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?
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.
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