Face it, we’ve all been phubbed at some point in our lives.
Combining the words “phone” and “snubbing,” phubbing is when you ignore your partner to be on your phone. And while experts say the so-called trend is nothing new, it was recently discussed in a study by Baylor University.
“Cellphones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually, ironically, impede rather than cultivate satisfying communications and relationships among romantic partners,” authors said in a statement. “Although dialing back your total cellphone usage may be difficult, especially if you use it to work away from the office or on the go, a good place to start is with reducing your cellphone usage around your significant other.”
Relationship expert Tara Caffelle says if you are always staring into your phone, it’s pretty hard to have meaningful connections with loved ones.
“You are quietly, as you scroll with your thumbs and picking up your phone to see notifications when they arrive, telling your partner that they are not a priority, and that takes a toll over time,” she tells Global News.
Phones and relationships
Part of the problem is how addicted we’ve become to our phones, says Waterloo, Ont., dating coach Chantal Heide.
“The unfortunate part about smartphones is the ‘anywhere but here’ mentality that it can grow in some people,” she tells Global News. “All this creates disconnect in couples. Within the offender it perpetuates a sense that the next moment is always better than this one, keeping them constantly seeking something other than what they have.”
WATCH: Smartphone addiction
But in turn, this is also impacting the other person’s self-esteem, Heide adds.
“’Why aren’t I good enough?’ often becomes the running dialogue in their head, because fundamentally, we know what quality attention is and are well aware when we’re not getting it from those we love.”
What to do if you are ‘phubbed’
For starters, recognize that being upset is valid, and let your partner know.
“Too often I see people who are angry, hurt, and frustrated at other people’s behaviours, but when I question how they’ve communicated the issue it turns out they’re choosing to internalize their true feelings until they come to a boil, at which point they vomit all the negativity they’ve been withholding,” Heide says.
She adds this creates a sense of defensiveness, and instead of being understanding, the other person (or the phubber) lashes out.
“It’s important to address the issue in a calm, loving, and intelligent manner. Keep in mind that nobody likes to be told what to do, so your opening statement means the difference between being heard because their defensiveness wasn’t triggered, or not being heard because they feel attacked.”
Setting ground rules
And once you move past this conversation, it’s important to set some ground rules to avoid phubbing from happening again.
Caffelle says leave phones out of the bedroom, shut down your phone before bedtime and don’t bring your phones out during meals.
And for the phubbers, she also has some tips for self-control: shut off notifications on your phone, leave your phone in another room when you come home or try an app, like Forest, which forces you to focus on whatever else is going on in your life for a short period of time.
“I think smartphones are great tools to help be efficient and more free in our lives, [but] whenever we get a ‘like’ or a comment or some sort of similar validation through it, it makes us feel good and this doesn’t always serve us in our personal relationships,” she says.
“At the end of the day, it’s incredibly rude to be in a conversation, or even enjoying some sweet silence with someone, and then pick up a phone and start to interact with that.”