How to Stop Your Partner From Phubbing

Melvin Tillman, Melvin Tillman, MA

Posted by: Melvin Tillman
Melvin Tillman, MA
267-428-2612

            Smartphones have become quite sophisticated.  You can look up videos, watch movies, and even read this article on your phone.  However, because of all these abilities, ignoring one’s partner through technology has dramatically increased.  This phenomenon is called phubbing, and we’re going to discuss how to perceive this in your relationship, as well as how to stop your partner’s phubbing.

 

What Is Phubbing?

 

            Before going forward, let’s define what phubbing actually is.  Phubbing is snubbing one’s partner by using their phone .  Essentially, instead of being engaged in the partner’s conversation, or simply being present in the room, the person is focused on their phone.  Simply put, the person doing the phubbing is more focused on their smartphone than their actual partner.  Here are some examples to clarify this concept.

 

  • Your partner responds to you with very few words as they stare at their phone.
    • e.g., “Yeah.  Sure.  Un-huh.”
  • You often have to repeat yourself because your partner is busy on their smartphone.
  • While watching a movie together, your partner is on their phone.
  • When at a restaurant, your partner immediately pulls out their smartphone as they wait for the food to arrive.
  • While you and your partner lie in bed at night, they scroll through Facebook instead of engaging with you.
  • Your partner focuses on their smartphone as you vent about your day.

 

To be clear, using your smartphone is not an inherent sign of phubbing.  Sometimes you really need to check your email or respond to a text message when your partner is around.  Instead, phubbing is the consistent distraction of smartphones during possible, intimate moments with one’s partner.

 

Have a Direct and Honest Conversation

 

            Perhaps the first approach to take when asking your partner to stop phubbing is to have a direct and honest conversation about it.  Though stopping the phone usage during together time may seem obvious to you, your partner may not even realize that they’re phubbing.  Explaining a perceived, problematic behavior can be tricky, so make sure you approach the conversation carefully.  Express how you see your partner’s phubbing to be a problem while using “I statements” (e.g., “I feel ignored when you look at your phone instead of me.”).  By focusing on your perception, your partner is less likely to become defensive.  When we become defensive, we focus more on protecting ourselves than hearing what our partner is actually trying to convey.

            When discussing your perception of your partner’s phubbing, also try to explain why the phubbing is a problem.  You can discuss how phubbing negatively affects your experience of the relationship.  For example, you can explain that you’re not as interested in sex when you feel ignored by your partner’s phone use, or that you don’t feel like a priority when your partner is scrolling Facebook during dinner.  To further prevent your partner from feeling attacked, you can give more objective consequences of phubbing.  For instance, researchers argue that phubbing has an association with poor communication skills in relationships, which connects with marital and life satisfaction.  Here are some examples on how to use all of this information.

 

  • “Hi, honey.  I wanted to talk about our phone use.  I don’t feel too important when I see you on your smartphone as I’m describing my day.  Phubbing isn’t great for relationships, so I was hoping that we can do something about it before it gets too big.”
  • “Do you have a minute, sweetie?  I want to talk to you about something.  I’m starting to feel phubbed, which is being snubbed through a phone.  I know that sometimes you have to check your emails, at the same time, it would be great if it could happen less when we’re in bed.  I like to use that time for ourselves, and I think that the phone use gets in the way of intimacy.”
  • You could text them when they are on their smart phone and say, “Whenever you are ready to hang out with me, I am available.  Just turn off your phone to let me know that you are ready.  Take as much time as you need to finish doing whatever you are doing.  Looking forward to spending time together wink

 

Make Rules

 

            After having a productive conversation with your partner, let’s assume that they’re on board on lessening their phubbing.  One way to promote this is to create rules.  For instance, the two of you can collaborate on restrictions that feel fair.  “No phones in bed, unless it’s an emergency” is a fine example.  Here are some others to consider.

 

  • “No phone use during dinner.”
  • “Phones stay in pockets during dates.”
  • “Eyes on each other during daily check-ins.”
  • “Smartphones are fine when we’re not doing something together.”
  • “For every time we phub, we have text the other person something that we like about them.”
  • “It’s okay to be glued to your phone when you’re on call for work.  On your days off, however, let’s minimize our phone use when we’re together.”

 

Remember to work with your partner in order to create reasonable rules.  Your partner is likely to feel resentment and/or forego the restrictions if they feel too domineering.

 

Offer Rewards

             When proposing rules to diminish phubbing, also incorporate rewards.  Once again, people tend to resist and resent rules when the restrictions feel too authoritarian, especially during assumed, egalitarian relationships.  Fortunately, providing rewards for following your phubbing rules can make your partner more compliant.  Work together with your partner to create fair, enticing rewards at reasonable intervals.  For instance, complimenting your partner every day for their phub reduction is fine.  However, buying their favorite snack every day of the week is a little excessive.  Try to give rewards when you can clearly see progress, like at the end of the week.  Here are a few examples of rewards for a partner reducing their phubbing.

 

  • Taking over one of their chores at the end of the week.
  • Working with your partner to cook their favorite meal.
  • Going on a specific date that your partner has been adamant about.
  • Giving your partner a massage.
  • Agreeing to watch your partner’s favorite TV show with them.

 

Alter the Environment

            Finally, if all of these approaches are ineffective in decreasing your partner’s phubbing, try altering the environment connected to the behavior.  To make this simple, let’s look at texting and driving.  Many people know that how dangerous texting and driving can be, and yet, some people still struggle not to do it.  To remedy this, a common strategy is to place one’s phone in the backseat or in the glove department.  Despite having a need to text and drive, the person simply cannot reach the phone.  The same approach can work with phubbing.

            If your partner often phubs during dinner, have everyone put their phones on top of each other on the table.  With this setup, checking one’s phone is inconvenient and even more obvious.  If your partner phubs during check-ins and casual conversations, another strategy is to simply place one’s smartphone in a drawer.  Essentially, you and your partner can create a set time to talk, where the partner has to place their phone away during the beginning of it.  If phubbing is a problem during dates, you can challenge your partner to leave their phone at home.  After all, the two of you can still use your phone if there is an emergency.

 

Final Thoughts

            Phubbing is becoming more prevalent due to the popularity of smartphones.  Fortunately, there are still ways to stop your partner from phubbing.  Having an honest discussion, creating rules, discussing rewards, and altering the environment are all great strategies for maintaining a relationship free from technological distractions.  If you feel as though your partner’s phubbing is too severe for these strategies, schedule a session with one of our therapists at the Center for Growth.