Someone is on their phone when their partner takes issue with it and the conflict quickly begins: “Why are you on that thing, again?” “I was only on it for two seconds, what’s your problem?” “I told you I was going to have to check my email for work, why are you getting on my case?” “Will you relax? It’s just a quick text message. God!”
When someone’s fighting with you and defending their screen time, it’s typically not because they really, really want/need to be on the phone at that exact minute. What they really, really don’t want is to feel controlled. They are reacting to the idea that you are telling them what they can or cannot do in that moment. They’re fighting against the restriction and against the limit.
When you’re with your partner and you’re having a fine time laughing, joking, or hanging out and they suddenly pick up their phone, it can be jarring. It can trigger a quick, knee jerk reaction that can surprise you with its intensity. Suddenly, something so small has a lot of power in your relationship.
What feels like control is actually about respect.
Here’s the thing. If you’re choosing to be in a committed relationship with someone, you simply do not get to do whatever it is you want at the exactmoment you want to do it. Relationships don’t work that way. You’re going to be limited and restricted in what it is you want to do based on how the other person thinks or feels.
Acknowledge when you’re asking for an exception.
A friend and I like to text one another when we’re watching a certain show. It’s a fun, memory making time for us but it’s also during the unplugged time my husband and I have agreed on. I don’t get to just turn on my phone and start texting her without checking in with him and saying something. We might have to struggle through the discussion a bit because he doesn’t get why it’s important to me but we’re less likely to fight and more apt to reach a compromise if we discuss it.
Take care of the relationship and everything else will follow.
No one wants to feel controlled. No one wants to be accused of exiting from the relationship just because they’ve picked up their phone but those feelings are real and they need to be attended to. Come together and make an agreement that feels right for both of you. It won’t be iron tight but it’s a start. Take care of your relationship and it’ll take care of you.