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Ask a Therapist: How do I get hubby to turn off his cell phone?

Q: “My big question is how do you tell your spouse to turn off his cell phone?”

I am a stay-at-home mom so as soon as hubby gets home from work, my mouth keeps going
about my day, then the cell phone rings, but he has to take the call
because that is our income. So what do you do? He has to take the call
no matter what time of day because it could mean more money for us,
but wow, I want him to listen to me. What do I do?”

A: The goal is really less about getting him to turn off his phone, but more about helping him to hear your longing to be closer to him.

The good news is that you’re still trying to figure out how to get your husband’s full attention and to let him know how much you’ve missed him during the day.  My guess is that you’re husband has no idea how much you need him, how much you miss him, and how you look forward to reconnecting with him when he arrives home.  The goal is really less about getting him to turn off his phone, but more about understanding your heart and your longing to be closer to him.

As you approach this touchy subject with your husband make sure that your goal is not to control his behavior but to deepen your understanding of one another.  Complaining and criticizing rarely get you what you want and often backfire by creating more disconnection.  Ask yourself how you’re doing in really getting his heart about the burden and responsibility he feels in providing for your family in an uncertain economy. What is it like for him to feel so much pressure to be immediately available to his clients, employees, or whatever the case may be even when he’s not at work.

Here’s a great formula for expressing yourself in a kind, clear, and direct way.

I feel _____________________ (your emotion)
when you __________________(his specific behavior)
because I think ______________ (your thought).
It would mean a lot to me if _____________________ (your requested behavior change).

Try something like “I feel sad and scared when you take phone calls while I’m talking to you because I think that I’m not important to you. It would mean a lot to me if you would turn off the phone for 20 mins. right when you get home so I can touch base with you and have your full attention. When you’re gone at work I really miss you. I appreciate how hard you work to provide for our family.”

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a licensed therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.  Visit for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours on the Women’s Information Network (The Win), and hear Julie every Monday morning at 7AM on B98.7!

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