Are You ‘Phubbing’ Up Your Relationship?

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Words by Persia Lawson
February 1st, 2018

I have a confession to make.

It’s taken me a while to pluck up the courage but I just couldn’t handle the guilt any longer. Here goes:

I keep phubbing over my boyfriend. All. The. Time. I phubb him when we’re eating dinner. I phubb him first thing in the morning when we’re lying in bed snuggling. I’ve even phubbed him when he’s trying to open up and share something really important with me.

But what on Google Earth is phubbing I hear you cry? For the less lingo-savvy out there, phubbing is a new term coined by Generation Y – an abbreviation of ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’. It refers to those moments (or in my case, sometimes even hours) when you chose to focus all your attention on your phone rather than the person you’re with.

I’ve been on the other end of phubbing myself, so I know how infuriating it can be. I’ll be mid-way into a thoroughly gripping story about my day, and my boyfriend will be nodding along, making the occasional token grunting sound (universal language for “I’m pretending to listen”). Meanwhile, his thumb continues to flick upwards on his iPhone screen (universal language for “I’m more interested in The Gram rn, sorry hun.”)

When I was researching this piece I uncovered some terrifying statistics about our addiction to our smartphones via the Daily Infographic – brace yourselves.

Did you know that the average person checks their phone 110 times a day? Or that 61% of us sleep with our phones under our pillow? How about this: 1 in 5 people aged 18-34 have used their smartphones during sex?!

No wonder our relationships are being affected by our addiction to technology – we seem to be far more devoted to these tiny robots than we do to our romantic partners if these statistics are anything to go by.

This tendency to elevate our smartphone’s worth above our partner’s (i.e. ‘phubbing’ our lover) means that we’re destroying the real, intimate human connection that gives our romantic relationships meaning. And I, for one, know that I need to make some pretty drastic changes if I want to ensure my boyfriend and I don’t wind up losing our intimacy and connection altogether. Which is why I downloaded Moment – an app that automatically tracks your smartphone usage and enables you to set daily limits for yourself. (I get the irony of trying to quell my addiction to technology with yet more technology, but if I was going to be asking my boyfriend to stop phubbing me so regularly, I knew I was going to need all the help I could get!)

 

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You can imagine my horror when, on the first day of using this app, I discovered that I’d had 4 hours and 43 minutes of screen time and 67 phone pick-ups – all in one day! Whilst I do use my phone a fair amount for work, I knew this high number would have been massively affected by all my unnecessary WhatsApp-ing and social media scrolling – which I mostly do automatically and subconsciously whenever I’m feeling a bit bored and want to distract myself.

So, short of downloading yet another app to electrocute me every time I pick up my phone in my boyfriend’s presence (is there one??) I quickly created a few boundaries to at least reduce the phubbing effect:

1) No picking up my phone in the car unless urgent (we’re road tripping through Australia right now, and because my boyfriend’s doing all the driving it’s been way too easy to numb out on my phone to kill the time – totally unfair to him).

2) Put my phone on flight mode as soon as I get into bed to make it a bit harder to phubb my fella last thing at night or first thing in the morning.

3) Put my phone in another room when eating dinner/watching a movie to remove the phubbing temptation altogether.

4) OWN and apologise when I accidentally phubb my man (I’m not great at ‘I’m sorry’, so this one’s serving as quite an effective deterrent).

5) Use the Moments app to try and make my screen and phone pick-up time less than the day before.

Inevitably, I’ve already broken every single one of the above boundaries – numerous times. However, just the fact that I’m now paying attention to my phubbing tendencies means I’m more aware and able to get myself back on track – even when I mess up. Some positive change is better than no positive change, hey.

Thankfully, I’ve also found that on the (rare) occasions we have left our phones out of the bed and off the dinner table, the intimacy and attraction between my boyfriend and I returns – fast. (And yes, it has led to more sex, too!)

So, here’s the one positive conclusion I’m choosing to draw from this rather tedious experiment: Technology isn’t necessarily destroying the intimacy between us and our lovers, it’s just temporarily concealing it. And it’s up to each of us how long we keep denying ourselves the in-real-life connection that makes romance so magnificent. In the words of Simon Sinek: There ain’t no app for that. 😉


Persia Lawson is an author, speaker and “one of the UK’s most successful love coaches” – according to The Saturday Times magazine. As maven46’s love and life columnist, we caught up with Persia for our ‘maven46 meets’ series which you can read here. Catch up on last month’s column, How to Find a ‘Real’ Relationship in 2018.

Want YOUR relationship or dating dilemma answered by Persia Lawson?

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