READER QUESTION: What To Do About My Device-Addicted Husband?

devices

A reader asks:

Q: Jess, what about when my husband is glued to his phone/laptop/ research for work constantly? Even when we eat meals together his smartphone is nearby in case any notifications pop up. He keeps music/talk shows playing in his headphones continually and actually does close to nothing around the house (with the exception of yard work- again with headphones ever present). He’s simply not available for lots of conversation, not present when I’m cooking, and except for when he wants sex, not at all attentive after our four young children (age 4 and under) are in bed at 7:30. It’s a very lonely, disconnected marriage for me, and I’m not sure how I can affect it when he isn’t willing to be present in our daily life. Any suggestions?

Follow-up details: 

“He loves the Lord and our family, but honestly he was raised in a home with an unbelieving father whose gaze was constantly fixed on the television or computer (and still is when we visit). He sees it as inconsiderate in his own father but doesn’t recognize the same distractedness in our family. So I think, at least in his case, we’re not only dealing with his distractions, but also with his perception that mom assuming all child and household care is the norm while dad is buried in his 21st century “newspaper.”  He works very hard to provide for us and I’m not angry or bitter toward him, but I see all he and our family are missing out on and I ache for what we could be experiencing together.”

 

This is, unfortunately, an increasing concern– even in Christian homes. Do you have wisdom to share? 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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5 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    My husband used to watch sports alot, because that is what he was raised doing. They had the tv on all the time in his house growing up. A couple of things that have helped change that. 1. We aren’t around very many people that like sport very much. 2. I found if he was reading news, if I paid attention to the news stories (just taking 5 minutes to catch up on one current event) and then I’d ask him his opinion, what he had read about it, etc. 3. We found a hobby we both enjoyed– hobby board games (not monopoly, but games that really make you think– Catan, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic are a few of the games we started with). We frequently sit down at night and play a game together. He needed something to do with our time together, he didn’t want to sit and talk, so games gave us something to do together. It also gives us a venue for having people over, we play with several different friends too. He does tons of research and such on games, which he really enjoys and i play with him at night and we both have something to do together. It aslo has helped him have a way to interact with our younger kids, he has found games he enjoys playing with the younger kids.

  2. Jessica says:

    I would encourage the mother to give these burdens and concerns to the Lord and cry before Him. Really lay it all before Him. Then I would encourage the woman to start pursuing the Lord and her own hobbies or edification and give the Lord the bitterness, pain, loneliness. Let the Lord fill those places. I have dealt with this and at times still do but have noticed that as I’ve reached out to the Lord, my husband started to notice that I was changing and started acting like he wanted to be around me more and do more with me. We had our 8th anniversary and when during dinner he got his phone out to read the news I asked him to please let this evening be screen free. I didn’t say it in a mean way. Anyways we are going to try to have one evening a week where it’s screen free date night after the kids are in bed. Ours are in bed by 7ish too. Anyways showing great appreciation for any efforts he makes goes way farther than whining or complaining or bitterness —believe me I’ve tried both. I’ve found the more I love him, forgive him, release him and find my own freedom in my relationship with the Lord the more he turns towards me in love. Our motivations must be for God to do the work in him for his good not just for our own good. We must ask God to give our hearts motivations purity and not just so life is better for us. I know it’s lonely and hard. I’m sorry and sending hugs. I know you desire this so that your marriage is stronger. Continually surrender your marriage to the Lord. He desires good for you both. It’s a journey not a sprint. Remember you are in control of your response and he is responsible for his own. I had to realize I could not have an y more children because I couldn’t handle it physically without more of his help at home and he works a lot. But ultimately I must remember that I give things to the Lord and carry my own attitude and actions as my responsibility. His attitudes and actions he will be responsible for in the last day. The Lord will reward you for loving and serving your husband —do it for Jesus not for your husband when it’s hard. It’s much easier to make dinner for Jesus than your husband on days! I know when you feel so unappreciated. Remember the Lord sees every suffering and pain and loneliness. He will meet you in your tears and pain and He will hold your heart and heal it. Keep surrendering to Him and remember that pain is a spring board to something let it be to God’s arms! He is tender merciful and full of compassion! His arms are open and He will give you more intimacy with Jesus when your marriage is so lonely. Start to ask the Lord to speak to you during the day and minister encouragement to your heart so that you can keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and not your circumstances or self. You will have a testimony of how the Lord sustained you through a painful and lonely season. Family Life Today has a great series on “The Lonely Marriage” you may find it encouraging. You are not alone but there is joy, hope and peace. I can truly say I’m fulfilled and happy even though my marriage is lonely at times but I’ve turned deeper into the Lord and other friends and realized our marriage or circumstances do not have to define me or my attitude or joy. Also I have seen improvements and encouragement esp. since really pressing in and asking the Lord to give me wisdom and to change me. He will lead you in this! He is right there beside you.

  3. She needs to do several things. 1. Communicate her concern in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way. Ask for a compromise and some non-gadget time with the family–supper, etc. 2. Distract him. Lavish him with love and attention so that she (and the kids) will be more attractive than any news he might miss. 3. Pray. (Perhaps this should be first.) Ask God to get his attention.

  4. Male Reader says:

    Sorry there are comments from a male reader but in this case I hoped the comments would be constructive.

    I have a few times felt very hurt by other’s really dreadful sin and felt just awful when someone responded to my request for help by responding with a “blame the victim” answer. In this case it sounds as if hubby is falling short of the glory of God by failing to enjoy more relational time with his wife.

    Here then are some more comments offered in the hope that one might be gleaned from and found useful and healing.

    First, I’d like to mention a man’s sense of responsibility and work ethic. The musician Fernando Ortega wrote a song about one of the men in his family — a grandfather was it? — who worked in the field at night while others in the family were at rest. It struck me as a stunningly beautiful, romantic portrait of how a man provides for and caretakes over his family. And we see that God watches over us as we sleep. I listened to that song and saw the reflection of God’s character and wanted to be this person.

    Likewise I have heard of women who sit in a family room during the evening, — and even as they enjoy family conversation and presence with their husbands & family they will be doing some work with their hands. Maybe this picture is of a lost value in modern Western culture but I see this as noble and admirable.

    As for my wife she felt her work was too much of a burden and quit her job very soon after we married. I took on longer hours of work to pay for us both including the auto loan she had taken before we met. She did not feel I was home enough, so each evening when I returned home from work she screamed at me stridently and verbally and emotionally punished me.

    In any case, I read about the husband working and wondered if he has any of the feelings about a husbands’ work ethic (reflecting an image of God’s care for us) that had motivated me.

    I don’t suggest seeing *any* indications the following is a problem, at all, but I knew of a man who was aloof and it turned out that his wife was very aggressive, took control of the family and insulted her husband for years. The point here is that it’s possible to kindle desire to spend time together (a suggestion I would agree with) and it’s also possible to do things that really quench that desire too.

    Some folks believe that wives very often tend to generate, at the very least let’s say more than 50%, of the *emotional environment* of the home. I don’t want to add unnecessary pain by clumsily and inappropriately blaming the victim, just want to suggest checking these things: respect of hubby, fun, playfulness, real friendship, a spirit of goodwill towards the husband that truly desires blessing him, appreciation of him as a person (rather than as a man-object), thankfulness for his sense of duty and responsibility; does he feel desired?

    Of course sex was mentioned in passing and I believe it could possibly be one of the most misunderstood and wrongly-taught subjects wherein the cultural norm is for men to experience decades of very pervasive, culturally embedded, suspicion and negativity. And marriages sadly fall victim to this.

    Should a wife view her husband’s (a) interest in or (b) his experience of sex as “merely physical” I believe this can lead to serious problems in the marriage relationship. She — perhaps all of us — might do well to return to the language of previous generations and call it “lovemaking.”

    Lovemaking is spiritual, relational, emotional, symbolic, can be playful, or passionate, or tender, or comforting, an act of loving friendship or empathy, or faithfulness to commitment, or renewal of bonds, and its an extremely unique distinctive features of a marriage. (In some systems a marriage is not even considered valid without lovemaking having taken place.)

    If the idea held by a couple is that lovemaking is emotional for a wife but is merely base and physical for a husband, I suggest exploring whether this belief is actually disrespectful of the husband. There might just be a lot more in and to that husband than just physical.

    If I recall right, Shaunti Feldman caught a little fragment of this when her book pointed out that men feel lovemaking communicates a wife’s acceptance or rejection of her husband as an entire human being! (How is that “just physical”?)

    Another author pointed out that lovemaking is highly emotional for men and gives husbands a huge sense of well-being, sense of connection with their wives, and positive feelings about their home and family. (It may have been Stormy Omartian who suggested addressing any problems here first of all and watching lots and lots of other things fall into place.)

    Having said those things, I believe there are some adults who’s very First Choice form of play, fun, celebration, pass-time, tenderness, shared focused attention, friendship-time, and relational time is to cuddle and make love with their life partner. They’d rather be with their spouse in that setting and context than practically anything else!

    Just imagine the disconnect in the marriage if he really does feel this way about lovemaking as a love language, and she views intimacy, no, “sex”, as a minor physical thing / the only time he gives her added attention.

    If you post these comments, hope they bless someone, either the wife who first asked or some other reader of yours.

  5. Jessica says:

    One more thing, pray that your husband finds other men to encourage and challenge him in his walk. This is something that will help him. I thought this was IMPOSSIBLE till my husband came home one night and shared he was going to start meeting with a few other Christian men to talk!! Shocker…but guess what my mom had been faithfully asking God for this—I had so little faith but the Lord answered my moms. I’m just going to share we aren’t where I want to be ultimately but we are not where we use to be and progress is being made. Choose to celebrate ANY progress whatsoever but refuse nagging in a critical angry attitude. This just puts the man in a “dig the heels in” I need to be dis-engaged. BE SWEET and heap burning coals on his head and PRAY…… This has changed more than anything. But pray with right motives. Keep asking God to purify your heart. I know it’s hard! Saying a prayer of grace for you right now!

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