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Baggage Check: Longing for human connection

By Andrea BoniorBy Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: My wife is constantly texting and doing other stuff on her phone. We’ll start talking at dinner, and then she’ll get up and go for her phone. I know this is not a common complaint among men, but I will admit it makes me frustrated to feel like I’m talking to a half-there individual. She’s been my best friend for a long time, but I really feel like we don’t connect much anymore.

I think this problem is more common than you think (types the psychologist on her phone). It’s quite possible she doesn’t know the extent of how addicted she is, or maybe she feels powerless to stop.

Pick a quiet time to have the discussion, and don’t be accusatory: “We haven’t gotten a lot of time to talk lately, and I feel disconnected. Sometimes it seems I’m just watching you on your smartphone, and it makes it hard to have a real conversation.”

If she’s not motivated to make changes, you’ve got to explore why that is. Does she not view it as a problem? Is she actually seeking to avoid connection? The deeper you get, the more you’ll know whether this is about that sleek, shiny gadget, or about your marriage.

Q: I have some health problems that have involved a lot of diagnostic appointments during my workday. They are coming to an end, and my immediate supervisor has been supportive, but my colleagues seem to act like I’m slacking off on work or ducking out. I am very irritated and want to confront them, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I owe them an explanation.

You’re right. You don’t owe them an explanation. And to plan some big confrontation when your supervisor has been supportive seems like asking for it. If they’re trying to create drama, they’ll only be overjoyed by you giving them more of it.

That’s not to say that you need to take their mistreatment. If they’re creating a hostile workplace, it’s worth talking to your supervisor. And as for your interactions with them, clean the slate and take each new comment as it comes. Respond matter-of-factly in a way that highlights how inappropriate it is: “I’m confused by what you’re implying: I had some medical appointments that I used leave for” or just a blank, befuddled stare followed by a “Wow. What a thing to say.”

Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.”
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