How to get a break from ‘the third partner’

How to get a break from ‘the third partner’
The amount that our family uses their phones is getting worse. It’s now affecting our relationships. How can we get back on track to having more phone-free time?


Sadly this is not an uncommon issue in our interconnected world. Start off by having a phone-free rule that you implement at certain times. Get a shoebox and when everyone is home for the evening, all phones go in the box. It’s all or nothing and it has to be something you do together. This will be difficult but you will be amazed how, after a few days when you are at the dinner table not being distracted by buzzing and beeping, you will actually talk to each other.

Buy an alarm clock so you don’t need to keep using your phone to set alarms or check the time. Have a rule that there is no technology allowed in bedrooms – this goes for parents as well! There aren’t many things that should be happening in your bed and being on your phone isn’t one of them!

A lot of this is about creating new habits. For example, for most people the first thing they do in the morning is check their phone. Decide to start your day in a different way, with silence, or gratitude for being alive another day, or perhaps a simple prayer. Let yourself get ready for work in peace before the noise of your phone creeps in.


If you reach for your phone out of boredom when waiting for a bus or standing in a queue, stop, take a moment, look up, and smile. Replace the habit of mindless scrolling with something good and productive. Try calling a friend, or listen to reflective apps like Pray As You Go.

If you’re really honest your phone can be like a third partner in your marriage – it takes your attention, distracts you, consumes you and often makes you ignore the people right in front of you.

Look at your day and think about other times that should be phone free.

For example, you can set up your phone to go on silent/do not disturb mode at particular times of day, so if every day you collect your kids from school at 3pm, for example, next time you pick up your kids, you can actually talk to them, with the rules being the same for them as for you.

Next step is to have a phone-free family day. I like to try Sunday – use this as a springboard to plan great activities together after Mass. Plan a hike, play board games, go for a picnic!

Whether it’s phone-free Sunday or phone-free evenings, tell people this is how your family does it: you will be amazed how after a while people get the message and they know the times you are out of contact.

Technology makes you always available until you decide to silence the noise and demands on your time and focus on what really matters.