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Internet Addiction
My spouse is obsessed with the internet. What can I do?

The internet is a great tool and can also be easily addicting.

My husband gets home from work and the first thing he does is jumps on his laptop and surfs the net for hours. I know the internet is great, but I think he's addicted and we're constantly fighting over it. What can I do?

You're right, the internet is great. It's one of the most liberating technologies of our time, allowing us to access information and connect to anyone around the world with just a stroke of a few keys. Ironically, the very tool that helps us connect to the outside world can disconnect us to those closest. The concern you raise is one that is voiced by many as a result of countless spouses spending inordinate amounts of time on the internet. In fact, this phenomenon is so common, the term "internet addiction" has been coined for it.

Whenever I see someone who spends an exorbitant amount of time in one activity at the expense of being out-of-balance with others, I begin to wonder if there is a problem. Is the person trying to escape from something upsetting? Is there something bothersome that isn’t being addressed?

Please note that I am not discussing a situation that might happen periodically—say when your spouse works unholy hours on an individual project to meet a deadline. Or, a family crisis that demands a great deal of devoted time. Rather, I am speaking of behavior that has a pattern to it.

Of course, since our society has become so frenzied, it’s a real challenge for couples to make their relationships priority. So even if your spouse isn’t suffering from internet addiction, you may feel that there’s just too much time spent on the keyboard that is being taken away from you.

Your concerns should be raised. It’s important to remember that how you raise them will have a lot to do with how well they are received:
  1. Bring the issue up gently, expressing that you have a concern or a need.
  2. Do not blame, attack or criticize your partner. You might even ask if he/she is aware of how much time is spent on the computer.
  3. The two of you might discuss why so much time is spent on the computer—perhaps your spouse feels bored or that something is missing in the relationship.
  4. Discuss some schedules for internet use, e.g. nothing after 9:00 p.m. or only checking e-mail in the morning and evening.
  5. Start to talk about ways to reprioritize your relationship and bring back not only time but some novelty.
Technology is here to stay so you might as well put it to good use. Since it’s very important to let your spouse know that they matter to you, doing lots of small things often will go a long way. So aside from doing it face-to-face, send an e-mail that compliments your spouse or expresses your appreciation!

P.S. If and when you raise the concern with your spouse and you have truly done it gently, but there is a complete denial that anything wrong, you may want to consider speaking to a professional.

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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