- We can tell the caller that Dennis is busy with housework and can't be bothered.
- After a pause we can tell the caller that Dennis doesn't want to speak with them; this is particularly effective with male callers looking to chat. The pause suggests to the caller that we are asking dennis whether he wants to take the call and that he is saying “no.” In reality, of course, he's never being asked; we're making that decision, but it does have the desired impact on the caller.
- We can let Dennis take the call, something he understands is limited to five minutes.
- We can let Dennis take the call and we can stay on the line to monitor the conversation.
- An exception to his not being allowed to answer the phone at home is if Mother or I are out and he sees that we are calling; then, of course, he has to answer.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
NANCY & DENNIS: TOWARD A LIFELONG FEMALE-LED MARRIAGE: PHONE CALLS, EMAIL & TEXTING – TAKING CONTROL
At an impromptu discussion on female-led relationships, a number of women mentioned that phones and other digital devices have become a major distraction; so much so that men were falling behind in their domestic duties. Men as well as women brought up this issue! A number of couples have rules in place around phones and phone use that work well; we certainly do! In dennis' case, phone interruptions have been eliminated! Here's something to think about:
Monitor his phone use – Put him on notice that his phone use, whether cell or landline, will be monitored. He's more likely to use it correctly if he knows he knows he's being watched.
Take away his cell phone – Take his cell phone when he comes home; he won't be needing it, and if it rings with calls or beeps with text messages, it will be a distraction. Dennis gives his cell phone to Mother or me when he gets home. We lock it away until he goes to work or goes out to do grocery shopping or run errands.
See who's calling, texting, emailing – Once he gives you his phone, why not see who he's been communicating with and what's being said? Mother reviews dennis' text messages, emails, recent call list, and voice messages; don't forget voice messages! Many of the messages he was getting were pure rubbish – guys texting and emailing jokes and comments, many of them sexist and obviously not business-related at all. These aren't the types of outside influences I want my man dealing with. Dennis was just deleting these things, but we went a step further to eliminate them. Since he was getting such non-business messages on his company phone, I made sure he took the issue up at work:
I had dennis take up inappropriate emails and texts from employees and coworkers with his boss, Carol. Together they investigated and put together new rules and policies at his company, particularly around sexist jokes and comments. An intern was assigned to monitor communications for violations. The intern did her job well, and a number of men were warned, suspended or dismissed for violations. The intern also pointed out that many of the men she monitored made very few business calls, so Carol took away their company-paid phones altogether, saving a lot of money. Women managers should consider doing this at their companies; I did, same result.
On a personal level Mother and I started responding to text messages and emails Dennis received. The sender thought that they were receiving a response from Dennis so our reply was particularly effective; a sharp rebuke often did the trick. At other times we'd say, “Dennis is busy cleaning the kitchen, please don't bother him” or “Dennis isn't allowed to text message until his work is done.” Such a response sends a strong message about who wears the pants in our family. A progressive gentleman would think nothing of Dennis cleaning the kitchen (isn’t that what a dutiful husband should be doing?); while a macho guy would consider it being henpecked and likely quit his bothersome texting.
We also forward emails and text messages to women in our network or to the sender's wife. Often we do this “accidentally” by simply including her name on the message; at other times we're more direct, perhaps commenting, “Jane, what do you think of this?” And then including Jane on the copy list. There are a number of men who have faced the wrath of their wives for an inappropriate message they sent. In most cases the emails and texts stop when a female authority figure steps in.
Blind copy – Under certain circumstances I have dennis blind copy Mother or me on messages; this keeps us in the loop as the conversation develops.
Have him give you his cell phone password – Make sure you have his phone password so you can monitor, review and, if needed, respond to or forward messages. And don't forget the password for voicemail, which may be different.
His work phone – If he has a cell phone at work, make sure you monitor his use of it. Many
Limit his sharing his phone number – If he has only a company cell phone, this is hard to do, but to the extent possible, limit who he gives his cell phone number to. Dennis is not allowed to give out his cell or, especially, my home number unless Mother and I approve, and we usually don't. The more people who have his number, the more likely we are to be bothered.
And don't forget the landline phone! It presents special problems because Mother and I as well as Dennis use that number. From our FLR workshops we have found that some women practice call screening and monitoring as a way of managing their man's calls.
We manage our land line through a few rules:
Prohibit him from answering the phone – Dennis is not allowed to answer our home phone; only Mother or I can do so. In this way we can screen all incoming calls and determine how they are handled:
One woman requires her husband take all calls on the speakerphone in the kitchen. This allows her to conveniently monitor if she wants to. Calls tend to be shorter too, since the caller is aware that he is on a speakerphone.
Mother screens calls and, if she approves of a caller or is just curious, she directs Dennis to another phone so she can stay on the line. Although she usually doesn't speak, she makes no secret of being on the line, something that leads to shorter calls. Mother has commented when men have said things she felt were derogatory to women, and she's passed on tips to women of things that came up in monitored conversations.
One man we know asks his wife to monitor calls, especially if he knows that he’ll later be asking her advice or approval. In such cases it’s beneficial for her to hear the conversation firsthand. Dennis agrees and routinely asks Mother or me to be on the line when he takes or makes a call.
We don't allow Dennis to accept calls from men of whom we don't approve. They are told rather tersely not to call back. Those who do eventually call back get the message when they are always turned down; and they learn who wears the pants in our family!
Screen and monitor outgoing calls, too. Women should know who is being called and why. If she wouldn’t want her man to receive a call from an individual, she certainly shouldn’t let him make a call to that person.
Dennis has to ask permission to make calls. If we approve of the call, we can monitor if we want.
Carefully review your phone bill each month. Have your man explain questionable charges. If he knows he’s going to have to justify calls made, he won't make them.
Put a limit on your man’s use of the phone. Many women feel that a 5-10 minute limit for their man's calls – incoming or outgoing – is adequate. You may also want to limit the number of calls he makes and receives. Dennis is allowed no more that 10 calls a month at home.
Calls from men we approve of and from female authority figures are always allowed and there are no time limits. One of Dennis' male friends – also in an FLR – called recently. His wife was monitoring as was Mother. It turned into a four-way discussion!
And remember, it's not the calls or texting that's the problem; it's the wasted time and outside influence that are of paramount importance.