Are Your Phones Hurting Your Marriage?
I don’t know you, but I’m willing to bet that both you and your husband have an extramarital involvement that’s affecting your relationship.
I’m not talking about other people (or at least I hope that’s not happening!). I’m talking about your phones.
There’s even a name now for ignoring your partner so you can pay attention to your phone: Pphubbing (partner phone snubbing).
And researchers are starting to look at the effect of pphubbing on relationships. Two marketing professors from Baylor University published a study on the phenomenon last fall.
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” James A. Roberts, one of the researchers, explained in a news release about the study. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
As Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and the author of Alone Together put it in a 2012 TED Talk, we’re prone to using technology to hide from each other or keep each other at arm’s length.
So how can you keep your phone from coming between you and your spouse?
First, pay attention to whether you’re engaging in any of the behaviors that participants in the Baylor study identified as pphubbing:
- Placing your cell phone where you can see it or keeping it in your hand when you’re with your partner.
- Glancing at your cell phone when you’re talking with your partner.
- Checking your cell phone during lulls in conversation with your partner.
See what happens when you commit to avoiding those behaviors and being more present with your partner.
To keep your phone use from affecting your relationship, you may also have to look beyond your personal habits. It’s not your imagination that demands on our time are greater than ever before — and our employers’ constant access to us via our phones is part of the reason why. If it’s possible in your work situation, try to set some stronger boundaries. For example, let colleagues know that they should call you instead of texting or emailing if something urgent comes up so that you won’t feel compelled to keep checking your messages. You could even work together with your colleagues to try to change your office’s communication culture so that all of you can get more restorative time away from work.
Finally, remember that your phone isn’t inherently good or bad for your relationship. It all comes down to how you use it. So as you look for ways to curb your pphubbing behaviors, also look for ways to use technology to enhance communication with your partner. In our busy lives, it’s easy for couples to put deeper communication on the back burner as your conversations become limited to what needs to get done that day (“I have a late meeting, so you’ll need to pick up the kids after soccer — oh, and did you call the bank like we talked about?”). Using technology to add some moments of connection — for example, sending a sweet (or sexy!) text message or sharing an article you know your husband will like with him on Facebook — doesn’t take much time but has big payoffs on the overall health of your relationship.
We get the most from our relationships we give our full attention to each other. Don’t let the siren’s call of your phone imperil that. You’ll find more ideas on staying connected in our busy lives in my book Strong Women, Strong Love. You can even read it on your phone — just not while your partner is talking with you