. It sounds like Jack’s developed some bad tech habits. It’s amazing he looked up from his phone long enough to even snag a girlfriend. There’s nothing worse than trying to cozy up to your boo when he’s balls deep in a Gawker comment thread. Unless he’s running Kylie Jenner’s social media accounts, there’s no reason he has to check his feeds at all day. It’s unattractive and disrespectful.
Imagine being married to him or having kids with him. Would you even trust him around your children if he can’t be bothered to focus on you? His phone is robbing him of his chance to be a present partner. It’s got to change! Does he agree that his phone use is a problem? I sure hope it does.
I have no idea what Jack’s other redeeming qualities are, but somewhere, at some point, he put his phone away long enough to woo you. Let’s get that guy back in your arms. It’s time to make some new rules:
Rule #1: No phones at meals you share. If there’s a utensil involved, his phone goes in his pocket. Meals are your time to connect and phones are a distraction.
Rule #2: You can both check your devices during TV show commercials and fifteen-minute intermissions before and after a movie. That seems reasonable.
Rule #3: Both of your phones will be set to “goodnight mode” at 10pm so it silences alerts, texts and phone calls.
Rule #4: Agree to a code word to let him know when his phone habit is working on your last nerve. When you say the word, he has ten seconds to wrap up whatever he’s checking and put his device away.
Tailor these rules to his and your needs, but you get the gist.
Otherwise, try on go on dates where there’s no wi-fi available. Take an interest in hiking. Go on a road trip. Make an effort!
I don’t expect him to stop taking an interest in social media. Maybe it’d help if you scheduled an hour or two on the weekends when you guys can zone out on your devices. Like a play date for your apps. It’s all about setting up boundaries.
If after all this he can’t put his phone away, then maybe this isn’t the relationship for you. Life is short. Who wants to spend their free time watching their sweetheart swipe a screen instead of creating fun memories? Jack needs to know when he’s with you, his attention needs to be on your colorful wit, not his colorful screen. You can’t compete with a smartphone and you shouldn’t have to.
Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected]