In the old days, relationships were often under stress when for example, on a Sunday, the husband sat watching football most of the afternoon, oblivious to his wife. A bomb dropping could not tear him away from the TV screen. The suggestion that they do something together was not even on the agenda. It seems we humans—well okay men—can come up with some creative ways to ruin a relationship. Phubbing is the way in the new digital age.
So what is phubbing? It is the use of mobile devices while in the company of the person with whom you have a relationship. In other words, it is a form of snubbing your partner. Phubbing is not just a male dominated activity. Women are equally guilty of this. Often both partners are doing it at the same time. How often have you seen a couple in a restaurant sitting at the table, who instead of communicating, are absorbed with their mobile phones, seemingly oblivious to each other. Phubbing is also evident when parents are absorbed with their mobile devices while the kids are trying to vie for their attention.
Studies are confirming that phubbing is becoming a real problem. Baylor University did a smartphone survey of 453 adults about smartphone use and relationships. The results were that 46 percent reported being phubbed by their partner, and 36 percent reported depression or lower satisfaction in the relationship.
One of the most important things in a relationship is the connection. Whether it is husband-wife or parent-child: eye contact, touching and emotional interaction is vital. What sort of emotional reaction does a smartphone illicit? Not much. Smartphone use has become an addiction for many. While the young glue themselves to their devices, we increasingly see baby boomers and seniors attaching to their phones. Do we just have to accept this as the way of the world today?
If our relationships are important enough then we can do something about this intrusion into our lives. First, we need to accept that we can survive without smartphones. Try going one day without your smartphone. Let your friends know that you won’t answer it on that day and totally shut it off. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to wean yourself off the addiction.
Second, when you are out for dinner with your partner, shut the phone off in the restaurant or leave it at home. Give your partner your undivided attention; touch them or make eye contact; make that intimate connection. Think how annoying it is when one partner gets a phone call and leaves the table. If they engage in a conversation for the next five or ten minutes, then their significant other sits at the table disconnected or decides to get on their own phone.
Smartphones can be so intrusive as illustrated by the following incident. Some years ago I was attending a seminar when in the middle of someone’s speech a phone went off––not too unusual in today’s age. The person proceeded to go to a vacant area separated from the main room by a barrier. What the person did not know was that their voice carried. Everyone could hear the conversation that was taking place. It disrupted the speaker as well as the audience. Someone had to go and tell the person to be quiet. How embarrassing is that?
We have enough to consider in a relationship without allowing a little phone device to be another contributor to ruining it. So don’t be a phubber. It is not only rude, but it means that you are discounting your partner, so you are minimizing them. That is not the basis for a sound relationship. Perhaps instead of “leaving our shoes at the door” we should be leaving our phones at the door. Relationships are worth it.
Editor’s Note: Dr Adele Thomas, semi-retired medical doctor, and Dr Ely Lazar, retired chiropractor, are on a new mission as the Passionate Retirees. They are dedicated to inspiring the over 50s to live fulfilling and adventurous lives, so that “the twilight years will be the highlight years”. Their book, “Travel Secrets For Seniors” was released in early 2014. With more than 80 years combined of professional experience, their articles, books and workshops cover a range of topics from travel, health, relationships, sexuality and finances for seniors.
“Adele and Ely have always impressed me with their exceptional knowledge, professionalism and positive attitude. Mention their name and the one word that always comes up is respect.” – John Ross, Master Networker