Smartphone obsession is putting relationships at risk

MORE Australians are ignoring their partners in favour of their smartphones in a trend experts warned could cause fights and even break up relationships.

The behaviour, which has been dubbed "pphubbing" or partner phone snubbing, already affects almost half of all relationships and causes conflict for one in every five couples, according to a recently published study.

Couples therapist Melissa Ferrari said the damaging habit had spiked in Australia "particularly over the last six months".

"It is happening more and people are turning away from being in relationships and living more through their phones," Ms Ferrari said.

"You potentially could lose your partner over this - it's something to be aware of.

"If your partner is not feeling that engagement and response from you, it could deeply affect the relationship."

The Baylor University study, which surveyed more than 450 people, found snubbing your partner to look at your phone created conflict in 22 per cent of relationships, and more than 46 per cent reported being "pphubbed" by their partner.

The bad behaviour included glancing at your smartphone while talking to your partner, checking your phone during lulls in conversation, and placing your smartphone where you could see it during time together.

Authors Dr James Roberts and Dr Meredith David said the study showed smartphones may "ironically impede rather than cultivate" communication in relationships and users should put their phones down while talking to loved ones.

"Developing the self-control to put away your (smartphone) in favour of meaningful, distraction-free interactions with your romantic partner will yield benefits that far outweigh that one missed call, unread email, or unchecked listing," the study found.

Another study published by Yalova University this month found pphubbing was a particular issue in long-term partnerships, where it led to greater relationship dissatisfaction.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle said the research proved smartphone users were still working out how to balance technology use with their relationships.

"It's been less than a decade that we've had these devices and the etiquette and relationship rules are still forming," he said.

"What should happen even when we're having a family meal has not been worked out yet. Some people will be people second and put technology first."

Ms Ferrari said she advised couples to hide their smartphones on date nights, and spend more time "gazing at one another ... even if your relationship is decades old".

"If it's planned time with your partner, put the phone away," she said.


  • Looking at your smartphone while talking to your partner
  • Checking your smartphone during lulls in conversation
  • Keeping your smartphone in your hand while with your partner
  • Placing a smartphone in view while spending time with your partner
  • Pulling out a smartphone when it pings during a conversation

Topics:  editors picks relationships research smartphone

News Corp Australia

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