How Phubbing is Hurting Your Relationship

October 2nd 2015

So you are finally seated at the table, ordered your food, and suddenly your phone buzzes. You got an email or someone mentioned you on Twitter, and you scroll through your phone, blissfully unaware of the world around you, including the person sitting across the table. You've just phubbed someone.

Phubbing, or phone snubbing, is a distinctly modern dilemma. It happens often, but for partners who phub, it can be a bigger problem than you might expect. Researchers at Baylor University looked at the phenomenon of phubbing and found that it can cause conflict in relationships and even lead to feelings of depression.

phubbingBizarro Comics/Dan Piraro -

RELATED: When Is It Acceptable To Check Your Cellphone?

In a new study, published in the journal Computers In Human Behavior, Dr. James Roberts defines phubbing. Roberts uses data from more than 450 surveys to map out a nine-point scale of cellphone behaviors. In an effort to understand the effect of phubbing on relationships, the researchers then asked participants to take another survey, which you can take for yourself here.

To get a sense of how often you and your partner phub each other, answer each item on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (all the time):

1. During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his or her cellphone.

2. My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.

3. My partner keeps his or her cellphone in hand when he or she is with me.

4. When my partner's cellphone rings or beeps, he or she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation.

5. My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.

6. During leisure time that my partner and I are able to spend together, my partner uses his or her cellphone.

7. My partner does not use his or her phone when we are talking .

8. My partner uses his or her cellphone when we are out together.

9. If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his cellphone.

The study found that nearly half of the respondants—46.3 percent—have been phubbed by their partners. And 22.6 percent said that phubbing caused problems in their relationship. How serious those problems were varied, of course, but researchers determined that the more often a person phubbed, ignoring the person across the table, so to speak, the less satisfied they felt with the relationship.

"The dangers of phubbing are that they undermine our relationships," Roberts, the lead author of the study, told ATTN:. "It hurts when people phub us by giving preference to their phone when we’re standing right next to them, even possibly in conversation with them."

"Our study showed that when we are phubbed by our romantic partner it creates conflict that leads to lower reported levels of relationship satisfaction. These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, lead to lower levels of over-all life satisfaction. When we are unlucky in love, it colors all of our assessments. Then, when we are unhappy with our lives over-all, we become depressed," he added.

As a chronic phubber myself, I wanted to know how to stop and take back the moment. So I asked Roberts.

Here's how you can stop phubbing.

"The solution is not about going cold turkey, that’s not realistic in this day and age," he explained. "What you do need to do, however, is set boundaries for your smartphone use."

"First, I suggest you start by nixing using your smartphone while driving. This will keep you alive and able to continue in your relationship. Next, no phones while on dates or during dinner. And, no smartphones in the bedroom—talk about a buzz kill. You might want to try writing up a social contract where the two of you decide on what is, and what is not, acceptable use of one’s smartphone. The you can prescribe punishments for violating your contract. In chapter 10 of my book, I offer several other suggestions for controlling your smartphone use including 'hair of the dog' and others."

Learn more about phubbing and Robert's book, "Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smart Phone?

Share your opinion

Has phubbing affected your relationship?

No 24%Yes 76%