Help – my wife is ignoring me for her virtual life!

Yesterday I talked about the potential danger of social media and virtual lives interfering with our real lives. What do you do if your wife has fallen for this and it’s limiting, hurting, or threatening your marriage?

Living on-line © marin | 

First, you need to understand why. This is going to come across as blaming the victim, but usually when a woman gets too into her virtual life it’s because she doesn’t have much of a real life. Sometimes this is because she’s an introvert or has been hurt and feels safer with virtual relationships. A more common cause is feeling cut off and alone. She lives too far from others, or doesn’t drive, or has so many small children getting out of the house is a huge hassle, or her husband limits her movements. In such situations her virtual life is not a replacement for real life, rather it fills the vacuum resulting from not having friends in the real world.

Losing your wife to social media can happen slowly. At first, it’s not a problem; in fact, at first it usually seems great. She’s less depressed, and less whiny about not being able to get out. She has things to talk about and seems to become a more 3-D person. If the amount of time in her virtual world stays small, it won’t be a problem and may well be a blessing to her and to your marriage. On the other hand, if her time and emotional investment grow, there will be problems. Housework starts to slip. Time with the kids is reduced, and you have to fight to get time with her. When she’s with you all she can talk about is the people she knows on-line. She becomes more invested in on-line people than the people in her real life. (I can describe this because I have watched it first hand – fortunately not in my own marriage.)

If your wife hasn’t gone too far, be glad; but keep an eye out for possible escalation. If she’s started down the path to being too involved with her on-line life, don’t waste time, deal with it ASAP. Once it passes a certain point, it will escalate quickly. 

How do you know if she has a problem?

  • She stays up late, even when she’s tired, to be on-line.
  • She checks in every couple of hours, even when away from home (smart phone).
  • She checks in first thing in the morning – like before she goes to the bathroom or while the coffee is brewing.
  • She gets angry or depressed over not being able to check her social media.
  • She is unable to function if the Internet goes down, and checks every few minutes to see if the connection has been restored.
  • Her mood is influenced by what she does on-line.
  • Real life contacts are seeing less of her.
  • You wake up in the middle of the night and find she’s on-line.

If you think she has a problem, but you’re unsure, try taking a several day vacation without any on-line devices. Alternatively, suggest the two of you take a disconnected weekend together at home. If she is agreeable and can do it, she’s probably okay. If she won’t try, or tries and fails, you may have a problem.

What do you do if you think she’s too involved on-line? Just complaining about it isn’t going to help, especially if social media is how she deals with stress. I would start by working on ways to help her have good real life relationships. If she has formed an on-line life because her real life is lacking, giving her the chance to have a real life might help pull her out. At the very least it gives her an option, and takes away the “I have no life excuse”. If there’s nothing to replace her cyber-reality, she has no reason to spend less time on-line.

Once you’ve ensured she can have a life in the real world, you can start to discuss how deeply involved she is with her social media and on-line life. Try not to attack. Focus on her doing more off-line rather than telling her to do less on-line. Don’t expect the situation to be fixed overnight – it took time for her to get where she is, and it will take time for her to get out. See any movement from on-line to real life as positive; praise success, and keep gently nudging her.

Last, and probably most important, find ways to spend more time with her. Unless she’s given up on you and has no desire to be with you, she should react positively to you expressing a desire to spend time with her. If you find it difficult to make more time to be with her, you may have uncovered a big part of the problem. If you can’t make more time for her, it may explain why she has taken to a cyber-existence in the first place.

(Financial support in 2012: We recently mailed end-of-year contribution letters (and sent emails to those who have not given us a mailing address). If you do not receive an email or letter shortly about your giving, please let me know. Those who gave through Razoo should receive letters from Razoo. Our thanks to all for supporting us financially and with your prayers and words of encouragement.) 

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6 Comments on “Help – my wife is ignoring me for her virtual life!

  1. This article is so true! I know because it describes me! Why do I have an online life? Well, hubby works away from home 95% of the time. We live in a rural area and I homeschool our children. My peers are career moms with either older children or young children in daycare. I’m rarely invited to anything because I have to take my children with me. Why? Because the career moms have all the babysitters because working is more important than going out. I also have more than the normal number of children and often hear, “we wouldn’t mind a couple of them, but we can’t accomodate all of them!” Online is all I have for the most part and I believe it takes a LOT of online to remotely match real life human contact. Online social lives, I think, are kind of equivalent to porn. It isn’t at all like the real deal and thus you need more of it to even remotely try to match the real deal.

    Finances are another thing. Everything costs money and with kids it costs extra. So home we stay, not to mention having to deal with working around the schedule of two children who tend to nap at different times….back to back.

    I know it is just a season, but it is an incredibly lonely one. I go days without seeing or speaking to another adult. I’ve actually held casual conversations with telemarketers because I was so starved for adult conversation. I can totally understand why pioneer women went insane.

    The other reason why online life is so addictive and common is because it is easy. Hobbies take time and money, effort and focus…all of which I don’t have cooped up in a too-small house with many children. I can’t knit while breast feeding a wiggly older infant. I can’t sit down and sew or paint or write because I can’t devote the focus and isolation often needed for these things. It’s just easier to poke around on my smart phone while officiating homeschooling, or feeding the kids, or even sitting on the toilet!

    To be honest, I hate it, but it’s what I’ve got!

    I would LOVE a life outside of this. Yes, my children are my life as they should be, but I can’t do ANYTHING without a small human attached to me in some way shape or form.

    For the last few months, one of my prayers has been, “Lord, who am I? I don’t know who I am anymore! I have no identity, no purpose other than diapers and discipline, dinners and motherly duties. All my interests and hobbies have vanished. All my personal goals and dreams have faded away. It’s week after week of the same doldrums with no outlet, no release.”

    I did manage to go to a tea with some girlfriends recently, but I had to bring the baby and the house was not baby proof, so I spent the whole time holding a wiggly, fussy baby, didn’t even get to drink tea and ended up having to leave just when conversation turned to a subject of passion for me. :(

    I’m certainly not complaining about my children. I love them and they are generally well behaved when I do have to take them with me, and I love being a mommy, but I can’t help but feel a bit put out that I don’t get an ounce of myself and it is all on my shoulders. Everything. Not just the children, but everything. The only thing I don’t do is hold a job. I take care of EVERYTHING else.

    And yes, there are times I want to run, escape, just get away, grab the kids and only what we need, burn the house down and start over!

    So online I go to not only try to have some semblance of social life and brain stimulation, but to also pass the time until I can get out of this lonely rut.

    When hubby is home, I am offline more. My friends have said they know when hubby’s home because I’m not updating my status on facebook!

    • livinginblurredlines – It is sad that being a stay at home mom has become such a limitation. I expect that from society, but I expect better from the church!

      Lori and I have fought this battle since our kids were grown. It’s easy to forget, it’s easy to move towards a home that is not kid friendly. We’ve made it an ongoing goal to have a home where children are welcome and won’t have to be tied down to keep out of trouble. We also work hard to provide child care for any meeting in our home, and more than once we have paid for that because the parents honestly could not, or could not cover all of it.

      It is good that you choose your husband when he is home. For you social media is a substitute, and as long as it is your second choice I would say it is the best of less than perfect choices.

  2. This article is very good as far as it goes. I would just observe that what you have said could be applied to anything that your spouse is obsessed with, or anything that your spouses has decided is more important that you or the kids. Also applies if your spouse seems not to understand that she has an affirmative obligation to take care of you (not just certain housekeeping jobs). That could apply to responsibilities at church, or volunteering at school or some non profit, or some other community obligation. It could be extended family, parents, or some other source. What is going on here is (i) failure to pay attention to the first things first (1. taking care of yourself, 2. taking care of your spouse, 3. taking care of your children, 4. taking care of your house or a job depending on whether you are two income or one income), or (ii) the idea that the person doing the neglecting isn’t obligated to worry about 1,2,3 or 4 above since they have a “higher” calling.

    • Andrew Jardine – Yes, the same is true of may things. I have covered that a couple of times, and the last time I did someone suggested I needed to discuss this issue in particular.

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