How To Ask For Attention When Your Partner Is Distracted — Without Being Clingy

Being physically present but preoccupied online is no way to keep a relationship healthy.

man on his phone while woman pleads for attention nomadsoulphotos | Canva

Have you ever asked yourself what happens when your spouse is online and you can't seem to get their attention no matter what you say or do?

Maybe they are spending large amounts of time looking at the news, playing video games, on social media, responding to DMs from friends, viewing live streams, or chatting.

Has your spouse reconnected with an old high school girlfriend? Do you wonder if you are too trusting or too jealous? Have you ever wondered what is appropriate and what crosses the line to inappropriate behavior in your relationship? These are all valid questions that more and more people are asking in their couple-ship.


Let’s look at what is happening in the relationship and how to engage your spouse.

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How to ask a distracted partner for more attention, in the healthiest way possible 

1. First ask, "What am I feeling when my spouse is online?" 

This is incredibly important before you start a conversation with your partner.


2. Don't complain

If you complain about their behavior, they will probably put up an emotional wall and won’t hear anything you say.

3. Share how you feel

It is much better to share how you feel when they engage in the online activities. You are the expert on your feelings. No one can successfully argue with you about what you feel. Others siply do not have access to your inner world. Once you share your feelings with your spouse that is all you can do. Any attempt at controlling your spouse's behavior will be met with resistance.

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4. Let them choose

Once you share your feelings, it is up to your spouse to decide whether to change their behavior.


5. Decide based on their choice

If your spouse decides to get off-line and spend time with you, great! If they continue staying online or dismiss your feelings, you have some good information to work with.

6. Realize there can be several reasons why they spend time online.

Your spouse is working and needs to finish a project

Your spouse is feeling stressed and uses time online to self-calm.

Your spouse senses conflict in your relationship and unconsciously wants to escape.

Your spouse wants emotional intimacy but does not know how to get their need met with you and seeks it with strangers. The marriage relationship is much more risky to share emotional depth.


The excitement of a new relationship or rekindling of an old relationship can be much easier than building true emotional intimacy with a spouse.

Your spouse may lack the skills to tolerate true emotional intimacy due to an abusive or neglectful family of origin.

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7. Be prepared for them to be defensive

Often, a spouse will defend their online time and might blame you. If this happens, you may need to get professional help to address this issue in your relationship. Look for a counselor who is trained and certified to work with couples with attachment and intimacy issues.


8. You might need to get help for yourself

If you feel you are questioning your sanity, or you’ve been told by your spouse you are "crazy" to question their online behavior, then get help for yourself because this could be gaslighting. You have a right to request time from your spouse. It is healthy and supportive for spouses to spend time with one another.

9. Consider addiction as a possibility

Spending time online is a quickly growing addiction in our culture. Everyone who spends a lot of time online is not an addict, but more and more couples are struggling with this issue. You are not alone.

10. Seek professional relationship counseling

If your spouse seeks other intimate relationships online, you will benefit from professional help. A dynamic of addiction may be at work. You may want to find a therapist trained to help people break free of the addiction and help you develop a more emotionally intimate relationship.


I hope you have found some tools to get your spouse back. If you want to deepen emotional intimacy in your marriage, it just takes learning some skills.

RELATED: Before Going To Couples Counseling, Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

Teresa Maples-Zuvela, CMAT, CSAT, LMHC, MS, is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in working with women who have experienced betrayal in intimate relationships.