Dear Miriam,

I really need to do a digital detox, but somehow, I never seem to get around to it. I work hard at my job and when I get home, I just love to scroll down through Facebook and other social media platforms. My wife is always giving out to me, saying we never talk anymore and she is right. The truth is, she likes to sit back and scroll as well, but is more disciplined than I am. We do not really communicate, and our relationship is struggling.

We are good friends, but we seem to have lost the connection we once shared and what worries me is the fact that I am not overly concerned. I don’t want to lose my wife: she is a wonderful person, and I know she is genuinely concerned about our future. It feels like an addiction, and I am scared that I cannot get out of it.

Galway Man

Dear Galway Man,

A digital detox is a great idea; but it can be difficult to actually go there. I agree when you say it feels like an addiction. There is nothing wrong with spending a limited time on your phone or laptop; but when it starts to take over your life, problems arise.

The first step is acknowledging that there is a problem and taking ownership of it. Next, I would suggest that you look at this with compassion and curiosity, not with judgement. What worries might you be trying to escape from as you scroll? There are healthier ways of dealing with stress and anxiety. It does not mean you have to give up social media, but learn to use it in a disciplined manner.

A digital detox is a great idea; but it can be difficult to actually go there. I agree when you say it feels like an addiction

It might help initially to give it up for one hour a day. Leave your phone/laptop/device in a different room. Ask your wife if she would be willing to do the same. Do not put yourselves under any pressure to make conversation. Maybe take a walk, or enjoy a cup of tea together. Gradually you may find yourself talking about your addiction and the worries it helps you to escape from. A trouble shared can certainly be a trouble halved. I would also encourage you to address whatever fears or anxieties you struggle with.

Perhaps it would help you both to seek relationship counselling? You will be gently guided on how to get your relationship back on track again by learning the art of effective communication and the importance of dealing with your emotions in a healthy and safe way.

Once you are willing to change your ways, the doors of opportunity will open for you.

Letter response (2 March): ‘Toy dumping ground’

Dear Cluttered Mother,

In response to the letter in 2 March edition (‘My sister-in-law treats my house like a dumping ground’):

Second-hand toys are very difficult to rehome: toy appeals and most charity shops are only looking for new ones. Your sister-in-law is passing on the burden of that to you disguised as a ‘gift’, which is rather selfish and inconsiderate of her.

I suggest that you tell her that you’re reorgansing and decluttering the children’s rooms and you’re clearing out the toys that they don’t really use or have room for. Since that includes the boxes of toys that came from her, you’re wondering if she’d like to have them back or should she leave it up to you to get rid of them?

Most likely you will have to get rid of the toys yourself, but this will help her see that her old toys are not welcome in your home.

Then tell her you’re planning to keep the amount of toys in your house to the minimum and you won’t be able to accept hand-me-downs. If she still tries to sneak toys over, for example by “letting your children keep them” when they are at her house, return anything promptly and remind her of your “no toys policy”. She will get the message.

Be prepared that your sister-in-law might be disappointed or even slightly offended at first. Don’t let her make you feel guilty. Stand your ground - refusing to accept things that are a burden on you doesn’t make you ungrateful or unfriendly.

Farmer’s wife