My boyfriend's an iPhone addict!

He won't put down his toy, even at dinner

By Cary Tennis

Published October 16, 2009 7:06AM (EDT)

Hello, Reader,

I am so pleased to be back from our fall Creative Getaway at Marconi Conference Center on Tomales Bay. To all those who joined us, it was such a great and inspiring four days! And to all the staff at Marconi, a hearty thanks for a wonderful stay.

Good morning, column!

Dear Cary,

I have been dating a man for more than three years. He just turned 40 and I am 30. The relationship has been up and down for our entire time together, yet we always seem to find our way back to one another after our frequent disagreements.

One of my primary issues with him is that he is constantly checking his iPhone and laptop. I work full-time and attend law school in the evenings, so our time is limited to late evenings and weekends. He is a software engineer by trade, so I do understand that he feels an attachment to technology that I don't necessarily share. But I am fed up with feeling like a secondhand citizen to gadgets!

I can't count the number of times we go out for dinner and at the slightest pause in conversation he whips out his iPhone and begins surfing the Web, etc. When I ask him to put it away and focus on the human being sitting across from him, he tells me, "This is the wave of the future ... in 15 years we'll have chips in our eyes and be constantly linked to the Internet" or some other lame scenario. When we are relaxing in the evening, perhaps watching a show, he is compelled to be surfing the Web at the same time.

Am I wrong to think that this is extremely rude behavior? I'm beginning to daydream about snapping his laptop in two across my knee or hurling his iPhone out of an open car window while driving obnoxiously fast ... I periodically tease him by saying, "If an iPhone had breasts, you wouldn't need a girlfriend."

Communication has always been a problem area of ours, and this technology dependence seems to make our ability to communicate even worse. He doesn't remember little things I share with him because he's not really focused or listening. I've raised my concerns with him. He becomes defensive immediately. I think he is intentionally not getting it because he doesn't want to change behavior. Or maybe he's addicted to the Web.

What are your thoughts, Cary? FYI: He reads your column religiously ... I think he'd listen to you.

All best,

iWanna CuttheCord

Dear iWanna,

That's a sweet first name, iWanna. I especially like the spelling.

In this business, sometimes the solution involves a new way of seeing, so I write about viewpoint and perspective and finding ways to frame a situation in order to see alternatives.

Other times a vivid image of a specific action will come quickly to mind. In this case, lucky me, here is what I see: I see you two just sitting still together for at least five minutes without doing anything.

Few things could be easier, you would think, than doing absolutely nothing.

But sitting still in front of somebody else who is also sitting still is harder than it sounds. Doing many things at once is not just a nervous habit. It serves a purpose for the person who is doing it. What that purpose is may become clear when you try to not do it. That habit he has may become suddenly dearer than life itself.

Doing nothing makes clear why doing something is necessary. Once you've done nothing together a few times, a pattern will emerge. In that pattern will be your fortune cookie.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. I'm just suggesting that you two go somewhere quiet like a park bench or the floor of an apartment with no music or television on and get some pillows and try sitting together for five minutes without doing anything.

It won't kill you. You may start having thoughts but that's OK. Have the thoughts.

Set a timer. Set a timer for five minutes and just sit quietly together. If anything happens during those five minutes to interrupt, then start over. A car horn outside might not be an interruption. You can decide. If one of your cellphones rings that is definitely an interruption, whether you answer it or not. If a cellphone rings, you have to turn off the cellphone and reset the timer to five minutes.

If either of you says anything before the five minutes are up, you have to start over.

Just get five minutes in. Then one of you asks, "What do you need?"

Try that.

Write Your Truth.

What? You want more advice?

Cary Tennis

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