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Dear Nicola...

My boyfriend prefers his iPhone to me

Written by . Published on March 9th 2011.

Dear Nicola...

Nicola Mostyn

Friday 4 March 2011

My boyfriend prefers his iPhone to me

Dear Nicola

My boyfriend takes his iPhone everywhere – even the bathroom. When we are out for dinner he’ll be answering messages or tweeting the whole time and recently when we went for a meal with my family, he was tapping away under the table whilst people were talking to him which embarrassed me. We recently moved in together and the issue has just got worse. It’s not about trust - I don’t think he’s texting other women – it’s more about respect. I’ve told him that I’d like him to not use his phone while I’m talking to him, but he stops for a bit and then it goes back to the way it was. I hate to seem like a nag, but it is starting to really rile me. How can I make him see that this is a real problem for me when he just thinks I am overreacting?

Nicola replies:

Progress has a lot to answer for. A few years ago you would have been able to replace ‘can’t stop playing with iPhone’ with ‘won’t switch off Sky Sports’ or ‘is superglued to the Xbox’ or even ‘is always down the pub with his mates.’ But now technology has brought all these pleasures together – plus a few more besides – in one handy, portable package that can cause problems just about anywhere.

At least if your boyfriend was on his Xbox, he would be visibly occupied, and so forgiven for being distracted from your conversation. But new technology is different – rather than allow one continuous, rewarding stretch of entertainment that is clearly signposted, it delivers many bite-size fragments – creating a great interrupter of proper, real life relationships for those who can’t control their usage.

It probably hasn’t helped that moving in together can change the dynamics of a relationship, so where you might have been imagining loving snuggles on the couch, sharing intimate secrets, your boyfriend has probably been looking forward to being able to loaf around, with you in the vicinity, without having to make much of an effort.

But the fact remains, texting, tweeting or playing on a mobile while someone is speaking to you is bad etiquette. You’ve told your boyfriend how you feel. And he’s ignored it.

So – what can you do? Even if you manage to force your boyfriend to put the iPhone down, you can’t make him prefer to spend time with you than playing Angry Birds or watching Netflix. And anyway, there’s little pleasure to be had from company that’s been forcibly coerced, rather than freely given.

You have told him how you feel and it didn’t have an impact. So how about you start showing him?

Treat his iPhone like an Xbox, laptop or trip to the pub. While he’s occupied with it, assume that he is busy and go do your own thing. Unless your boyfriend understands that there are consequences to his preoccupation with his social networking and game playing, he has no reason to stop.

The chances are, if you start spending time doing things you like without him, he’ll begin to wonder where you are. Then you can arrange to spend some quality time together but point out that, just like he wouldn’t expect to take his Xbox to a restaurant, there are certain times when the iPhone needs to be switched off. (If he doesn’t care that you are suddenly AWOL, it might be time to take a long hard look at your relationship. If he’d really rather spend time with his apps than with you, then you might want to start thinking about an upgrade.)

But if you find a way to work around this, console yourself that you are not on your own. A Stanford University survey last year investigated the concept of iPhone addiction, suggesting that people’s phones, more than just a gadget, had become part of their identity.

Worrying though this is, it does at least explain why some people seem so keen on taking their iPhone absolutely everywhere – even the loo.

There could be other reasons for this, of course, but that’s a whole other column.

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