Why are mobile phones damaging to relationships?
Most couples argue about use of mobile phones. Most people are less aware of their own behaviour but are much more aware of the impact of their partners mobile phone usage on them. A recent study links depression and anxiety to maladaptive and excessive mobile phone usage.
But why do mobile phones cause such a rift in relationships.
Imagine you are having dinner with your partner and you are both engaged in a conversation maybe about how your day was, exploring options for your next holiday or making plans for the weekend. Your partner’s phone pings in the middle of this conversation and they break the conversation to look at the phone.
Does that feel good? Unless this was prewarned before the conversation and dinner began, or you have some context for it, it is very likely that this is hurtful. Maybe a little hurtful or a lot but it is hurtful.
It can’t feel good because your partner has just given you a signal that the conversation they are having with you is less important than them checking the phone. It feels like a small rejection. That something else is more important to them than you are.
These small rejections accumulate over time can become very hurtful. And are very damaging to the relationship.
Lack of eye contact during conversations can also be equally hurtful. It can reduce the intimacy of the interaction, can be seen to mean avoidance and worse still – it can feel like a rejection. Looking at your phone also means that you are not making eye contact.
Whether you can multi task and have a conversation with your partner at the same time as checking your phone may not be relevant if you are unable to make them feel like they matter and that they have your attention.
Mobile phones are damaging to the relationship because the boundaries for their use generally tend to collapse and people tend not to be aware of their own behavior.
It does not have to be this way. You can use some simple tricks to create boundaries with the mobile phone to improve your relationship.
- Agree with your partner to have mobile free times during the day. Perhaps like meal times.
- Have mobile free zones in the house. For example not having your phone next to you at bed time.
- Putting the phone down or away during conversations with your partner. Not just during good friendly conversations but also, and perhaps particularly, during arguments.
Mobile phones are here to stay. Learning to work with them and use them sensibly with boundaries means your use of the phone does not have to come at the expense of your partners feelings.