Stop Phubbing Your Partner! Are Cell Phones Getting in the Way of Your Relationship?

Not so very long ago I remember observing couples at restaurants spending more time looking at their cell phones than engaging each other and thinking how awful that was! Of course, not too long after that to my horror, I realized that I was doing the same thing! Humbling!

Recently, I was moved watching Keoni and Mari, the couple in the picture above, in the World of Dance Competition beautifully dramatize this all too common modern day dilemma, Notice what happens when they put their phones down and turn their attention to each other!


Stop PHUBBING! “Phubbing is a term coined as part of a campaign by Macquarie Dictionary to describe the habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone”.

When you attend to your phone instead of your partner it can feel like rejection- it hurts. When is a conversation, meal or romantic moment interrupted by a text or email what message is that sending your partner? Repetitive small rejections like this even if only momentary (“do you mind if I respond to this text it will only take a second”) can lead to conflict, disconnection, and dissatisfaction in your relationship.

Most of the couples I see in therapy inevitably have to have a conversation about their cell phone/screen use in order to avoid this potential landmine.

Do your relationship a favor and be proactive in addressing this issue by having an honest conversation about:

  • Is this an issue in your relationship?
  • If it is an issue (which it seems to be for most of us) be as transparent and vulnerable as possible about how it makes you feel when your partner interrupts a conversation, meal or romantic moment and turns to the phone.
  • What decision about screen time would best serve your relationship and your family?
  • Would it help to have a technology free zone? For example, no cell phone use at dinner or on date night. No screens in the bedroom? Or no screens after 9:30? One couple I know has agreed to take 10 min to finish up any urgent business before they sit down to eat. Screens are then off until after the kids go to bed.
  • What would be the exceptions? Are there work demands that must be attended to? Can you have a conversation with your boss/employees about realistic expectations about your availability?
  • Is there a conversation you’re avoiding by escaping to a screen?
  • Perhaps part of this discussion might involve asking yourself what would be the best for your own mental health?

Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Twitter are experts at stealing our attention and seducing us away from making conscious intentional choices that are consistent with our values and commitments. Perhaps we all need to become more vigilant and about where we are giving our attention.