by Meridith Levinson

You Gotta Choose: Your BlackBerry or Your Wife

May 19, 20094 mins

If you care about your marriage, don’t bring your BlackBerry to bed. Instead, indulge in some pillow talk with your spouse and bid her (or him) goodnight with a kiss to build a dream on.

Londoners may not be so swingin’ after all.  According to a survey of 329 city workers, 28 percent bring mobile devices, such as their laptops and smartphones, to bed with them so that they can cram in a few extra hours of work before they get some shut-eye.

Eight percent of survey respondents admitted to spending more time with their technology than with their partners in the evening. Not surprisingly, said partners find these workaholic tendencies and gadget obsessions “very annoying,” according to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of Credant Technologies, a London-based data security company. (My colleague Al Sacco has written extensively about BlackBerry addiction. See: CrackBerry: True Tales of BlackBerry Use and Abuse and BlackBerry Addiction and You: The Detox Challenge.)

Credant commissioned the survey because it wanted to point out the security dangers associated with mobile devices. Clearly, there are other equally—and arguably more—important dangers that need to be considered, such as sleep deprivation for the workaholic and his/her partner and the impact on their relationship, which can’t be good. I’ve played second-fiddle to a laptop before, and I can tell you from experience that it definitely strains a marriage.

My husband used to bring his laptop to bed at night so he could work on a novel while I conked. It began as a compromise: I was tired of going to bed alone while he stayed up late to write. I’d fall asleep around 10, and two hours later I’d wake up to find that he was still in another room, writing away. “Are you ever coming to bed,” I’d whine.  

So my husband, tired of my whining—and, to his credit, wanting to spend more time with me—decided he’d get into bed when I did, but he’d bring his computer with him so that he could continue working, since he often wasn’t ready to sleep. Unfortunately, the light emanating from the screen of his laptop and the clack-clack-clacking of his fingers on the keyboard kept me from counting Zs. 

I don’t know precisely how we resolved this, but Eric doesn’t bring his laptop to bed anymore. If he’s not ready to fall asleep when I am, he’ll don a headlamp and read. More often, we chat before turning off the light, and the pillow talk relaxes both of us. We agree that the bedtime communication is definitely good for our relationship. 

I have a feeling many IT professionals could benefit from better communication with their husbands and wives.  I’ve been doing some research into their relationships with their spouses, and I’m finding—not surprisingly—that the demanding nature of their work stresses some of their marriages. I’m sure the BlackBerry is the source of much spousal spite. So what’s an earnest IT professional to do? 

I’m no marriage counselor, but based on my own experience, I’d say boundaries need to be set. My husband and I have a ‘no laptops in bed at bedtime’ rule. A ‘no BlackBerry in the bedroom’ rule may not be practical for IT professionals, especially for those who work on call or who otherwise have to be available to deal with a crisis. But if they’re prone to checking e-mail one last time before bed while under the duvet, they might decide to take that one last scroll through the inbox in another room, or that checking e-mail after the 11 o’clock news isn’t necessary.

They might also take a cue from the 96 percent of London city workers who say that the last thing they do before going to sleep is to kiss their partners goodnight. A smooch goes a long way toward smoothing over ruffled feathers.