Is Cell Phone Addiction Affecting Relationships?

Could it be that we have managed to invent the electronic enemy of love? It is increasingly becoming apparent that we are feeling ‘phone snubbed’ (phubbed) by our partners, be it romantic or familial. Our desire to grow into a more connected world, which relies on technology to break down barriers is raising them back […]

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Could it be that we have managed to invent the electronic enemy of love? It is increasingly becoming apparent that we are feeling ‘phone snubbed’ (phubbed) by our partners, be it romantic or familial. Our desire to grow into a more connected world, which relies on technology to break down barriers is raising them back up by taking away the intimacy of human contact. Addictive phone behavior is now being recognized as a problem in itself, whether it be your child addicted to phone gaming or your husband always answering emails.

Signs That Phones Are Affecting Relationships

Many will have asked why is my dad, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend addicted to his/her phone?

Traditionally the big three disputes for couples are sex, money, and children. Increasingly it seems that cell phone addiction is rapidly becoming the biggest source of discontent.

Many partners are complaining that they find themselves replaced by a little blue-white screen. This can be across the table in at restaurant, curled up on the sofa watching TV or in bed when you wake up. Does anyone remember life without a smartphone!?

Partners are feeling neglected when their significant other has a phone out, even if s/he is listening. We want our partners to focus on us and when they don’t, it feels like a form of rejection. It’s not necessarily the phone itself that is the issue, but it’s your partners urge to “check” that really hurts, because it pulls your partner’s attention away from you.

Why are people addicted to their phones? Our reliance on smartphones could be because of the instantaneous positive ‘hit’ they give us, specifically from dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter whose release is connected to the reward part of the brain. A positive text message or email, a win on a gaming app or some positive feedback to a photo we have uploaded to Instagram, all this leads us to go back to our mobile. The need to be active on social portals, dating sites and the pull of online shopping only increases this addiction.

As a result, smartphones get associated with positivity to the detriment of our partner, family or other loves ones. Our own health also suffers as too much screen time can be damaging to our psychological health.

The Term

Such is the problem of ignoring your partner for your mobile that there is even a term for it: phubbing! It means being snubbed by your partner for the presence of a smartphone.

Being distracted is easier than focus on something or someone. Connecting with someone is hard work. Phubbing hurts our relationships. Ironically when are phubbing, we are often seeking to connect with other people. Sadly, this is not in a deep meaningful way.

Why Phubbing is Such an Issue For Humans

Humans are social animals. We are sensitive, especially when feelings are involved and are affected by little things, even how quickly your partner answered your last text. Eye contact is the most intimate form of contact and when feel our partner’s eye wander from us then we feel shunned.

Yet social media and the access that the smartphones give us is primarily verbal and written. It’s no wonder that the reliance on smartphones is harming relationships.

This should come as no surprise. Humans greatest need is food, shelter and for positive social connections with other people. Once you lose the Intimacy that comes from being able to share lighter human moments with another person then frustration, anger and even jealousy sets in.

Furthermore, phubbed people will themselves tend to turn to social media! This has the effect of people being on their phone whilst eating, walking, with friends, being on their coffee break and drinking among others.

It’s Rude

Social graces are not habits from a bygone era but are there to make ensure that people’s feelings are, within reason, respected. Phubbing and pulling out your cell phone at the dinner table or in the middle of a conversation is bad behavior and in polite society unacceptable.

It also seems that older generations who did not grow with the need for ‘notifications’ are keen to ensure that the use of phones in certain situations remains restricted. Women are keener than men on this point and for good reason. Kids will learn from your cell phone behavior. If you show them bad habits, they are likely to follow those exact habits.

There is Some Hope

Smartphone addiction can initially have its advantages. Many are those who have met their future partner online, often initially long-distance, have relied on phone call and face-time to start their relationships. Yet once these have progressed to spending more time and/or living together, then many seem to struggle to let go of their mobiles.

Everyone is different. One can get a new gadget such as the Apple watch as it means being inundated by a yet another connected device at all times whilst another can see it as a way of staying connected without having to whip out a phone.

This writer was on a date when with a girl who went to the toilet half-way through. On coming back to the table, she mentioned how surprised to see that I wasn’t on my mobile. She expected me to! Such is our priorities as humans – where we privilege staring at an electronic screen over a pretty woman.

How to Stop Phubbing People

Phubbing clearly seems to be the route of all evils and awareness is the only solution. Knowing what drives, you and others to connect will ensure you prioritize intimacy rather than the latest football result. That was a time where life happened without any notifications!

Both the person checking their mobile and the one who is being ignored should acknowledge that there are times when it is valid. Agree on fair expectations. A romantic meal or an intimate moment should not involve a mobile phone. A conversation in the train being interrupted by an important text you have been waiting for is understandable.

Create areas where you cannot be distracted by technology. If your phone is charging in your bedroom overnight then it is bound to affect you. Leave it outside the bedroom! This will encourage you to focus on your partner rather than that little blue screen.


While it may be unrealistic to ever completely give up the smartphone, it’s valuable to have some balance as digital wellness is important and too much tech can negatively affect the brain. Finding a way for your phone to work for you, not the other way around should be a priority if you want to ensure that your relationships stays strong. Smartphones should not be only viewed as a negative, it is a lifeline to love for many couples, especially long-distance ones. Fundamentally, smartphones have emphasized what we already know about relationships: they are hard work and we should be prepared to prioritize them above all else.

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