It’s not often that I give straightforward advice applicable to almost everyone, but I do have a PSA for you today that is pretty black and white.
Put down your dang phones!
I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, because you all know exactly how toxic your phone is for your relationship, but sometimes I know I want an expert to lay it out for me, like I need a dentist to tell me to floss, or a doctor to tell me to exercise and get adequate sleep.
You want reasons? Here’s four to start with:
You’re“phubbing”your partner constantly, which means you are unconsciously turning down their attempts to offer or receive loving attention and connection. Relationship researchers call these interactions “bids”, and how you respond to your partner’s bids is diagnostic of the health of your relationship and the likelihood that it will survive. You know when you see a parent on their phone, tuning out from their distressed child, and you judge them horribly…. yep, you are that “parent” in that moment.
You’re distracting yourself from your own stresses, strains, depression, and loneliness by doing something that exacerbates those exact emotional conditions. You could be identifying and sharing what is going on inside for you as a way of bringing you closer to your partner and building more emotional safety in your relationship. The emotional safety we build in couple therapy is a powerful tonic for negative feeling states.
You’re ruining your sex life. Don’t take your phone to bed with you. Leave it downstairs and buy an alarm clock for five bucks instead. Research suggests that couples who take their phones to bed have 57% less sex.* “Wait,” I hear you yell, “I take my phone to bed because we don’t have sex!” Well, there’s probably better solutions than that, like seeing a couples therapist who can help you get to the bottom of this all-too-common problem.
You’re trying to have “heart-level” interactions using text messages, the form of communication most prone to reactivity and misinterpretation. Stop doing that. You are doing this constantly and it is toxic. Make an agreement with your person to keep the phone for logistical interactions. If something strikes you as odd or hurtful by text, try to regulate your feelings internally and check in with your partner in person when you have their full attention.
When it comes to your relationship, putting down your phone might be the first step of many but it is an important one. If you still need help once the phones are down, please reach out. I would love to help you and your partner reconnect.
*I just made up that stat, but be honest, it sounded reasonable to you, didn’t it?