We are all guilty of occasionally tuning out the person we are with and checking our smartphones. It’s not the most polite behavior, but it does happen. Only for some of us, it is not so occasional. Plus, we do it to the most important people in our lives, including our significant others. And now new research suggests that this type of snub may be detrimental to your love life and can potentially lead to mental health problems as well.
The study, which took place at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, found that interrupting the time you spend with your partner by accessing your cell phone frequently can damage your relationship and raise your risk of developing depression.1 Roberts, James A. and David, Meredith E. “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners.” Computers in Human Behavior. January 2016. Accessed 3 October 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215300704 The subjects were almost 500 American adults who took part in one of two separate surveys conducted by the scientists.
They were asked questions that included whether they perceived their partner to be distracted by their phone while together and how it made them feel. The focus was on a nine-item scale developed by the researchers to quantifiably measure partner phone snubbing, or “phubbing.” The survey included statements like “My partner keeps his or her cell phone in hand when he or she is with me” and “If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cell phone.”
Sadly, the data shows that many people believe that they have been phone snubbed by their significant other. A substantial 46 percent of the participants said they had been slighted by their mate in favor of his or her cell phone. And close to 23 percent reported that this behavior led to a rift in their relationship. Even worse, more than 36 percent of the volunteers admitted to experiencing depression some of the time.
It appears to be a snowball effect that begins with the individual feeling ignored by their partner when the partner is frequently using his or her phone instead of having a conversation. This produces conflict and a reduction in satisfaction with the relationship overall. As negative feelings about the relationship arise, it creates a lower perceived quality of life and higher levels of depression.
No one wants to feel neglected, and this is certainly a situation in which we should all be empathetic enough to imagine ourselves in the other person’s position. Since everyone from small children to great grandparents seems to have a smartphone these days, we all must work a little harder to not let the constant stream of information and communication they provide get in the way of our face-to-face interactions or we risk losing people we care about. It’s essential to fight the impulse to check email and social media accounts constantly. After all, is any of it so important that you can’t wait a few hours to catch up on it? Instead, think of how special you can make your partner feel by giving him or her your undivided attention and engaging in a conversation. Even if you can’t think of anything meaningful to say, just asking about someone’s day can make them feel cared for. It’s called face to face communication, and, at one time, it was the basis of all relationships.
Your relationship might also benefit from planned activities in which you can’t use your phone. A long bike ride, a hike in the woods, or going ice skating together are all fun ways to spend some quality time with the one you love and none of them are conducive to pulling your phone out every few minutes. Not to mention the added bonus they offer of getting you away from a screen and involved in some good cardiovascular exercise.
You also might want to keep the smartphone charging in another room at bedtime. This will avoid the romantic mood breaker of checking your phone in bed. It will likely also help you to sleep a little better, as a 2013 study at the University of Bergen in Norway found that screen time with a cell phone or similar device before slumber is associated with insomnia.2 Nesdal Fossum, Ingrid; et al. “The Association Between Use of Electronic Media in Bed Before Going to Sleep and Insomnia Symptoms, Daytime Sleepiness, Morningness, and Chronotype.” Behavioral Sleep Medicine. 24 October 2013. Accessed 4 October 2015. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15402002.2013.819468 So for your personal health as well as the health of your relationship, muster your willpower to stay away from your phone at night.
|↑1||Roberts, James A. and David, Meredith E. “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners.” Computers in Human Behavior. January 2016. Accessed 3 October 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215300704|
|↑2||Nesdal Fossum, Ingrid; et al. “The Association Between Use of Electronic Media in Bed Before Going to Sleep and Insomnia Symptoms, Daytime Sleepiness, Morningness, and Chronotype.” Behavioral Sleep Medicine. 24 October 2013. Accessed 4 October 2015. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15402002.2013.819468|