The iPod is being blamed for causing rifts in relationships with a new breed of "iPod Widows" emerging.

The new trend, the latest in "fetish technology" has been spotted by The Sunday Times and was examined in an article entitled: "There's three of us in this marriage, me, you and the iPod."

Apparently: "Grown men (it’s usually men) swoon as they caress its elegant touch wheel and the glinting backlit buttons."

And the thousands of women who bought their husbands and boyfriends an iPod for Christmas are beginning to regret it as their partners become "increasingly fanatical Poddies, spending whole evenings and weekends with this small object of desire, their partners have been rendered iPod widows."

The report includes two case studies from the recently "widowed". One describes how: "Every evening he gets the iPod out straight after supper and starts fannying around with it. It’s taking over our lives."

The other iPod Widow reflects: "He’ll occasionally come downstairs and tell me all about some amazing thing it can do, although I’ve never actually used it myself."

Warning issued

Apple's European PR manager Alan Hely is delighted by the devotion that the product has inspired, but points out that the iPod is designed to appeal to everyone regardless of age or gender and that female Poddies (Poddettes?) do exist.

Hely also argues that the iPod is a part of the whole "digital lifestyle flow", which benefits the whole family.

The effect of technology on relationships is a serious problem. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is set to publish marital advice that will include a warning about the role that computers can play in the wrecking of marriages.

And Relate counsellor Denise Knowles told The Sunday Times: "This kind of hobby is really rubbing your partner’s nose in it. One out of ten of last year’s Relate clients was having relationship problems associated with computers. If they are watching rugby or playing squash, she argues, the other partner can be reassured that they are at least socialising."

Knowles advises iPod widows and their men to look at the "benefits and constraints" of the iPod use and work hard to "reach a compromise and legislate couple time. You can choose to restrict the time you play with a new toy so the rest of your life can function adequately".