Breaking bad phone habits & better communication with men

Hi Mary Jo,

My husband says I am on the phone too much. How can I break this bad habit and be more present in our relationship?

Thanks, Crystal

Crystal,

When we see couples that have stayed together through the years it’s important to understand that doesn’t just happen. Couples who have good communication and a deep, emotional connection take time to nurture those aspects in their relationship. Your husband is telling you indirectly that your phone use is making him feel replaced. It’s likely he feels like you no longer value talking to him and possibly that you turn to your phone instead of him for validation and emotional connection. I say this to motivate you to take action now. The phone won’t set boundaries on its own; you need to make them and follow them. Here are some suggestions to help guide you.

  • Start small with 15-minute intervals of no phone use. Silence the phone and store it in the same place every time to make it a habit.
  • Schedule times in the evening when you are unreachable by phone. Tell the people who call you most that you don’t take calls during specific hours at night.
  • When you go to bed, never have your phone within reach unless you’re ill or elderly and need it for security reasons.
  • Make a “no phone” date policy once a week. There is nothing more annoying than sharing a nice dinner with someone who is taking photos or texting on their phone. It’s hurtful to your partner and damaging to your marriage.

Hi Mary Jo,

How do you get a man to communicate better?

Thanks, Shakyra

In a clinical setting, men will open up when they feel safe, free from judgement, and heard. One of the main obstacles with good communication is we don’t listen well; we make assumptions and jump to conclusions. Couples then feel worse after talking. If you want your husband to open up more freely and share what he’s feeling, these suggestions may help.

  1. Really listen to him. Don’t interrupt him but ask for clarification if you hear something you don’t understand. When you hear him say something about his day that upset him, empathize with him. Tell him that would have upset you, too.
  2. Don’t interrogate him. No one likes to be on trial – especially with the person who is supposed to be on their side.
  3. Start with small talk, like new events or shows you watch together. Making small talk may seem superficial, but it’s easier to open up and talk about things when that don’t involve you. The more comfortable couples get with these topics, the easier it is to open up and share deeper feelings.
  4. Don’t blame him. Use “I” statements and take responsibility for your expectations and feelings. Most defensive behavior is caused by someone feeling guilty or blamed. When you have to defend yourself, you don’t open up anymore.
  5. Avoid distractions. Good communication is impossible when you’re looking at a screen.
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