LIFE

This Trend Is Ruining Relationships (And You're Probably Guilty Of It)

02/11/2017 8:39 AM AEDT

Date night doesn’t get any more depressing this: One of marriage therapist Christine Wilke’s clients was so caught up in her phone recently that she didn’t realize the date was over. 

“She had a serious problem with her phone and finally realized it at dinner with her boyfriend,” the Easton, Pennyslvania marriage therapist said. “The client was so engrossed in her screen that when she finally looked up, he had already paid the bill and was headed for the door.” 

The woman was hardcore phubbing ― ignoring her S.O. and paying attention to her phone. Phubbing, a word that combines phone and snubbing, is becoming increasingly common in our social interactions, especially in romantic relationships. 

In a recent Baylor University study of 143 people in romantic relationships, 70 percent said that cell phones “sometimes,” “often,” “very often” or “all the time” interfered in their interactions with their partners.

In a follow-up survey of 145 adults, 22.6 percent said that phubbing had caused conflict in their relationships and 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed at times because they felt like their partner was putting their phone above them. 

Wilkes sees this frustrating dynamic play out all the time in her office. 

“The couples I see are often craving meaningful connection with each other, but their phones have overwhelmed their lives,” she said. “They often tell me that it feels like their partner is having an affair with their phone.”

Conducting a relationship behind your phone is no way to live. Below, Wilkes and other marriage therapists and counselors from around the country share their best advice for getting a handle on your phubbing ways.

1. Stop feeling like you need to Snapchat or Instagram the entire date. 

“One of the things that continues to amaze me (and as a therapist, sadden me) is when I see a couple out together where one person is busy posting pictures rather than giving actual attention to the other. Social media has a lot of positive benefits, but it can also cause people to seek immediate gratification rather than experience the satisfaction of the moment. If you are a culprit of ‘look at me!’ postings rather than actually enjoying your partner, it’s time to get some discipline. Let go of your obsession to get ‘likes.’ Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post a cute selfie of the two of you. Just hold off posting until the date is over ― or at that very least, wait until your partner goes to the restroom.” ― Carin Goldstein, a marriage and family therapist in Sherman Oaks, California 

2. Ditch your phone for at least 30 minutes a day. 

“One of the assignments I give to my couples is to carve out a 30-minute ‘electronic-free zone’ each day. This is time where they can have a meaningful one-on-one connection with no outside intrusion. Very often this 30 minutes morphs into a much longer period of time because it becomes a much cherished break for them.” ― Christine Wilke

3. Take your tech time out to the next level: Go on a phone-free weekend vacation.

“I worked with one couple who went to Palm Springs for the weekend and agreed to some electronic ground rules beforehand: The phones must stay powered off and in their suitcase during the course of the weekend. Each were allowed to turn on their phone for just 5 minutes once a day, just enough time to check in and make sure there isn’t a crisis waiting for them back home. At the end of their weekend, they raved about how they’d been able to be more mindful of the little things ― the refreshing pool, laughs with one another over dinner, and some truly connected intimacy.” ― Spencer Scott, a psychologist in Santa Monica, California 

4. If your partner feels phubbed, acknowledge it and stop. 

“Agree to let each other know when you’re feeling phubbed or have had a phubbing relapse. Since we can all get a bit lost in our phones, we may become unconscious to the fact that we’re on it once again. Agreeing to being willing to hear when your partner feels phubbed, and then being willing to put the phone down, is a healthy step in maintaining connection.” ― Kristin Zeising, a psychologist in San Diego, California 

5. Don’t look at your phone as entirely the enemy. 

“This may seem counterintuitive, but if what you’re craving is time and attention from your partner, try not to view your phone as the root of the problem but rather one tool in the solution. Thoughtful texts throughout the day, or even Snapchats (which take literally two seconds to snap and send) can be a great reminder that you and your partner are thinking of one another during your day. It might help you feel less isolated and resentful.” ― Spencer Scott

6. Understand that it’s going to feel weird to put your phone away initially. 

“It’s an addictive habit -– it won’t be easy to stop. Understand it may take time to master it, but you can do it! You will initially feel what is called cognitive dissonance. Interrupting your phone use won’t feel right or normal. It will take almost a month for the new habit (giving your loved ones, friends and family your attention in person rather than your phone) to feel natural. Trust me, though: It will be worth it.” -- Barbara Melton, a counselor in Charleston, South Carolina

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