Spending time with your spouse was much easier before the invention of one of the most time consuming, addictive smart gadgets ever to be conceived...the smartphone.   Oh, how technology has the power to make our lives so much easier and relationships so darn difficult.  

Smartphones.  Everyone's new obsession.

It's not complicated.  Look up.  Look around.  Everyone, everywhere is on their smartphones, even your spouse.  According to Internet Trends, the average user unlocks his/her smartphone 150 times a day. 

It's frightening to think about our lives interwoven with so much technology, but it's happening.  And you and your family are part of this growing preoccupation.

In fact, a 2020-21 phone usage report indicates 85% of users check or use their phone while verbally interacting with friends and family.

Smartphones' effect on relationships

Smartphones have the potential to get in the way of a healthy marriage and other relationships (and no, Netflix®, Instagram® and Spotify® do not qualify as "other relationships").  Be warned.

While it's clear smartphones are the elephant in the room for many couples, some psychologists and marital experts say the effect of smartphones on marriage could also be positive. 

The primary claims are that daily texts, calls and e-mails improve communication and may provide more opportunity for quick, reassuring romantic conversation.  Smartphone usage for texts and chats between spouses provides more opportunity for playful and/or dotting conversations.  These conversations may include:

  • "I love you"
  • "I can't stop thinking about you (us, sex last night, our future, etc.)"
  • "Thank you (great dinner, just being you, being there for me)"
  • "I'm worried about you"
  • "I can't wait to see you in that...I bought you"
  • "I need you and can't wait for our next date night"
  • "I adore you"
  • "I'm sorry about..."

If both spouses initiate and respond to messages or calls like these then technology has been a positive influence in their marriage.  But, the negative affects of smartphones on marriages may still do more harm than good. 

Marriages need many things to remain healthy.  These things may naturally drift away throughout the years for most couples.  Adding technology and smartphones may speed up the process.

What a good marriage needs that smartphones threaten:

  • full attention and respect for each other when together
  • interest in each other's opinions and wisdom more than Alexa or Siri 
  • reliance on either spouse for directions more than google maps (figuratively)
  • less access to the wrong things most spouses wouldn't search for on a work or home pc

Technoference and phubbing - what is this world coming to?

One of the most obvious problems smartphones impose on marriage is called 'phubbing'.  Coined in 2012 by an Australian ad agency the popular term refers to phone snubbing.  It's used to describe the practice of ignoring one's companion in order to interact with a cell phone [smart device]. 

According to a study cited on www.healthline.com, more than 17% of people report phubbing others at least 4 times a day and 32% report being phubbed 2 to 3 times a day.

Another study examining the effect of the interference of technology (termed 'technoference') on a couple's relationship, 70% of the participants indicated phubbing and other technoference from computers and television negatively affected their interactions with their significant other.  Those who rated more relationship technoference also said they had lower relationship and life satisfaction, more depressive symptoms and relationship discord related to the use of technology.

But, do you have a problem?

Yes, most of us do.   But, maybe you don't have a problem.  Here is how you'll know.  If you answer yes to 3 or more of the 6 questions, you likely have a smartphone problem.

  1. Do you rely on your smartphone more than any other personal electronic?  Home phone?  Tablet? Television?  Home PC?
  2. Would it be a problem to lock your smartphone in a drawer for a week?  How about a few days?  A day?
  3. Do most of your children over 7 own a smartphone?  (If you don't have children over 7, answer "no")
  4. Do you use your smartphone more than you talk to your spouse or children? (social media, texts, emails and posts do not count) 
  5. Is your phone your primary connection to the outside world? (more than a home pc, tablet, home phone)
  6. Do you check your smartphone: (4 or more qualifies this answer as a "yes")
  • when you wake up?
  • before you leave for work?
  • to check the time or set an alarm?
  • at a stoplight, on the train, on a bus?
  • before you go into work or at work?
  • before, at or after lunch?
  • in a meeting?
  • before you go home?
  • before, at or after dinner?
  • when you are working out?
  • when you are at a bar?
  • when you are with others dining out?
  • when you are about to go to bed? 

We need our phones and THEY need us

Okay.  You get the idea of what's happening. Our society is growing dependent on smartphones.

But, we all have a very good explanation: our children may need to reach us, our clients may need to e-mail, our boss-text, spouse-call, colleagues, neighbors, doctors, foreign diplomats and Amazon® all need us to keep that phone on our person.  They NEED US! 

They must have access to our every moment, our steps need monitoring, heart rate measured, locations shared. 

We need apps to help us budget, schedule, manage our contacts and access our social media accounts 24 hours a day. 

We need our high resolution cameras to take prize winning photos, mostly of ourselves (which isn't weird at all btw, which means it's totally WEIRD)! 

Our phones need a selfie-stick to help us take these most amazing professional selfies (which only makes sense in a narcissistic universe aka our new "smartbrain").  Despite the importance of these must-have self-images, they remain suspended in our mega clouds and forgotten about for years and years and years. And shouldn't they? 

We need our games, music and documents.  We NEED them!

We can even pay with our smartphones.  Who needs plastic when you have a digital wallet?   Smartphones have everything!  They are like our digital brains.  Don't leave home without them! 

We need these phones so we can update 1,000 people on social media that we hardly ever see in person anymore.  Worse yet, is that these 1,000 people need their phones too!  They MUST see where you are, what you think, how you look and what you share. 

Do we have a problem?  Yes. 

The problem isn't...

The problem isn't just that each person is so dependent on something that is expensive, powerful and playful.

The problem is...

The problem is that you and I are clearly not the only ones distracted and dependent.  Everyone else is distracted too.  

In an article by Statista Research Department in 2016 the number of mobile phone users was approximately 4.3 billion and was forecasted to reach 4.68 billion by 2019.   According to Pew Research Center (Internet and Technology Fact Sheet June 12, 2019) 96% of Americans own a cell phone and 85% of those are smartphones.   

Do you know how hard it would be for drug addicts currently using drugs to keep other drug addicts from using drugs?  This dependency is no different. 

We're just a bunch of smartphone dependents.  I won't tell if you won't. 

Except, I can't help myself.  I call it like I see it and my smartphone knows, I know, I have a problem and need Siri to Google® a cure. 

Though I dare say, I'm 'a callin' but my smartphone ain't answering.  My fingerprint recognition is suddenly not working.  I think this is a smartphone's way of saying, "No comment." 


How these techno marvels interfere with our lives

We are available to our clients and colleagues 24 hours a day and they know it.  We can't just say we were away from our phone.  If we ignore their text because we are at dinner with our spouse, they feel unimportant. 

If we check our texts at dinner with our spouse, our spouse feels unimportant. 

And they call these smartphones?

These phones give us access to blogs, social media accounts, friends, e-mails and texts that rival actual time spent with friends and family.  We can watch our favorite shows, read a book, listen to music all while sitting with 20 other people doing the same thing. 

Smartphone usage damages our communication skills and affects our personal and professional relationships. 

Soon our resumes will no longer list great communication and interpersonal skills.  We will just list, "super fast texter lol".

Marriage v. Smartphone

It definitely affects our marriage, our relationship and intimacy with our spouse.   Dare I say, as much as the television in the bedroom?

Truth be known, many of us already feel our smart devices aren't good for our overall marital communication, household budget or attention spent on our relationship (three top reasons for divorce in the United States), but we simply can't live without them.  Many of us would sooner contemplate divorce before we permanently dump our smartphone. 

Pretty soon, just to start a conversation with your spouse you'll be muttering, "ah, you, duh, go, me, to dinner?" 

And your wife will look at you confused, not sure how to answer, then in a split second she will text you, "TMI, GR8 2nte? Sure AEAP" and you will unfortunately understand.

How to stop the madness

Look.  We aren't going to be able to change how technology has interfaced with our society.  But, we can choose how it affects us, our marriage and our family. 

Yes, it would seem backward in some way to not own or use a smartphone.  However, we can disallow the smartphone from disrupting our life and marriage by setting smartphone boundaries.  

While you may not agree with everything on the list, use it to start a conversation with friends and family about protecting your relationships from smartphone interference. 

Together, create your own smartphone rules to improve your "in person" relationships.  Remember you may not be smarter than your smartphone, but it can't control you!  

Basic etiquette for smartphone use

Do not take or make calls  (it can wait!)

  • at meals
  • when conversing with someone
  • in bed with spouse/significant other
  • in a meeting
  • on an appointment or presentation
  • at the register
  • in any public place (bar, restaurant, gym)
  • while driving
  • at the theatre or public performances
  • on a date (even after being married for 20 years)
  • in the car with colleagues or clients

Do not search, watch, text or play on your phone:

  • at meals
  • in bed with spouse/significant other
  • when someone else is talking
  • on a date (even after being married for 30 years)
  • in a meeting
  • on an appointment or presentation

Don't do this, ever

  • text while driving
  • have a super loud, annoying ring or alarm
  • talk on the phone while shopping or in a public place
  • wear multiple phones (unless absolutely necessary...and we mean absolutely)
  • wear ear buds when with someone you like or love who is not wearing ear buds too
  • insist on showing someone something on your phone they don't really care about
  • take selfies in public (okay on special occasions)  



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