Dating and Married to Distraction: Kelly and Chris

Warning for Married Couples

"My relationship with my husband, right now, is disconnected. We just don't talk," says Kelly. "We started sleeping in different rooms, and we stopped having sex."

 

"When we're in the same room together, there is a lot of silence," Chris adds. "It doesn't make me feel good. I feel like she's giving me the cold shoulder."

 

"When we pass each other in the hallway, we don't say anything to each other. Most of the time, I feel like I'm roommates with Chris," Kelly shares. 

 

"Facebook came into the picture about a year ago, and Kelly has gotten very involved with that," Chris explains.

 

"I check it all the time. This is where I lose myself in Facebook. I spend a lot of time in front of this computer. Now that Facebook is on my phone, it's in my lap all the time, so it's gotten more out of control than it ever was," Kelly admits. 

 

"The time Kelly spends on Facebook makes me resentful. It feels like a rejection to me, and it's hurtful," Chris reveals.

 

[AD]"It gives me some validity in my life. Spending time online, for me, gives me the connection that I'm lacking here in my own home," Kelly says. "Facebook is a stress reliever for me. It's an escape."

 

"If Kelly spends two or three hours a day on Facebook, then she could maybe take half an hour to sit down and have some interaction with me. I feel like we're living separate lives now more than ever. This relationship is going nowhere and that's not a good feeling," Chris says.

 

"We just do not know how to make that communication thing work. It doesn't seem like it's going to get better, unless somebody intervenes right now," Kelly says.

Dr. Phil introduces psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell, director of The Hallowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health, and his wife, Sue Hallowell, a couples therapist. They are authors of the new book Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption.

 

Dr. Hallowell and Sue make a house call to Kelly and Chris' home to break through the main problems in their marriage.

 

Dr. Phil asks Kelly, "Do you recognize that it's an escape?"

 

[AD]"When I first addressed that we don't talk anymore or were disconnected, I never really associated the Facebook part of it with anything with Chris and I," Kelly says. "I do it so much that it's part of my waking up in the morning and in the middle of the day. If I was going to address why we don't talk anymore, it wouldn't have been that."

 

"I think it's more of a sidebar. We had problems, and then she went to Facebook and kind of lost herself in that," Chris adds.

"What would happen in your view, if all of the time that was spent on these devices was instead spent in eye contact and communication? What would happen in this marriage?" Dr. Phil asks Dr. Hallowell.

 

"Sparks would fly. Instead of them being able to dodge each other, I think they would get angry. I think they'd maybe throw a few things," he says.

 

"That's exactly right," Sue adds. "You use these other things as a way to avoid talking to each other, and if you were talking to each other " from spending time with you, I know that there's a lot there between the two of you " that would make a huge difference."

 

"Facebook wasn't the original thing, but then it became an easy thing," Kelly says. "I cannot stop looking at it, because I have a friend who will make me feel better about my kids' problem or whatever, and I don't even have to talk to him about the kids' problems anymore."

 

Dr. Hallowell shares an assignment he gave Kelly. "I asked her to stay off her electronic devices, stay off Facebook, stay off e-mail, for 36 hours. I also asked them to do four sessions over four days, where they spent half an hour together," he explains. "I haven't heard how they did with either of those, but just that alone would be a tremendous change."

 

[AD]"It was so rushed. We weren't able to find the time every day, sadly, which is part of our problem, with the kids and everything else, to actually spend the time to do the exercises," Chris says. "But we did actually talk about some of the things that you wanted us to talk about."

 

"Do you think you want a divorce?" Dr. Phil asks Kelly.

 

"Oh, no," she replies. "I threatened it because I don't know how to handle any of the disconnection in the house anymore."

"I found it interesting that you said, 'We didn't have time,' and you asked them to do it for four days, and you said you really didn't have time to do all of this," Dr. Phil says to Kelly and Chris.

 

"We did, but the kids were sitting in the middle of us on the couch," Kelly says.

 

"Have you ever sat down and done the math on what it takes to arrange visitation and deliver the kids from point A to point B?" Dr. Phil asks the couple. 

 

"No," Kelly says.

 

"Have you done the time math on how much time it takes to get a divorce, and go through custody and property settlements, and go to court, and hire lawyers and all of those sort of things?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"No. We don't want to," Kelly says.

 

Dr. Phil points out that it would require much more time to go through a divorce than to spend participating in the activity with each other.

 

"What people don't understand is how powerful a little bit of time can be," Dr. Hallowell says. "What they also don't understand is how much time they waste in Facebook. I'm not saying Facebook is a waste of time. In your case, it's a dodge, a seductive, addictive dodge."

 

[AD]"You could go on a date. You could have sex. You could talk, you could laugh, you could tell each other a joke, you could do a lot of things," Dr. Phil says.

 

"Which they want to do. That's what's so amazing. They want to have a great marriage," Dr. Hallowell says.