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Is "Phubbing" A New Ground For Divorce?

What is "phubbing" and can we now officially label it a new cause for divorce? Phubbing is a word coined some time ago by combining the words "phone" and "snubbing". As it relates to marriage and other romantic relationships, it is the practice of ignoring one's spouse or romantic partner in order to pay attention to one's phone or other mobile device.

Phubbing can take many forms. Some examples. Does your spouse check their phone every time it rings, even at dinner table? Are they constantly looking at their phone or PDA while you are having a conversation with them? Do they take their phone with them everywhere they go, including the bathroom (no pun intended)? Are they half-heartedly listening to you while they are texting someone else? Do they bring their phone to bed and use it while lying next to you? Does your partner start to use their phone when there is an awkward silence or lull in the conversation or as a means of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation? Well guess what? If you answered yes to any of these questions you are being "Phubbed." And it has caused many people to say "what the Phubb" or more to the point "how the Phubb do I stop this"?

Obviously, this phenomenon is the direct result of modern technology, social media sites, programs, games and apps which have taken over our lives by oversaturation and addictive algorithms designed to keep us glued to the screen of our phones and PDA's. Some recent statistics bear this out. The rate of smartphone ownership in the United States has risen over the last few years, with almost 250 million smartphone users as of 2023 and an anticipated jump to over 311.53 million smartphone users in America by 2025. The average mobile phone user checks their phone up to 58 times daily. Americans spend an average screen time of 4 hours and 25 minutes on their mobile phones daily, including phone calls, texts, videos, apps, games and social media sites.

Said differently, we are all constantly being enticed, solicited and encouraged to ignore people physically present around us, including our friends, lovers, spouses and intimate partners, in favor of interacting with our virtual "friends", "contacts" "influencers" and "celebrities", with their photo-shopped appearances and curated lives.

So, what's the harm to the "phubber" and the "phubbee"? The early studies by researchers, social scientists and even divorce professionals have concluded that phubbing is adding a great deal of stress to our individual lives and is negatively impacting our marital and romantic relationships. One study found that phubbing decreases marital satisfaction. Conflicts over phone use were the driving force of this decline in marital satisfaction. One woman who was constantly phubbed by her husband likened it to getting slapped in the face. Another wife said it more directly: “When your marriage fails because somebody didn’t want to come in second place to a f – – king [phone] screen, don’t cry about it.”

Similar studies found that spouses who phubb each other experience higher rates of depression, resentment and isolation. While phubbing, in and of itself, may not directly lead to divorce it certainly can become the tipping point that pushes the relationship over the cliff.

How problematic is this activity? Just to put it in context, a recent study found that the urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex. The question then becomes how do we stop this deleterious, destructive, addictive behavior? It starts with having an open and honest discussion with your spouse or significant other about the effects of their phubbing - i.e. what it is doing to him, her and your relationship. But don't stop there.

One woman took the clever next step to highlight and stop her husband's behavior. The fed-up wife created a reusable adhesive sticker called the “Phone Phlag,” which she slaps on his phone anytime he becomes spellbound by his cell - a strategy which has proved helpful in curtailing this activity and adding levity to an otherwise serious problem. She even turned this into a business opportunity by selling phone phlag's on Etsy.

Other suggestions. Create No Phone Zones. Make your dinner table, bedroom, and car no-phone zones and put the phones and tablets away when you are there. Also, you can create No Phone Times like evenings out, date nights, vacation days, etc. You can even do this by simply turning off your phone or using the phone feature "turn on downtime until tomorrow."

No matter how attached you are to your phone, remember the words of the spouse who said: “Are you going to be laying on your deathbed, wishing that you had more time with your phone?" I don't think so!




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