My wife's phone addiction is killing our great marriage

My wife is severely obsessed with her phone and it has become a thorny issue in our three-year old marriage.

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Dear Kitoto

I am in a similar predicament with Peter whose story ran last week on Daily Nation. My wife is severely obsessed with her phone and it has become a thorny issue in our three-year old marriage.

I requested that we monitor her phone usage and we found that she regularly spends over 18 hours on her phone, juggling Netflix, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other social media apps, so much so that she has developed a serious sleeping disorder.

She is heavily influenced by strangers online on what shows and movies to watch, that our shared interests have gradually faded and we do not spend time together like we used to. On some of these social media platforms are her exes and lovers, but I have no suspicion that she is cheating or planning to cheat on me.

We both work from home and she can afford to sleep practically all day to her personal detriment. Her sleeping patterns are all over the place and I fear that this will lead to other health issues in the long run. She claims that she cannot sleep without watching her Netflix shows.

Pastor Kitoto, I have tried talking to her and helping her reduce her overconsumption of empty content but this is simply wedging a gap between us, emotionally and physically. I am not a saint either when it comes to my tech usage but I have managed to plan my days ahead so that I can have time to work, do chores and take care of our child. She is very defensive over the issue and I feel that I am parenting her, which is draining my energy as we spend practically all day together. I love her dearly, but these conflicts with her are getting frustrating. Please advise me.

Dear reader,

According to online social media reports, the mid-1990s, saw the usage of mobile phones rapidly spread in the developed world. Now, with more subscribers, Africa’s market has taken the lead in the global shift from fixed to mobile telephones. What does this mean? Although most banking and other transactions are on mobiles, studies show that when using their mobile phones, Africans predominantly spend most of their time on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. It is about publications, followers and entertainment. Although increased use of social media has supported connectivity and marketing, sadly, it has also exposed others to the consumption of harmful content making them to become addicts of the content they consume.

Jordan Gray, a sex coach, admits that this is “completely uncharted territory.” He adds, “Social media accounts have never had this level of market saturation at any other point in human history. That’s inevitably going to bring up some new challenges for people.”

Negative impact of social media consumption can be seen in personal values and ethics of addicted users.

Parents have reported of negative behaviour arising from long-term social media. With scientific research, a lot can be discovered here particularly for the African family. As much as research on the numbers of users on TikTok, Instagram and Netflix may be available, the impact of content per individual is limited. Although such research is limited and not definitive, your cause for concern is worth giving attention to. I agree, her sleeping patterns should be of concern to you. This disorder could get harder to correct as she slips further into such addictive content.

How to help your wife manage her social media usage is both a challenge and a worthwhile effort. The fact that you are able to talk about it is great. However, your approach must not be condemnatory but rather seek to walk with her to understand why she spends so much time online. The final goal here is to minimise her contact with potentially harmful content. Work towards helping her limit screen time by having full access to her account but ensure this is done respectfully and only for accountability purposes.

Try and be positive and kind while checking or discussing her activity online. While doing this, avoid assumptions, pointing a finger or condemnatory approach. Be sure your wife is fully aware that you are behind her and that your efforts are for her best and the good of the marriage. I suggest that, if she refuses you access to her social media accounts, then don’t surprise her with findings of work you have done behind her back. This will just make matters worse.

Finally, most married social media addicts who get into the habit while married point to a weakness in the relationship. The question to ask is “What is the source of her social media addiction?” Could there be some events that trigger the desire to spend her time there? For some spouses, social media is a place to hide and look for something they are missing. So before you point a finger, look back. Do a personal evaluation of the relationship.

How do you help her prioritise the relationship above social media? The idea here to make each other feel more affirmed, loved and an important part of the marriage than the phone. As such, Laurie Davis Edwards, notes that, if honest conversations about social-media boundaries start early in a relationship, this can help put in place boundaries that could save the marriage. Sadly, even in moment when a relationship may appear to be very solid, strong, and happy, some spouses more than often choose to lay themselves or their relationships bare on social media. This is a tough and in most cases not a fully chartered territory.

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