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How do you ask your partner to stop being on their phone so much and be more present with you?

The age-old question of “how do I get my partner off their phone” is not lost on me, let me assure you. As The Good Trade’s Social and Community Lead, believe me when I say that I am glued to my phone. Although it’s not just my job—years ago, a friend said to me, “Why are you on your phone when you have a person right here in front of you? Why choose to communicate digitally, when we could talk face-to-face? That’s real interaction.” It’s stuck with me ever since. What I learned then is that when we communicate our needs, our partners step up to the plate—I say healthy relationships only in 2021. 

Oftentimes it’s my partner asking me, but there have been instances where the reverse has definitely been requested. I’ll share how we communicate to each other when we feel as though one has been spending more time with their iPhone than locking eyes, hehe!

What I learned then is that when we communicate our needs, our partners step up to the plate.

Right now, it feels as though we have nothing to do but look at our phones. Our phones are time-sucking devices, and in this era of 2020-extension, there’s not a lot of good news that comes from being on Instagram all day. Even pre-doomscrolling, back when people were sharing travel pics, brunch flatlays, and the world seemed a little lighter, there was no need for us to be connected 24/7. The same could be said about now, too—we don’t need to be so digitally interconnected, especially if phones are a source of anxiety and the aforementioned doomscrolling.

First and foremost, communicate your needs with your partner. It’s scary, I know! I’m really bad at it too, but a simple ask should suffice, maybe something along the lines of… “Hey, I’d love to spend some quality time with you and without our phones.” If they have to be digitally connected for work, maybe something like, “You’ve been at your computer/on your phone for almost eight hours now, maybe we could spend some time together?” I know asking these things sometimes feels like parenting the person, but I’d rather ask than passive-aggressively suggest, which my partner would tell you is my middle name (or at least used to be)! 

There was a period where I felt like my partner was on his phone all the time, scrolling through Instagram at dinner, responding to texts in the middle of a conversation, etc. I told him, “Hey, it really bums me out when we’re talking and you pick up your phone to respond to something—it makes me feel like you’re not really listening to me.” He then went so far as deleting his Instagram app (four months and counting!) and keeping his phone in his pocket throughout our dinners, hangs with friends, and other social settings. 

My partner sometimes has to take more drastic measures for me to get off my phone, but in my defense it’s my job! He’ll roll over me in the morning and grab my phone to turn off my alarm, and then run and put it elsewhere in the apartment. He’s requested full evenings of screen-free time (a blessing, honestly), and when he feels like I’ve been on my phone too much, say when we’re sitting on the couch or similar, he’ll film me and send me the video. It ALWAYS gets me off my phone, but it never feels like he’s nagging me. If your dynamic is a little lighthearted, maybe that’s a fun approach you could take? As his last resort, he says, “Aren’t you tired of looking at that thing all day?” This always helps me to snap out of my scroll-hole and be present with him.

It feels like there’s not much to do but be on our phones, so suggesting an activity you can do together can help you both feel more present.

If you’re the outdoorsy type, maybe suggest going for a walk or hike together and leave your phones in the car. Like I said before, it feels like there’s not much to do but be on our phones, so suggesting an activity you can do together can help you both feel more present. We also dedicate 30 minutes of time to reading before bed, which is inherently screen-free. It’s better for sleeping and gets us off our devices and doing an activity together (or separate but together, anyways).

It ultimately comes down to direct communication. You can use one of the examples above, or you can be honest with how them being on their phone makes you feel. Your partner should understand! Cheering you on from the sidelines, sweet reader! 

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Alyssa Julian is the Social Media Lead at The Good Trade. She’s LA born and raised, and when she’s not scrolling her phone for the latest trends, she can be found at the farmers’ market, camping out of the back of her Subaru, or searching for adoptable dogs on Petfinder. If she’s not off-grid for the weekend, try looking for her at her home studio, where she’s probably making cups for a new coffee shop. Say hi on Instagram! 👋