I well remember the first time that a couple told me that they argued mostly when they were at home. While on separate floors. And texting.
Those arguments would go on for hours.
I realized then that whatever ease, fun, and connection that texting was going to bring us, huge relationship problems were going to become a part of the mix.
First, trouble might begin when you’d scroll on Facebook and innocently like an old flame’s post which led to that connection becoming a secret obsession – if not an affair. Or it might start when an angry rejected lover threatened to publish naked pics of you on SnapChat that you’d shared while in the heat of romantic passion or fun, when trust seemed a given. Or the problems might be glaring when your family is sitting around a table at a restaurant, with everyone’s face – adults and children alike – illuminated by the flicker of their phone. And no one even notices the growing isolation in the family, everyone is so enraptured (or simply distracted) by whatever’s happening online.
So, what is phubbing?
Phubbing is when you develop the habit of snubbing your partner, whether intentionally or not, by choosing to be on your phone instead.
But you might say, “Well I don’t do that? Or at least I don’t intentionally do it…”
You may not intentionally do it, but just how important are those texts or phone messages or posts or memes or reels from others becoming for you? What might you not want to risk or experience with your partner or loved one? So instead, you’re literally losing your self in your phone…
So let’s see how you do on this little questionnaire:
- Do you sit with your phone on the table during a meal?
- Do you have an Apple Watch and quickly view notifications “so I won’t miss a message…” even when you’re talking with your loved one?
- Do you scroll an hour or two away when in the presence of your partner?
- Do you gauge your importance to your partner by how much time it takes them to return a text? Are you known for texting back immediately?
- When is the last day that you’ve gone without your phone? And if you answer, “When it was being fixed…” that doesn’t count.
- Do you and your partner or spouse put away your devices and spend time together before heading to sleep?
- Is there any time when you and your partner spend time together that one or both of you are without your phone? (If you answer, “But it could be the baby sitter, that counts.)
- Do you rarely or ever text your partner the funny memes you text others and then not understand they might feel left out?
- Do you have conversations with other people when you’re alone with your partner? Of course this happens sometimes. But… do you let them know who you’re talking to? Or how long you might be?
- Be honest on this one. Do you see your young child mimicking your behavior on the phone? Your child will do what you do.
How to Avoid A Phubbing Problem
When I began writing online, I got lots of messages from people I’d known in the past, some of them old boyfriends via Facebook back then. But I’d also receive these unwelcome “invitations” from strangers who liked the way I looked (usually creepy-looking guys hanging out in front of their boat).
I talked about all of them with my husband. Because I already knew the problems that could be created.
Why go to this trouble?
Think about the simple body language of texting. Your head is down. Your gaze is on your phone. You may even be covering up the screen a little to see well. You may laugh at a text while your loved one has no idea what’s so funny.
Texting is inherently private. Think about what it would feel like for you to turn your back on someone when you’re hanging out with them. Texting has the potential to feel the same. And can easily – way too easily – move from “private” behavior to “secret” behavior.
So you may not mean to phub your loved one. Here are some simple suggestions to follow… They are all about trust and commitment to creating real-time memories and bonds with those you love.
- Set up times when all devices are put away by everyone in the family… such as meal times. Or certain hours of the day or night.
- Then do something together. Talk. Eat. Play a game. Share an experience of the day – what’s the best thing, what was the hardest thing about today. Learn how to do something together. Read. FaceTime your parents or grandparents. Get your kid to teach you something. Get involved in your church or in your neighborhood. Create memories.
- Communicate who you’re texting… include your partner in what you’re doing (unless it’s a birthday surprise….).
- Agree on rules of what you’ll both do if contacted by an old flame.
- Realize how the texting posture itself is alienating and communicate what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. Obviously this is a general rule of thumb, but awareness is the key.
- Be aware of how easy it can be to lose someone’s trust. Or you to lose yours in them. What can seem or start out innocently enough can grow into a problem.
What If I can’t?
When effort is directed toward stopping any kind of addiction or bad habit, it’s likely to be difficult, because that behavior has kept you from feeling or experiencing something you haven’t wanted to feel or experience.
If you’ve been using your phone – or your partner has – to avoid the problems your relationship has, then stopping – or even putting it away for a bit – will be very hard.
Work may have also seeped (or flooded) into your time away from work and that could be something you’ve allowed or something else you’ve used to avoid painful feelings.
Go to therapy and get help if you need it. Join a support group to get ideas. But choose to be aware and honest.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.
And there’s a way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!
Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels.