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Dear Robin: My Wife is Addicted to the Internet

Monday, December 08, 2014

 

Dear Robin,

I've been married for 28 years, most of them pretty damn good, but things started to go south about 10 years ago when my wife started spending a lot of time on the computer. She usually went online for email but then at some point it just became a constant thing and she is always on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and eBay and all sorts of other sites where she interacts with everyone except me.

My job is very stressful and when I come home I'd really like to sit and relax and talk with my wife, especially now that the kids are gone and there is nobody else to talk to but the dog and the dog's not talking back.

I've tried to discuss it with her over the years but she won't listen and says "her time" should be free for what she wants to do.  Now I don't even want to come home after work and I am dreading my retirement in a few years.

I still love my wife and I want to spend time with her but she prefers to ignore me. Don't even get me started on the sex because that is practically nonexistent too. How do I get her off the computer and back into my life?

Signed,

Bill

Dear Bill,

I sympathize with your problem.  I know a lot of men and women with the same issue but to varying degrees.  On a scale of 1-10, however, you are at 11.

In other words, your marriage is in serious trouble. It may not be technically dead, but it's definitely on life support and showing no brain activity.  Either both of you create a miracle through vigorous emotional CPR or it's time to put this relationship out of its misery and into the ground where it belongs.

The computer isn't your problem, Bill.  Your problem is your wife doesn't seem to like, respect, or value you and may very well not love you anymore.

You said most of the years of your marriage were "pretty damn good," but then you went on to tell me this problem began 10 years ago.  While nobody ever accused me of being competent at math, even I can see that over 1/3 of your marriage has suffered from what essentially amounts to your wife's absence.

I emailed you and you told me your youngest left for college about 8 years ago and that is when your wife's computer usage really started to swell and the sex became as rare as a City-Hall-sanctioned Uber driver in Portland.  Surely you know this is no coincidence.

You also told me your wife has a college degree and has been briefly employed sporadically during the marriage but hasn't done anything for the past eight years, not even volunteer work, despite your suggestions that work might help battle some of the boredom and empty-nest feelings with which she is almost certainly struggling.

People like your wife are why I implore women to have other interests and responsibilities outside of raising children, because at some point the kids will be gone and mom will be bored, lonely, drifting and depressed.

Remember when the internet was born and we mainly used it to communicate with friends via email?  How I wish we could put that fart back in the poop chute and push Mark Zuckerberg's pregnant mother in front of a MAX train.

Of course we now know that email was just the amuse bouche to the subsequent banquet of isolation that is the "social network," a term particularly interesting because it is neither social nor a true network.

Especially troubling is Facebook: a site dedicated to the proposition that while all men and women are created equal, given the right tools we will invariably endeavor to prove our superiority to others through vacation photos and random proclamations of love and happiness.  You told me your wife obsesses over how many "likes" or comments she gets on her various Facebook postings, despite the fact she is not a 12 year-old girl.

Bill: your wife is a very unhappy, unfulfilled, lonely woman.

Here is my advice to you: insist that your wife discuss this computer addiction with you and a marriage counselor.  Do this in a loving and supportive way and ask if she is suffering from depression or other problems that lead her to escape via the internet.  Analyze your own behavior and ask her if she is punishing you (albeit in a very passive-aggressive way) for some transgression on your part.

If you make it to couples counseling, explore your wife's perception of what her role in the marriage and in life is now that she has nothing to keep her occupied.  Encourage her to either get a job or find a way to fill up at least 30 hours of her week doing something constructive and kind for others.  Speak with your therapist and your wife about depression that can accompany both psychological and physical dramatic changes in midlife.

Don't forget to express to your wife how much you love her and want to spend time with her.  I would think with all the unhappy longterm marriages out there, this would make a spouse happy.  Remind her of the fun you used to have before she disappeared into cyberspace and that this point in your life should be about rediscovering one another without the burden of children underfoot.

Finally, consider the possibility that she may be having an affair and do some digging around that subject.  Too many times I've seen stories like yours end with the exposure of an extra-marital dalliance.

If your wife refuses to unplug and seek counseling with you to save your "marriage," and I use that term very loosely, she has no love for you anymore but she is too cowardly and lazy to get divorced.  After all, she has a nice little deal going: no work, no effort, no accountability, no problem!

If that is the case, you need to do two things:

1. Cut her off financially and cancel your internet.  I've said this before but it bears repeating: if one party unilaterally ceases participating in the marriage and refuses to discuss the problems at hand, the other should feel free to do the same.

Your wife is not entitled to simply reap the benefits of the marriage contract; she must fulfill her responsibilities as well.  Such responsibilities include communication, interaction, affection, and engagement in problem resolution.  If she wants to while away her time online she can get a job to pay for the internet service and every other luxury you provide through your hard work.

This is the Robin DesCamp "Theory of Material Marital Breach," which states that in cases like yours if one spouse isn't acting at all like a spouse and refuses to make efforts to improve the marriage, the other spouse's duties and obligations under the marital contract cease.

2. Decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life in a loveless marriage, quietly toeing the trigger of your shotgun with the Little Piggy that went to Market and hoping the dog will learn to talk before you decide to blow your brains out.

Your last email to me expressed concerns about the cost of divorce, to which I will say only this: divorce is often expensive because it is so very worth it.

You married very young and have many years ahead of you.  Whether or not you make them a slog and a countdown towards a welcome death OR a joyous adventure, with or without your wife, is up to you.

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin DesCamp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected]

 

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