Mobile phones have been a revolution to communication in society. Couples can use them to stay connected with each other when not together, thereby building a bond. However, this tool of communication is becoming a barrier and threat to having a good relationship. These days, couples who live together have become more apart than ever before, as partners spend more time on their phones than before, leaving their spouses lonely
The mobile phone has become a strong third party in many marriages, causing husbands and wives to feel they are competing with their spouse’s phone for time and attention. “It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness,” writes authors, David and Roberts in their 2017 journal, “Phubbed and Alone.”
To use the phone isn’t a problem, but when it becomes a pattern such as your relationship is suffering, then it becomes a problem. According to some researchers, the typical person checks his or her mobile phones once every six-and-a-half minutes, – roughly 150 times each day. When this frequent use of the phone interrupts a conversation or quality time with a romantic partner, it can have serious consequences on the relationship. Answering a call, email or text during romantic moments, shared meals or even simple conversations gives a clear message that one partner is less worthy of the other partner’s attention – and that can cause measurable distress.
Have you ever sat beside your spouse, trying to talk on a matter, and wished they would look up and engage in the conversation rather than responding to their phones. This exactly is phubbing. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, phubbing is “the act of ignoring someone you are with and giving attention to your mobile phone instead.” Derived from the words, ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’, Phubbing describes a moment where a spouse feels snubbed because his or her partner is distracted by a mobile phone.
This happens when a spouse remains with his or her phone instead of providing quality time and this creates a gap between the spouses. At that moment, your partner is not fully present with you mentally and emotionally, although you two are physically present in the same room. Examples of phubbing occur when you pull out your phone to check the football scores while on a date with your spouse, you read a text while at the dinner table or you look at Facebook when you’re watching a movie together.
Below are some of the ways phubbing is affecting relationships.
Loneliness and dissatisfaction
The truth is, people feel jealous of their partner’s phones, as they feel the phones have become their rivals. This leads to a state of loneliness, leading to dissatisfaction. A 2018 study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture in the United States, examined how the use of smartphones affect the health of relationships amongst young couples. The study showed a significant link between higher levels of dependency on smartphones and higher levels of relationship uncertainty. Additionally, participants who perceived their partners as being highly dependent on their smartphone were significantly dissatisfied in their relationships.
The moment a spouse begins to feel lonely, dissatisfied, it creates a feeling of unhappiness which when not attended to, will ultimately lead to unhappiness and relationship cracks. When our spouses don’t feel acknowledged and appreciated by us, they become frustrated and this would lead to a state of unhappiness. Humans are social creatures for whom connection and a sense of belonging are crucial for health and happiness.
The biggest issue with phubbing is disconnection from your partner. Your partners feel lonely, and can fall into depression due to worries of losing you. Your spouse will also feel like he or she is competing against a phone for your attention. The victims of phubbing in search of connection, may turn to social media to seek inclusion. They may turn to their mobile phone to distract themselves from the very painful feelings of being socially neglected.
The Bedroom Suffers
The best place couples are meant to connect is the bedroom while intimacy in the form of sex, romance, cuddling and discussion take place. However, phones are taking over; an American survey reveals that nearly three in four adults bring their phone to bed with them.
The survey, conducted by global tech solutions company Asurion, polled 2,000 Americans on their phone habits, and found that people who regularly bring their phone to bed are two times more likely to use their device than engage in romantic activity with their partner during the hour before they fall asleep. 25% of respondents said that the last thing they see each night before closing their eyes is their phone, not their spouse or loved one.Sadly, 35% disclosed that their sex life has suffered due to phubbing.
When phubbing occurs, it generally leads to a lower level of relationship satisfaction, which in turn, leads to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression. A study by Chinese scientists assessed 243 married adults with Partner phubbing – it was associated with lower marital satisfaction, and contributed to greater feelings of depression.
While some spouses can bottle up their emotions leading to depression, some others become vocal about it, often through anger. When this happens, conflict arises which in most cases lead to relationship crack and sometimes divorce. It becomes worse if the complaining spouse finds another person who gives them the attention they crave.
Social Media & Phubbing
The rise of social apps has also contributed to the increase of phubbing and this doesn’t seem to slow down. This could be one strong factor behind many divorces and relationship break in this generation.
According to research by Chicago University, “The urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex”. People have gotten addicted to the internet no thanks to the rapid rise of social media. This comes as no surprise, as decades of research have shown that humans’ greatest need after food and shelter is social inclusion – positive social connections with other people. Best Time to spend with your partner.
The most effective way of fighting and overcoming this threat to a happy relationship is by talking about it. Spouses suffering from this should discuss with their partners without being aggressive or complaining. Your partner should be able to realise how you are being affected and you are drifting apart. If you would like them to pay more attention to you and not be on their phone, ask if they would be open to setting boundaries with their phone use. Couples should endeavour to engage in meaningful conversations and there are times of the day to implement this effectively.
This is also known as ‘pillow-time talk’. After a busy day at work or caring for children, couples desperately need meaningful conversation to help them reconnect and the best time to do this is at night when everywhere is quiet and calm. This entails long, intimate talks focused on getting to know each other better – likes, dislikes, needs, emotions and dreams, discussion about how the day went – disappointments, happiness, etc, as well as discussion about the family. This romantic time helps to build intimacy leading to a healthy relationship.
2. Meal time
Often during dinner, although it can happen during breakfast and lunch, meal time discussion is essential to a healthy relationship. This is because it promotes face-to-face conversation and eye-to-eye contact – a very strong form of communication. It also provides opportunity for spiritual discussions or devotional time; fosters teamwork as you cook and clean up together; and promotes family traditions like christmas or game night.
3. Leisure time
This happens during date night, exercising, watching your favourite TV show, reclining at the restaurant, lounging, going for an evening walk, sitting on the beach, etc. Leisure time is sacred because it promotes fun, laughter, play, new activity and conversation.
Effective communication and mutual respect is the key to a lasting and healthy relationship. The truth is, nobody likes to be phubbed; it means our partners don’t take us seriously or don’t find us interesting. This results in feelings of loneliness which births more insecurities from our partners and more uncertainty about our relationships. So, if your goal is to have a happy, healthy relationship, it’s best to consistently prioritise your partner over your mobile phones.