How ‘Phubbing’ Could Be Ruining Your Relationship

How ‘Phubbing’ Could Be Ruining Your Relationship

Just as smartphones giveth, they taketh away… While our devices allow us to swipe right on millions of potential matches and enable us to keep in touch with loved ones 24/7, they’re also contributing to the breakdown of connection between couples. Here’s why ‘phubbing’ – snubbing the person in front of you by being engrossed in your phone – could spell trouble for your love life…

The act of ‘phubbing’ may be a a relatively new phenomenon, but psychologists believe it can severely disrupt our relationships, with mounting new research confirming their claims. In a recent survey by cybersecurity provider Kaspersky Lab, 55% of respondents admitted they’d argued with their partner over spending too much time on a phone or computer. Arguments around excessive device usage were more common between those living together (58%), compared to those who are dating but live separately (49%), and – unsurprisingly – for people in ‘struggling’ relationships, something as small as a partner checking their phone during dinner was more likely to flair into an argument.

So why is being ‘phubbed’ such a problem? Apparently, it threatens our “basic human need to belong” and makes face-to-face interactions less meaningful. A paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed that merely imagining being phubbed during a simulated conversation was enough to make people feel negatively about the interaction. Another, published in Computers in Human Behaviour, found that texting during a conversation made it less satisfying for the people having it. And one 2012 study discovered the very presence of a smartphone – even if no one was using it – was enough to make people feel less connected to each other.

If you’re looking at your phone rather than in your partner’s eyes, there can be no intimacy

As behavioural scientist Dr Susan Weinschenk explains, “We’re very sensitive, especially in romantic relationships, about our prioritisation in the person’s life.” She believes checking your phone during a conversation is a sign you’re not fully present, which can make your partner feel unimportant and ignored. Dr Emma Seppälä, an expert in the science of happiness, warns that phubbing can drain closeness between couples too. “Intimacy comes from being able to share authentically with another person,” she says. “If you’re looking at your phone rather than in your partner’s eyes, there can be no intimacy.”

If you’re the phubber in your relationship, communication professor Jesse Fox says it’s vital to create strict rules for your smartphone use, like putting your phone away while eating meals, switching it to silent mode during quality time with your partner and excusing yourself before taking an urgent call (rather than answering it mid-conversation). She also recommends practicing meditation or mindfulness to help retrain your attention capacity.

And if you’re the one being phubbed, Fox advises being open and honest. “Don’t glare at them, get on your phone to silently retaliate, or make passive aggressive comments expecting them to interpret your wishes,” she says. Instead, discuss the issue with your partner and establish mutual rules: What are your common shared activities? Is it healthy and productive to use your phone at these times? Coming up with compromises you both agree on is key.

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily