Feeling "phubbed" by your partner?

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A new study from Baylor University Business School confirms that cell phones are damaging romantic relationships and leading to higher levels of depression. The researchers call the effect of being ignored by your date’s cell phone “phubbing” and it’s highly likely we’re all guilty of phubbing someone. Levels of depression and isolation are rising as is anxiety, and couples report feeling less connected or able to communicate with one another. Kids are raised at a time when family communication over the dinner table has been replaced by texts and message alerts.

In the study surveys, 46.3 percent of couples reported being phubbed by their partner, and more than half of those said it caused conflict and depression within their relationship. That’s a significant amount of people affected with disruption in their relationship by phone usage, but yet they continue their habit of checking their phone constantly. How do you eliminate or set limits on a technology that’s become a crutch for the majority of couples and families? Below are helpful suggestions. 

When you set a rule and you both agree to it, you both need to practice it. You also need to be held accountable by your partner if you want to prioritize your time together. Instead of becoming resentful when your partner tells you to shut your phone off, realize your partner values your relationship. That’s a good thing!

  • No answering calls or text messages while on a date unless you’re expecting emergency calls or have a child with a babysitter. Make date time sacred to your relationship. Couples who keep their phones off during a dinner date report higher levels of contentment and connection in their relationship.
  • No phone usage at social events unless it’s used because you want to show the person (people) you’re with something, or you’re looking up helpful information the person (or people) you’re with need. These would include directions, menu help, or emergency contact numbers. 
  • • The only reason your phone is used in the car is for directions. The car is one of the top places listed where couples feel phubbed, and driving under the influence of phone distraction increases your chances of an accident more than if you were drinking.
  • • No phone use during short-term interactions (checking out at the grocery store, dry cleaner or wherever you are). These small interactions are important in helping you feel connected to your community.
  • • Set a password that’s long and difficult, and you’ll be less tempted to check your phone frequently.
  • • For kids, have a chart in the home with rules listed regarding their phone. Name it your family name so it would read something like the “Smith Family Phone Rules.” Make sure you’re consistent with follow through for breaking the rules. The list should include, but not be limited to, these rules.
  • • No phone use until homework is done (after school) unless it’s to get help to finish the homework.
  • • No phone use in the morning until your bed is made.
  • • On the weekend, no phone use until at least one chore other than making your bed is done.
  • • Absolutely no phones at the dinner table (keep a container for phones near the table). Everyone shuts their phones off and puts it in the container throughout dinner. Mom and/or dad decide when dinner is done and phones can be turned on again.
  • • Lights out means lights out. The glow of the screen is gone for the day. Have a time your children understand no more phones for the night. Keep the phones turned off in an area you oversee.

When you begin your phone use plan don’t expect it to go easily. Phone usage has become an entitlement as well as a habit. Checking your phone becomes a crutch and provides entertainment wherever you are. However, with that entertainment is also a loss of human interaction, and that loss is felt most deeply among those we love most. No one gets educated about proper etiquette for phone use, so unless parents limit the time their children are allowed to use their phones they will use them excessively and miss family time as well as learning communication skills vital to their maturity. The purpose of a phone is to connect you to people, so remember once you’re connected and sharing with people you can shut the phone off.